A Chat With Jah9 About Her New Album, Kemetic Yoga, and Ganja

Jah9 opens up about the inspiration behind her music.
A Chat With Jah9 About Her New Album, Kemetic Yoga, and Ganja
Photo Credit: Christina Nwabugo

Four years since her last full-length studio release, Jamaica’s own Jah9 has returned with a new record entitled, Note To Self.  The new release finds the dub/reggae artist at her most introspective and thoughtful while joined by an array of powerhouse collaborators including Clive Hunt, Jeremy Harding, Chronixx, Akala, and many others.  Blending traditional dub and reggae elements with aspects of soul, jazz, and hip hop, the record is Jah9’s most ambitious work to date and showcases the artist at her most focused and comfortable.

In addition to her work as a musician, Jah9 is also a teacher of Kemetic Yoga, something she has incorporated into live performances, and an outspoken advocate for cannabis as medicine for the body, mind, and spirit.

Recently, we had an opportunity to hear all about Note To Self, as well as her creative method and thoughts about opportunities for marijuana in today’s uncertain times. 

Congratulations on the release of your new album, Note To Self!  Did you have any particular goals or ambitions for the record going into the writing and recording process?

J:  My major goal for writing this record and putting it together in this way was to give people access to my human process and how I balance my thoughts, actions, and interactions with other people.  I put the songs together that spoke to that the most, making them each of them a note to myself with the intention that others would be inspired by my process at the most and entertained at the least, and doing it in a collaborative way musically, but also energetically by having more producers and features than I usually let in.  

This is your third studio album and your first in four years, how do you think your music and songwriting has evolved in that time?

J:  Well, I have evolved as a person over the last three or four years.  So, inevitably, the message and processes would be refined.  Not just the production processes, but my human processes as well.  I think I’m less interested in some of the more mundane aspects of putting a record together; I really had to detach from the industry expectations that were inevitably going to be pushed forward during this time.  So, it was balancing with those expectations while my true purpose stepped forward.  I think that’s what this record is a reflection of.  It’s me stepping into my purpose in an unapologetic way.

In the week leading up to Note To Self’s release you talked about the methods you’ve used to look inside and understand yourself better on social media.  What’s made this topic so important to you lately and at what point in your life did you realize that getting to know yourself on a truly deep level was essential?

J:  I studied psychology, human resource development, and criminology when I was in school at university and those topics have always been interesting to me.  Even after leaving university I think I’ve observed the world through a particular lens.  So, it makes it interesting for me to be in the music industry where I get to observe a different way the world can work and I really wanted to share insight as someone who considers themselves outside the industry or kind of a covert observer of people and anthropology in a sense.  So, it was an opportunity to bring together all of the different aspects of myself and use that as the premise to say, “Hey, I’ve been observing for long enough and this is what I’ve found works.”  I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t observing myself, even when I was very young.  So, this is a pretty consistent trajectory I’ve been on.  

You’re a teacher of Kemetic Yoga and have incorporated that passion into your live performances.  At first glance, it doesn’t seem like yoga and dub/reggae would be an obvious pairing.  How did the idea come to you?

J:  Blending yoga with dub was quite natural because of the two fields I operate in.  I’m a dub artist, meaning, production wise, I see great value in stripping music down to its essentials and using it not just as ambiance, but as medicine.  So, with that perspective, yoga fitting into that space would be a natural thing.  After I finished my first two-hundred hour training I incorporated a lot of instrumental dub and I saw the impact it had on my students who were predominantly new to yoga; it helped them to get out of their heads, into their bodies, and not focus too much on what was around.  It was different from using the traditional Indian music that yoga is usually associated with, but it had a similar effect because it was still moody and spirit moving.

You’ve never been one to be shy about your appreciation for marijuana, is it something that helped you creatively with this record?

J:  Ganja is crucial for my mental health in this world, particularly in this industry, to ground me, give me access to meditation, and help me strip away the noise sometimes.  These are things that I don’t need herb for, but it definitely helps to remind me of what I’m trying to do with my headspace and my heart space.

There are obviously a lot of stressful things going on in the world right now, do you see marijuana as a tool for healing during these times?

J:  Ganja is one of many plant medicines we have been afforded by creation.  I think now is a time for us to really tune into all of the plant medicine Mother Earth provides for us to do that very thing; that stripping away, that refocusing, and that identifying ourselves.  I think it’s really crucial for us to find our way back to ourselves and that’s a difficult thing in the world we live in.  Because we’ve been so ill-prepared for this type of time where you’re forced to sit with yourself, I think plant medicine more than ever might be useful to mankind.

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