Photography by: JDash
There was never a time in Chiney Kiki’s life that she could remember where she wasn’t singing or dancing. This love for the arts ultimately led her to be a multifaceted singer, dancer, director, and overall creative.
Her given name is Shaneak Whittingham. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and raised in Portmore, St Catherine.
Chiney Kiki’s multi-dimensional artistry stems from the influences of her Jamaican mother and her father, who is Ghanaian. You could say music runs in her blood as her mother was a member of the iconic gospel group known as Grace Thrillers. Her mother’s father is half Chinese, which played an immense role in the moniker that she adopted, Chiney Kiki.
Chiney Kiki got her first taste in music and dance when she accompanied her sister to her classes at Edna Manley College and fell in love with it all. She also fell in love with the vibrant local street dances, and after moving back to the US, it was abundantly clear what she wanted to do.
She immersed herself into her music, and the rest is history. Her burgeoning career began, like many, as a backup vocalist. She lists Dennis Brown, Garnet Silk, Beres Hammond, Bob Marley, Beyonce, Adele, and Fantasia as her musical influences.
Chiney Kiki’s style of music encompasses a mixture of traditional Jamaican Dancehall/Reggae and Afrobeat rhythms combined with writing and vocal arrangements that showcase her jazzy, rootsy, yet edgy side.
Her approach to music shows a depth of experience, and she prides herself in always making music that is relatable, purposeful, and sonically pleasing.
Astoundingly, Chiney Kiki plays the saxophone, the drums and played the cello when she was much younger.
Chiney Kiki has been refining her music for the past five years. Impressively, she has moved on to release some notable projects including, Emotions EP (2020) and an upcoming short film with the talented Evie Pukupoo and Kushites EP(2021).
She also specializes in scriptwriting for films and music videos and has even tapped into acting, showcasing her skills on her first short film.
This queen is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with; she is the epitome of talent and creativity. Dare I say, look out for many more outstanding works to come from this star in the making.
Chiney Kiki + Evie Pukupoo – Kushites
Chiney Kiki Interview
IRIE. What was your childhood like growing up in Portmore, St. Catherine, Jamaica?
Chiney Kiki. Growing up in the islands was much more different than growing up in the states. I got to enjoy not only authentic Reggae and Dancehall music, but I got to climb trees, make toys out of things simple as juice boxes, experience street parties, island life on a Sunday at the Hellshire beach, and so much more. My love for REGGAE started here. Little did I know that I would fall in love with it and eventually make a career out of it.
IRIE. Who were some of your musical influences that helped shape your music?
Chiney Kiki. Some of my musical influences were Tanya Stevens, Lauren Hill, Lady Saw, Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, and many more.
IRIE. How did you get introduced to reggae music?
Chiney Kiki. I was introduced to reggae music by hearing it in the streets of my community and my mother’s home. I then started to listen to these artists myself on my own time. I began to study how they sang their melodies, the feelings they brought to the song using their chosen words, how musicians played, and how everything seemed to blend so perfectly together. I remember saying to myself, “Wow, this couldn’t be any more perfect.”
IRIE. Do you remember the first time you ever performed on stage?
Chiney Kiki. The first time I ever performed on stage was when I played cello in elementary school. I then began to play in other bands, and then the first time I performed on stage singing was when I was in the church choir. The first time I joined the choir, I was about 14 years old. I also decided at that time to join my school’s choir. My first ever solo performance was my high school graduation. I remember being so nervous and seeing so many people and thinking, don’t mess this up. Even though I was nervous, I began to see people’s reactions once I started to sing, and I thought, “Oh, this isn’t that bad.”
IRIE. Did you face any challenges or resistance pursuing your passion and love for reggae music?
Chiney Kiki. Yes, I have and still do. This industry is predominantly male-dominated, so it makes things a bit more complicated for a female artist. People these days go by hype way before they even take the time to listen to the voice, to see if the person has talent. There have been times where people make passes, and once you deny, they suddenly disappear (lol), or times where they treat you differently because they know you’re a young artist.
IRIE. How would you describe your sound?
Chiney Kiki. My sound is smooth and Rootsy, yet Afrocentric. Knowledgeable yet jazzy. All while still being relatable to the listener.
IRIE. Can you take us through your creative process when creating new music?
Chiney Kiki. Every song has a different vibe, but most of the time, I let the beat/riddim lead me in what to say. Most times, I hum or mumble, keep the melody that I Like, record it, then listen back and add words, all while still keeping the same melody. I try to make the hooks as catchy as possible because my theory is if people can’t remember everything, then at least make it easy for them to remember the “hook.”
IRIE. You just released a four-track EP, Kushites, featuring Actor and Reggae Artist Evie Pukupoo. Big Up! How did the two of you come together for this IRIE collaboration?
Chiney Kiki. We’ve actually known each other for some time, and he’s always told me that my sound is unique and “you never know, I think, eventually one day we may work on something.” As friends, we always shared music, till eventually, he told me, “it’s time” lol, I sent him two song ideas, and he said he loved them and that we should do “another or two.” We then decided that the songs should become an Ep, and just like that, boom! Magic!
IRIE. Is there a song that you’ve written that resonates most with you? If so, why?
Chiney Kiki. I’d say ‘African Woman,’ dedicated to my late grandmother and black women overall. It resonates with me because I see the struggle that black women go through; I feel the burdens at times. I couldn’t act blind to it when I saw it right in front of me every day. Black women are one of the most disrespected and mistreated people on earth. I wanted a song that women could listen to and know that there is someone who understands and love them.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans or first-time listeners take with them after hearing ‘Kushites’ or any of your previous music?
Chiney Kiki. I hope they can know that they are appreciated and that there is someone out there that will listen and try to encourage them. Someone that cares and wants to see them prosper.
IRIE. What’s on the horizon for Chiney Kiki? Are there any new projects that you can share with us?
Chiney Kiki. More works and more works, new singles, content and collabs. I’ll be dropping a short film this fall, so be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel “Chiney Kiki “to catch it when it’s released.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE audience?
Chiney Kiki. I want to say, big up to you all for taking the time out of your day to read this and support me. Big up to those who already support, big up to IRIE magazine for featuring I and pushing good music. Also, big up to my family for instilling in me knowledge and standards; my friends for supporting me and always being there in my time of need. Also, big up to any new fans/supporters I’ll gain. It’s you that keeps me going!
IRIE. Much Love & Respect, Chiney Kiki!
Chiney Kiki. Blessed love! Heart a love.
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