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Original Bush Mama
In 2003, Sahra Indio (Olumeye Records) released her first album entitled ‘Good’s Gonna Happen’ (one of four full-length albums), marking her arrival on the reggae scene. ‘Good’s Gonna Happen’, considered a pop-reggae crossover album by many, became Sahra’s signature song, winning the Unisong International Contest, Reggae Song Of the Year Award in 2004.
In 2007, Sahra’s second album ‘Change’ released featuring a strong reggae offering with production by legendary reggae guitarist, Tuff Lion. ‘Change’ showed a consistent backing of the artist with beautiful harmonies and live musical arrangements. ‘Change’ was created for the love of music and not for the music business. ‘Jah Fire’, one of the favorites of the album, also appeared on both ‘Hawaiian Roots Music Compilation’ (2009) and ‘Dread & Alive: Kindah Vol. 1’ (ZOOLOOK Label, 2010).
Sahra Indio’s EP entitled, ‘Marijuana Music’ released in 2009, featuring four award-winning contest songs in The Marijuana Music Contests (2009-2011), including the bonus track ‘Down At the Awa Bar’ (video). The EP was created to share at hemp festival performances in Amsterdam, Canada, California, and Washington.
Sahra’s Album, ‘Tru I’ (2012), is a collection of heavyweight reggae & dub tracks from talented composers from Hawaii, Jamaica, France, The UK, Italy and Austria. Good found Sahra in meeting Co-Producer Digikal Roots of Roots Lab Intl. (now Para-Void Records) and again in having all contributions skillfully blended and mixed by Don Fe Studio with mastering at MIA Studio (Spain). ‘Tru I’ was recorded at Solar Edge Studio with family support from her partner Owen (Executive Producer), brother Moon (‘Testify’ Saxophone) and cousin Reggie (backgrounds, composing). Sahra sounds off to critical concerns and affairs, then soothes the mind with flowing dub poetry.
In 2012, Recycle Hawaii invited Sahra to participate in the organizations Educational Program, ‘Artists & the Environment Presentations’ in schools around the Big Island of Hawaii. At a performance just prior to teaming up with Recycle Hawaii, Sahra was dubbed, ‘Auntie Reggae’ by a youth in the audience! She adopted the name for her presentations with great success. Auntie Reggae became ‘Auntie Reggae Time’, which then became A.R.T. (Art, and Reusable Teachings). A.R.T. became the title track of her first youth friendly release on iTunes in February 2015 (also available on CDbaby.com).
Sahra’s newest release is a single on a UK Steppa Riddim, entitled ‘Come With The Fyah.’ The single is available on CDbaby.com and iTunes.com.
Sahra Indio has toured many parts of the world and appears regularly on local stages and festivals
in Hawaii. Sahra Indio, aka ‘the Original Bush Mama’ lives off-the-grid in the country where she’s growing food, making recycled art and writing conscious progressive songs. Her lifestyle matches her soothing, laid back voice! When she performs, you feel her heart and soul reach out and touch yours as she sings to you.
If you have yet to experience enjoying Sahra Indio’s vibes, she has been called “a reggae version of Sade with the message of Bob Marley” with a “vibrant, engaging personality and positive attitude.” Sahra Indio is a shining talent that can not be missed!
IRIE. Your birth name, Sahra Indio, means ‘Resting place of the People’. Can you share with us the meaning behind your name?
Sahra Indio: I was actually born Carol Brown. My Mom wanted to name me ‘Willie Mae’ after her. She was from South Carolina but moved to Philadelphia after getting married. The folks up North told her she couldn’t name me that and so she chose Carol (I think for Carolina). I never bonded with Carol. It seemed so common. I remember this feeling as young as 11 years old. In the early 70’s, I moved to California and met a very, diverse set of cultural young people from hippies and Afrocentrics, to Rasta’s, as well as spiritual and political groups that began to have a large influence on me. I changed my diet, I changed my fashion and my occupation. My name became Sahra Indio.
I began to lock my hair. A young woman I had met one day in Berkeley Hills saw me and immediately, proceeded to call me Sahra! I couldn’t even pronounce the hard ‘h,’ let alone consider adopting the odd sounding name. Our paths continued to cross at the local store, ‘Ma Revolution’s Health Food Store’, parks and at other haunts in the college town. She insisted on calling me Sahra, every time even adding the last name, ‘Indio’ to it. Even then I was still perplexed as why this woman felt to rename me! It took time and meeting a man from Egypt that told me the Arabic name had a couple meanings, all of which I liked. Sahra is an affectionate name for the desert meaning resting place. The word Sahra is also, a party! I’ve also, heard it means a special person. Indio is Spanish meaning ‘people.’ Those meanings and names began to resonate with me and my new life journey.
IRIE. You were born in Philadelphia into a musical family that included jazz music from your legendary cousin, Clifford Brown. What was life like growing up for you during that time of your life and what inspired you to pursue reggae music?
Sahra Indio: Growing up in my grandparents house during the 60’s I heard the sounds of Motown. The little radio on the kitchen shelf was tuned to WDAS FM with the sound of soulful crooners softly playing in the background all day. I knew about the music of our famous cousin, Clifford Brown, at an early age but only heard songs with my father as a teen. He, Clifford, my Mother and Clifford’s wife had dinner dates. They’d go to clubs together where Clifford would play. I heard Ella, Eartha, Pearl, Billy Eckstein, Johnny Mathis, Sara Vaughn and many of the other leading jazz players of the day. Daddy even had the entire Nutcracker Suite! I was in the orchestra then. I would get a pencil and pretend to conduct the pieces as I’d watch Miss Sherman do at rehearsals.
Fast forward to 1973; I just finished high school when my best friend went to Jamaica. She returned with some horrid looking, mosquito bites she’d infected by scratching. Her hair was matted and she had a copy of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ ‘Catch A Fire’ Album. Although foreign sounding to my ears, I related to the messages 100 percent as we inhaled the knowledge with the smoke.
IRIE. How did your personal music career begin?
Sahra Indio: My musical career started in 1999 officially. When I accepted an invitation to perform Solo in Kyushu, Japan at Sunset Live by friends of the promoter I met at a Jr. Gong and Damien Marley concert on Maui in 1996. I would take two years to fulfill all of the requirements to travel as an entertainer. I created my first album ‘Osah Sista,’ just for the tour with 50 copies! It was an amazing opportunity to spend a month touring the southern most island in Japan. I returned to Hawaii as a solo artist.
IRIE. Do you remember the first song you ever wrote and performed?
Sahra Indio: Yes, it was in Jahringa Reggae Band where I began to write and perform my own songs along with the cover songs I sang. ‘Mister World Leader,’ was my first song I wrote and performed. It became one of the most requested songs I had written. Jahringa never recorded albums so, all the first music isn’t available.
IRIE. What prompted you to ‘Catch a Fire’ and relocate to the active volcanic island of Hawaii?
Sahra Indio: When you say it like that, it sounds like a crazy move to the island of the most active volcano in the world doesn’t it? Let me explain. In 1975, I was given an airline ticket to Hawaii as a B’earthday present. I had my reservations about coming to Hawaii as a black person. I thought only of stereotypical images of surfers and Hawaiian Hula Dancers! A short vacation and I was hooked on the lifestyle I witnessed. The racism of America seemed worlds away as I was welcomed to this place by the locals saying, we were one and the same brown complected people. My heart rejoiced and I remember feeling I had left that ugly, hatred behind. Never mind that I was the only black person I encountered, I felt a great sense of belonging and acceptance. I unlearned much of the negative ways of the ghetto I was raised in. I felt an actual healing through the intense beauty and overall
serenity of the islands. I would travel back to the Bay Area only to find myself on the outside looking into the life I used to be so comfortable with. Hawaii called me to return each time I left until I moved in 1978.
IRIE. In Hawaii, you co-founded your first reggae band, Jahringa, which is aboriginal for ‘dreamtime’. It is during this time of your life that you found your voice to sing about the beauty and the mysteries of life. Can you expand on this?
Sahra Indio: Living in the Pacific I came across the culture of other black Pacific Islanders. I even trekked to Fiji, to Viti Levu in search of blacker people to align with. It was there I discovered it’s not purely about the amounts of melanin in your skin, it’s really about culture. Americans always standout like Yankee’s even when you look like me. I came home to Hawaii with a bad case of Dengue Fever, skinny and vowing never to leave Hawaii again. So, the trip I wanted to make to Australia to see the aboriginal peoples, the black fella’s was off. It would be 16 years before I’d take flight again. When the band formed I had already known about the Dream Time. I’d been reading about rites of passage rituals and cultural practices and came across the Churinga Stone. Churinga became Jahringa, our reggae band’s name. I envisioned it to mean we are all part of the most high’s dream!
IRIE. Reggae, today, continues to be a male dominated genre, from publications dedicated to the music to festivals occurring all over the world. What do you think is needed to bring more women artists to the forefront of reggae.
Sahra Indio: This is a hard question. I may have an opinion however, it would take more than that to make a change in future reggae festival lineups. In support of Women’s History Month, I wanted to offer a free download to the song, ‘Come With the Fyah,’ as a strengthening to Irie Mag subscribers. As we can see in the daily news globally, times are critical, times are tuff and we must come hard and heavy on the daily! “Imagine you’re the Lioness, Lion, the cub. The heartbeat of the family is strong and we’re trodding forward.” The message is that we are a pride akin to Lions. We must stand together. I like how Tuff Lion put it. We need to hear the female in her feminine voice delivering hardcore message and nurturing. I say, we need to see the wholeness. The elders, the youth, the Roots Sistren alongside our Bredren at every festival globally. Promoters must promote the whole of we, the family visually, not just verses in songs. Until that day, we will not see the equality of qualified, and deserving women reggae artists performing on reggae stages.
IRIE. How did you earn the name the original Bush Mama?
Sahra Indio: Funny how that came about. I was running through a forest reserve early one morning with a male partner who was ahead of me on the road. A tourist car approached me as I ran by and said, “I’ve just seen the Bush Doctor,” running along the road. He asked, “So, are you the Bush Nurse?” I answered, “I’m the Bush Mama,” as I picked up my stride and jogged on. Many years later working on a project with a producer in Los Angeles, he asked me to go home, sit up on my hill and compose what the industry calls, ‘a novelty song,’ to complete content for the album. I recalled hearing Biggie Small, on the radio singing, “I love it when you call me Big Papa” when Bush Mama popped in my head. Today, I am known as the Original Bush Mama just as much as I am known as Sahra Indio. I love it when you call Bush Mama!
IRIE. Last year you released the album Auntie Reggae Time: Teach the Youth the Truth, a youth-friendly album addressing recycling, sustainability and Irie living. You literally recorded this album off grid and in the bush. Why was it important to put out an album that reached the youth?
Sahra Indio: The Techno Bush is what my musical and life partner, ‘Selector O’ calls it; high-speed Internet and solar powered rural living that keeps us linked globally. Solar Edge is the studio I use on Big Island and, as the name states it is solar-powered. When the engineer is not working on musical projects, he’s gardening organically, on the sixteen acre parcel! Walking the sustainable talk means sourcing ecologically whenever possible. A.R.T., is manufactured on recycled materials. I love to share these points with students that I make presentations to in Hawaii Island Schools. I created this album to address some of the issues the youth face in school and in the environment. We discuss the three R’s, how gardening is the heart of a sustainable life, compostable dinnerware and compost. We discuss consumerism, and competition vs. cooperation. Reggae’s message with its One Love philosophy, Ital diet and Irie Living is at the base of all I teach. Original songs I perform after the sessions help reinforce the messages.
IRIE. We are feeling IRIE about your latest single, Come With the Fyah. What is the message you are hoping to share with the world?
Sahra Indio: I am glad that you feel the vibes of CWF. It’s a UK Steppa beat, something new for me. An idea from co-producer Digikal Roots that I embraced. The song is describing the family as a pride of lions. We know that the lion is the official reggae icon that attests to the strength of the King Of Forest. That mighty strength is also exhibited in the Queen Mother Lioness that defends her cubs. That fierceness needs to join forces. Reggae stages should be the place we come to for nurturing. We should see performances from wise elders, conscious youths, and powerful Sistren and Bredren at the forefront if reggae truly is message music.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to share with our audience?
Sahra Indio: In closing I’d like to give big props to IRIE Mag for equally featuring women alongside our male counterparts in every issue of the publication thus promoting balance in voices and views in this message music in these serious times. I can’t wait to read the March issue and to listen to all the beautiful sisters I’ve seen on the previews. Aligning with International Women’s Day ensures we’ll be hearing more and more musically from our sistren across the globe. Give thanx! And, with that said, I look forward to seeing all of you on reggae stages soon!
IRIE. Much Love and Respect, Sahra Indio!
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