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Album Review: Celebrating Nina - A Reggae Tribute To Nina Simone


by Gardy Stein

Album Review: Celebrating Nina - A Reggae Tribute To Nina Simone

"This project is about preserving Nina Simone's legacy, passing it on to younger generations, including my children, because you don't often find music this substantial." (Stephen Marley, press release)

Seven women, seven songs, seven sides of... Nina Simone! In a joint effort of Paul Fakhourie, Stephen Marley and the Ghetto Youths International label, this Friday saw the release of an exceptional album that celebrates an exceptional woman. Pianist, songwriter, civil rights activist and singer of Blues and Jazz (or, Black Classical Music as she preferred to call it), Eunice Kathleen Waymon aka Nina Simone, born on February 21st 1933 in North Carolina and transitioned on April 21st 2003, has left an indelible mark on the music and the Black civil rights movement in the USA and beyond.

Celebrating Nina - A Reggae Tribute To Nina Simone presents seven carefully selected tracks that were written or performed by the great artist. In order to capture as many facets of her personality as possible, Stephen Marley has invited female vocalists from a wide range of backgrounds to interpret the chosen pieces.

While names such as Queen Ifrica (who covers the powerful Four Women), Etana (brilliantly delivering Young, Gifted And Black) and Cedella Marley (singing a fully arranged Misunderstood, sweet background harmony and all) are staples in Reggae music and apposite picks for the task, others are not so obvious. Thus, we hear the velvety voice of US singer and cultural ambassador Maya Azucena in Mr. Bojangles, a track originally written by Jerry Jeff Walker and covered over a hundred times to date. The link to the artist is not new, though, as she sang a duet with Stephen on his Grammy-winning album Mind Control back in 2007.

From Canada, R&B singer Melanie Fiona contributes an emotive rendition of Don't Explain. She manages to bring across both the painful experiences of creator Billie Holiday and the artistry of Nina Simone's delivery. Likewise, the well-known Here Comes The Sun found a perfect match in British soul-pop-singer Joss Stone - a track that will definitely brighten up your day!

Last but in no way least on this impressive list of talent is Terri Walker, R&B singer of Jamaican heritage who grew up between England and Germany. Her part on No Good Man, despite a rather kitschy instrumental, is vibrant and full of vocal allusions to Nina's 1961 version. 

In all other cases, the musical translation of Simone's songs into Reggae can be seen as a successful endeavor, bestowing us with never-heard musical gems of which especially Mr. Bojangles and Don't Explain are outstanding. Mixed by Errol Brown and mastered by Chris Athens, the resulting songs are a worthy homage to a strong, fascinating, unique artist and individual, and Celebrating Nina is a fine Reggae Tribute To Nina Simone indeed. In the words of Queen Ifrica, "this project is significant because it's a reminder to the Black woman of the role she plays in self-identity."     

Release details

Celebrating Nina - A Reggae Tribute To Nina Simone

Celebrating Nina - A Reggae Tribute To Nina Simone

DIGITAL RELEASE [Ghetto Youths International]

Release date: 03/18/2022


1. Queen Ifrica - Four Women [OFFICIAL VIDEO HERE]
2. Maya Azucena - Mr. Bojangles
3. Etana - Young Gifted and Black [LISTEN HERE]
4. Melanie Fiona - Don’t Explain
5. Joss Stone - Here Comes The Sun
6. Cedella Marley - Misunderstood
7. Terri Walker - No Good Man

Produced by

Stephen Marley