Etana is that rare thing, a female reggae singer who has hit the top of the charts in a field crowded by men.
Her smooth, soulful “quiet storm” sound has lifted two of her albums to the No. 1 spot — “I Rise” in 2014 and “”Reggae Forever” in March — on the Billboard Reggae charts and she’s had three Top 10 hits.
“Maybe it’s my passion for music,” Etana says in a telephone interview. “I started wanting to inspire people with music and to have them walk out of a venue with something positive, all of the time. So I think I put the hard work in music because I don’t want to ever fail. And I know I have to work two or three times as hard because it’s male dominated.”
Etana, whose real name (more on that below) is Shauna McKenzie, splits her time between Lauderdale Lakes and Jamaica. Her hits include “Wrong Address,” “People Talk,” “Free,” “Heart Broken” and “Trigger.”
Now her fans can catch her in a live performance at a listening party for “Reggae Forever” this Sunday, July 8, at Krave Restaurant and Lounge, 4519 N. Pine Island Road, Sunrise. Admission is $20 and $40 (VIP). For more information, go to EtanaTheStrongOne.com.
Here is more with Etana in a Q&A.
Where did the name Etana come from?
I got a list. I didn’t want to go as Shauna because Shauna just means pretty. I wanted every female … to be reminded of how powerful we are. And the list had a lot of African names. I chose Etana because Etana means powerful and strong [in Swahili].
What can’t you wait to spring on your fans at the listening party at Krave on July 8?
Oh gosh, the new songs for sure. I want to do some of the new songs and I want to give them some of the old favorites and I’m so ready for that. I haven’t done that in Fort Lauderdale in nearly two years now, so I’m so ready.
What was your first gig?
My first show was in Jamaica in the countryside. I remember someone handing me my guitar when I walked in the venue. We got out of a Mercedes-Benz jeep, truck, van, whatever. We walked to the stage and this big, muscular man gives me a guitar and I take it with me onstage. I remember that date like it was yesterday. This was in like 2006.
You were in the Miami girl group Gift for a moment, but wasn’t your first time in the spotlight back when you were a backing singer for Richie Spice?
Oh yes. He was sick or something and they told me to go up there and do a half hour. At that time I didn’t have the name Etana. At first I was nervous, just shoved onstage. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do. I acted in such a way that I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I just started singing Bob Marley songs because I figured that would work.
You’ve had lot of chart success, which is rare for a female reggae artist. What do you attribute that to?
I guess it’s my love for the songs because I don’t know what else. You never know if the song is going to be liked or not. Like ‘Wrong Address,’ it’s not reggae. It’s smooth. I had all these thoughts, you know? I heard it and I just turned off the radio and laid there, thinking, ‘I told them it wouldn’t work.’ In six months it became the most popular song in Jamaica.
In your videos you’re always placed in nature. Is that you or is that the director or both?
No, I think that’s how people view me. I’ve always said I like to be by the water. I like to be in nature, up in the hills, by a tree. So I think … directors, they put me in those places because they think that’s where I’m most comfortable.
You travel constantly. Is that the best part of being a singer or the worst part?
The best is being onstage. Flying can be tricky. You bump into someone really mean or whatever the case may be. But I think the best part is being onstage where it’s about the music and the performance and the people, of course, the audience.
Who are your heroes and influences?
I’ve always been a lover of good music. Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Pink, Air Supply, Tammy Wynette, Wynona. It’s weird because it’s a broad spectrum of people.
What would you like to say to your fans and your trolls about your support of LGBT and President Trump?
Well, you know what, I always say this, even Bob Marley says this: Everyone has the right to decide their own destiny. We all came on Earth to find our own paths and live out our own lives as we choose — free will. So I don’t see how it’s everyone else’s job or business to tell someone else how to live and that’s it. At the end of the day I’m here like everyone else. And if I said something that offended someone, I’m sorry. It’s the way it is.