Reggae | Sister Carol

Irie™ Magazine | Reggae - Sister Carol

Sister Carol

Mother Culture

Sister Carol was born Carole Theresa East, January 15, 1959, in Kingston, Jamaica. She is also known as the ‘Black Cinderella’ and ‘Mother Culture’. She is a Grammy-nominated singer, DJ, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, educator and humanitarian.

Her odyssey began in the ghetto of Denham Town, Kingston in the midst of the exploding Jamaican music scene and she has grown to become one of Jamaica’s top entertainers and a Global Icon.

Her formative years were spent at St Anne’s Primary School and Mico-Practicing All-Age School. Her father, Howard East, was a senior engineer who dedicated his life to his career at RJR (Radio Jamaica Rediffusion), the number one radio station during that time. He was also a very important part of the Studio One and Treasure Isle Sound. He regularly participated in sessions with the legendary ‘Clement Coxsone Dodd’. These early influences not only left an indelible mark on her heart, but also drew her closer to the infusion of the music industry.

At the age of 14, her family immigrated to Brooklyn, NY in 1973. The thriving dancehall scene of New York City led this young rising star to a path that would acknowledge her talents with multiple awards, television appearances, sold out concerts and movies.

Following in the footsteps of her mentor and friend, DJ Brigadier Jerry, her musical career began after winning talent contests in both Kingston and New York. Sister Carol was offered an opening slot for one of Jamaica’s finest vocal trios, ‘The Mediations’, who had provided the harmony backup vocals for Bob Marley.

This opportunity opened the door for her to record her first two records ‘Liberation for Africa’ on the Serious Gold Label 1983 and ‘Black Cinderella’ on Jah Life Label 1984, bringing her greatest talents, personality, and vibe to a wider audience establishing herself firmly in the dancehall/DJ movement. During this time, she dominated the music scene, winning the coveted ‘Best Female DJ’ for five consecutive years from 1983 to 1987. With these accolades behind her, she established her own ‘Black Cinderella Record Label’ in 1989.

In the midst of her success as an artist, she continued to pursue an education by attending City College of New York, where she obtained a B.Sc. Degree in Education in 1984.

A true testament to her resilient spirit and energy spans over thirty-five years in a male dominated industry, Sister Carol is a trailblazer for women in reggae. Her music carries a social message for people all over the world.  Her message is rich with cultural heritage and infused with a vital social consciousness that permeates every aspect of life in the new millennium. (Hence her title as ‘Mother Culture’).

She has maintained a loyal fan base across the globe, ranging from Kingston to Queens, Ethiopia to England, Detroit to Denver, East coast to West coast – Sister Carol reigns as the Queen of Reggae.

Her prolific music career includes over 12 albums/CDs, a Grammy nomination for ‘Best Reggae Album’ in 1997, ‘Most Outstanding Reggae Artist’ two consecutive years in 1997 and 1998, and ‘Queen of Reggae’ in 2000 in Detroit, Michigan, New York City Council Proclamation celebrating Jamaica’s 39th year of independence.  Also honoring Jamaicans in New York for outstanding cultural contribution to life in the city of New York in 2001, Institute of Caribbean Studies Wash. DC – ‘Cultural Heritage Award for Excellence in Music’ in 2004, ‘Lifetime Achievement’ in 2008 in Columbus, Ohio, ‘Roots Women in Reggae’ 2009 to name just a few.

A showcase of Sister Carol’s greatest achievements includes 2001 the release of ‘All I Have Is Love’/Tribute  To Studio One on the Easy Star/Black Cinderella/Napticorn label and recording her first live CD ‘Direct Hit’ for release on the Catapult/Black Cinderella label.

In 2003, she released ‘Empressive’ CD on the ‘Black Cinderella label’, which was also released in France on the m10 label the following year. In 2004 and 2005, she toured France, New Caledonia, West Africa and the USA promoting her ‘Empressive’ CD.

Later, in 2006, she celebrated her ‘Silver Jubilee’ as a solo artist, releasing a new CD/DVD ‘1Derful Words’ on the Black Cinderella label.  In 2007, she recorded a single titled ‘Dancing Shoes’ with Bunny Wailer, a former band member of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

To celebrate her 30 years in the music industry, in 2011, Sister Carol and friends released ‘Togetherness’ on iTunes on the Black Cinderella label.

In 2014, she released ‘Live No Evil’ on the Black Cinderella Record label.

With numerous interviews in mainstream media, Sister Carol has been a guest twice on NBC’s David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, New York at Nite with Clint Holmes WORT.V., VH1 with Nile Rodgers, Good Morning America with Bryant Gumbel, as well as earning praise in the print media such as Billboard, The Village Voice and many others. She was the familiar voice behind NBCTV Night Music with Jools Holland and David Sanborn as the MC. In 1999, Tuff Gong, the label started by reggae icon Bob Marley, released Sister Carol’s Isis ‘the Original Womb-man’.

Beyond her music career, she burst on the silver screen in 1986 in her first feature film ‘Something Wild’ with Melanie Griffiths and Jeff Daniels, followed by ‘Married to the Mob’ with Michelle Pfeiffer, Dean Stockwell and Matthew Modine in 1988 and in 2008 with Oscar-nominated actress Anne Hathaway in ‘Rachel is Getting Married’.  All three movies were directed by Academy Award winning Director Jonathan Demme. Her collaboration with Mr. Demme continued with the 2015 summer release of her fourth movie ‘Ricki and the Flash’ with multiple award winning actress Meryl Streep.

Apart from roles in the above-mentioned movies, many of her songs have been used in numerous movies:

The song ‘Milk n Honey’ taken from her Grammy nominated album in 1997  ‘Lyrically Potent’, was used twice in the newly released movie ‘Ricki and the Flash’. Another song titled ‘Original Drum’ was featured in the movie ‘Failure to Launch’ with Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Her song ‘Principle’ was used in the 1988 movie ‘The Mighty Quinn’ starring Denzel Washington.

The song titled ‘Dread Natty Congo’ was featured in the movie ‘Rachel is Getting Married’ in 2008.

Sister Carol performed her song ‘Wild Thing’ in the 1987 movie ‘Something Wild’.

Sister Carol continues her entrepreneurial spirit with her ‘Black Cinderella’ clothing line, which is in full force. She also has a CD titled ‘Opportunity’, produced by Glen Adams of Hippie Boys and Wailers fame, and a duet CD of collaborations with many other artists in the works for release soon.

As well as an amazing professional career, her personal life stands firm. She has been married for over two decades and is a dedicated mother of four and a doting grandmother of 11 to her ultimate pride and joy.

Sister Carol is a Warrior Queen and a true Renaissance woman who continues to tour the world and teach her message in her musical classrooms—The majestical vibrations continues…

Official Website: SisterCarol.com

The Interview

IRIE. You were born in Kingston, Jamaica and emigrated with your family to Brooklyn, New York at the age of 14. What was your childhood like growing up in Jamaica?

Sister Carol. I grew up in the ghettos of western Kingston a place called Denham Town. Very poor but our family was filled with love and the environment was musically rich, filled with the sound of music coming from jukeboxes, radios and sound systems. Although the poverty surrounded us, school and church was a MUST. I used to see the rastaman going to and fro in the neighborhood but being scorned by everyone and this played on my conscience as a youth growing up in the ghetto. This was like a course that prepared me for life in the realest way. A ghetto university.

IRIE. Your father, Howard East, was a Senior Engineer with Radio Jamaica and worked at Studio One where you regularly visited as a child. Any memorable moments from your visits to Studio One as a child?

Sister Carol. One of my fondest memories at Studio One was on the first visit that I met Mr. Dodd. After my father told him that I had an interest in music, he literally told me to take any thing that  I wanted. This was like hitting the jackpot. I left with so many records that I had to get a suitcase to bring them back to America. I was about 16 years old.

IRIE. In 1981, you met Jamaican DJ Brigadier Jerry, who inspired you to try your hand at dancehall-style DJ chatting instead of singing. You would go on to win numerous competitions in New York and Jamaica, dominating the music scene by winning ‘Best Female DJ’ for 5 straight years (1983-1987). You would also get the opportunity to tour with The Meditations (Bob Marley’s harmony backup vocals). What was going through your mind during this time of your life?

Sister Carol. Well it wasn’t really a tour, it was a show in Brooklyn that I opened for The Meditations. However later on in my career I had the opportunity of touring with them on the Heartbeat Culture Splash Tour along with Michael Rose and Derrick Morgan.This was the first time coming to the public as Sis Carol the solo artist. I was very nervous for most of my performance. I thought that if I wore shades then that would make it better.

So when I put the shades on it would enhanced my performance and it sure did. It was magical. Every time the feeling of nervousness arose I would dance up a storm and it would disappear. It felt rewarding and the audience responded likewise so I was encouraged.

So from there I just went full speed ahead and put Rastafari in the forefront because this was the essence of my progress as a person and an artist. So I was just going with the flow and that was the mindset.

IRIE. You released the album, Black Cinderella, in 1984, an album which introduced and established you in the international reggae community. You also released Mother Culture in 1991. The two titles are your stage name. What do they mean to you?

Sister Carol. Both of these names personifies me as an artist. First Black Cinderella was a song done by Errol Dunkley in the early seventies. I liked the song and felt that he spoke to me personally, as I was challenged by the rigors of life at the time. I would replace Prince Charmin with Jah.

Later on I recorded the song ‘Black Cinderella’ as the first single for Jah Life recordwhich became a hit.
 
So now I was dubbed ‘The Black Cinderella’ as a brand. Upon recognizing the the goddess within it made more sense.

Cinder=black, and ella=goddess so there you go.

Now Mother Culture is because of my lyrical tenacity as it relates to roots and culture from day one. The people gave me that name around 1990.

IRIE. Your music is socially conscious, urging respect for women while delivering uplifting messages inspired from your Rastafarian principles. What drew you into the Rastafarian faith?

Sister Carol. Rastafari is the essence of my life. I was drawn to the faith at an early age. As early as four or five years old I was told that  Rastas are bad and evil people that would hurt you and take you away from your family.

Now when I saw the Rasta, it was quite the opposite. They would speak lovingly and royally. This intrigued me and I started to wonder how so much hate was against these people. In 1966, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie first visited the island of Jamaica and I had the opportunity to see him. Since then my life has been transformed.

IRIE. Let’s talk acting. Beginning in the mid 80’s you had a few supporting roles in three of Jonathan Demme’s films, Something Wild (1986), Married to the Mob (1988 – an IRIE favorite) and Rachel Getting Married (2008). How did you get involved in acting?

Sister Carol. It was the womb-manifestation of my childhood dream that became a reality. It all started in 1986. One night I was performing with Judy Mowatt at club SOB’s in New York.

We were doing a rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘Screw face’ song. After my performance I was met backstage by film director, Jonathan Demme. He gave me his card and told me he really wanted to do some projects with me and the rest is her-story.

IRIE. Respect! You are one of the most successful DJs of Dancehall; a true positive force in Jamaica music. Your lyrics were always uplifting,  never giving in to singing about guns, sex and violence, which seemed to get more promotions in the music scene. Did you see yourself as a messenger for the youths of the world?

Sister Carol. Yes I do. I am conscious that I am transmitting the messages in my song from a cosmic force to the people, especially the youths because they are the future.

IRIE. Who are some of your musical influences?

Sister Carol. Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley, Alton Ellis, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Culture, Dennis Brown to name a few.

IRIE. Let’s talk Grammys. For the record, there have been three women who have been nominated for a grammy in the reggae genre since its inception in 1985; Judy Mowatt for Working Wonders (1986), Rita Marley for We Must Carry On (1992) and you for Lyrically Potent (1997). That’s right, you are the last woman in reggae to be nominated for a grammy. Why do you think that is?

Sister Carol. Because there is a big imbalance where male and female is concerned in the general society and I think this carries over in the music too. This is not only in reggae but all aspect of this struggle. Recently there have been attacks on women by even people high up in the current administration. The Grammys are just reflecting the views of the society at large.

IRIE. What’s on the horizon for Sister Carol in regards to new music?

Sister Carol. We are currently working on three albums, one slated for release later this year. The first is entitled ‘THC- The Healing Cure’. This album contains fourteen (14) tracks celebrating the medicinal properties of medical marijuana.

While informing the masses of the healing properties of this plant we also keep it entertaining as a part of the ‘Healistic Reggae’ movement. I will be announcing the release date of the others as time goes by.

IRIE. You currently have a clothing line under your stage name, Black Cinderella? What can we expect from the Black Cinderella line and when will it be available online?

Sister Carol. The Black Cinderella clothing line was established by the request of the fans and we have been selling the products from 2007 at our shows and they will soon be available on line at www.sistercarol.com.

We produce most of the clothes in Jamaica and we are currently seeking investors to take it to another level as far as distribution and availability.

IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE audience?

Sister Carol. Yes, I would like to introduce them to my daughter Nakeeba Amaniyea, a young and bright upcoming artist. She is working on her album presently and fans can look forward to that. I am also still penning my autobiography.

Thanks for the love, strength and support over the past thirty six years and I look forward to keep supplying the people with ‘Healistic Reggae’ music. Please go out and support this album when it becomes available.

Bless.

IRIE. Give thanks, Sister Carol. You are a true Renaissance Woman that we can all learn from. Much Love and Respect!

Irie