Roots | Kelissa

Irie™ Magazine | Reggae - Kelissa

Written by: Tami Tsansai; Photography by: © William Richards


Anbessa Music

As the daughter of Errol ‘Chakula’ and Kerida ‘Goldilocks’ McDonald of reggae band Chakula, Kelissa’s affinity for music comes as no surprise. She grew up in the hills of St Andrew, Jamaica, (referred to by the entertainment community as ‘Reggae Mountain’ in recent years), with music being a constant fixture in her home and as a result developed a natural appreciation for its creation and impact. This led her to explore that in her teenage years and she was able to fully immerse herself with opportunities introduced through study and travel.

While attending the University of Ghana, she studied traditional drumming, xylophone and dance. She also sojourned to other African countries and during extended periods in Tanzania and Ethiopia, had multiple opportunities to broaden her musical scope. While there she also expanded her abilities by teaching herself the guitar, collaborating with several musicians and producers, and performing on multiple occasions.

Kelissa later attended college in California, USA, where her college curriculum was heavily involved with music. She was an avid member of the world percussion and Brazilian ensembles, participated in the college choir and learned more about music production and studio recording. Add to that her initiative as co-founder of the Black Arts and Cultural Dance (BACD) group on campus, which created a platform to facilitate her ongoing interaction with different audiences and talented young performers from across the world.

Back in her homeland since 2011, she continues to make music her central purpose. Since her return, she has founded her own Anbessa Music label and teamed up with Zinc Fence Records to produce her first Extended Play (EP) project Rebel In Disguise, which was released during her 2012 tour of Africa. That same year in August, Kelissa returned to Africa with two filmmakers as part of the ‘50 Days in Afrika’ initiative.

The trio travelled to six countries —Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia & Kenya— to document the thriving arts industries on the continent. The tour featured multiple performances in each country, reinforcing her musical foundation in Africa and harnessing cultural exchange.

She was also the first Jamaican to perform at the annual ‘Felabration’ festival in Nigeria and shot her first music video for the tour’s theme song ‘Afrika’ there. These experiences provided her with many follow-up performances and production opportunities that further expanded her exposure there and added to her musical inventory.

Now fully entrenched into her career, Kelissa has since made significant headway and racked up
impressive achievements. Her unique background and rich international experiences have greatly
influenced her music – colouring it with diverse sounds, insightful messages and inspiring soul-stirring, educational performances. She has done several major concerts in Jamaica and hosted her own productions enhancing her local following, and fulfilled multiple performance opportunities worldwide. She has also appeared on several UK shows, toured the USA with fellow artistes Chronixx and her brother Keznamdi, and participated in an extensive 22 show-tour across Europe alongside Chronixx, Dre Island and the Zincfence Redemption band.

Her soulful, rootsy, world beat music continues to inspire others and she is working on exciting new projects under her Anbessa Music label, anticipating several performances locally and globally.