by Bee Quammie
Looking for something new to add to your summer playlist? A musical trip around the world might be in order!
Meet 10 Black women who are making beautiful music across the diaspora. From the Caribbean to Europe to Africa and back again, these women are all bringing something fresh and unique to the global music industry. Sit back, press play, and get ready to find your new favorite song.
1. Spice - Jamaica
Born Grace Hamilton in Jamaica, the dancehall artist known as Spice has taken this male-dominated genre by storm. After her first major performance in 2000 at Sting - one of Jamaica’s biggest reggae/dancehall shows - Spice’s stardom ascended. Known for her raw lyrics, electrifying performances, and collaborations with artists like Missy Elliott and Ne-Yo, Spice is solidifying her place in dancehall music's hall of fame.
2. Jully Black - Canada
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Jully Black has been listed as one of ‘The Top 25 Greatest Canadian Singers’ by CBC Music, and it’s a well-deserved title. Dubbed Canada’s Queen of R&B Soul, this multitalented woman is a Juno Award (Canada’s top music recognition) winning singer and an incredible songwriter who has worked with the likes of Destiny’s Child and Sean Paul. Black’s 5th studio album Jully Black The LP is highly anticipated and her new single Fever is enjoying intense radio play across Canada, the U.S., and beyond, proving that this R&B powerhouse just gets better and better with time.
3. Emeli Sandé - Scotland
Blending inspirations like Frida Kahlo, Nina Simone, and Lauryn Hill with a mind that studied clinical neuroscience and a heart that beats for music gives you Scotland’s Emeli Sandé. A masterful songwriter (Simon Cowell lists her as one of his favorites), Sandé has written for stars like Tinie Tempah and Leona Lewis. She’s also been very determined at writing music for herself that reflects her passions of love, world peace, and political issues. Her album, Our Version Of Events, was the UK’s biggest selling debut of 2012, and her sophomore album is due out this year.
4. Stevy Mahy - France/Guadeloupe
Born in Paris, France and raised in Guadeloupe, Stevy Mahy is a voice known for her "tri-lingual folk soul." Combining French, English, and Creole for a unique acoustic sound, Mahy released her debut album The Beautiful Side of a Kreyol Folk Trip that bore two major hit singles: “Beautiful” and “Something About You.” Ever the artist, Mahy put down roots in New York as a documentary filmmaker and has also released a jewelry line called “Moun.”
5. Destra Garcia - Trinidad and Tobago
From Laventille, Trinidad and Tobago, Destra Garcia knew from an early age that the life of a soca artist was the one for her. Since breaking out on the scene in 1999, Garcia has carved her lane as a soca artist who gives vocals as strong as her high-energy stage shows, and who speaks up and out for important causes. She fought against classism at the 2015 Trinidad Carnival, was the first soca artist to perform at Toronto’s Pride festival, and her latest single “Lucy” has been dissected as a song celebrating women who own their sexuality.
6. Juliana Ribeiro - Brazil
Juliana Ribeiro is not only an incredible singer, but as a History graduate with technical studies in Operatic Song from the Universidade Federal de Bahia (UFB) in Brazil, she has a deep understanding of Afro-Brazilian culture and music. Art and academia combined for Ribeiro when she culminated her master’s thesis in Culture & Society at UFB, while simultaneously releasing her album Amarelo. Rooted in the sound of samba, Ribeiro uses music and education to share the stories of her ancestry in a modern way.
7. Danay Suarez - Cuba
A fan of Cuba’s Danay Suarez called her "the representative of conscious female Cuban hip-hop with the most exquisite voice and the most intelligent lyrics," and there aren’t many who would disagree. Finding rap in her teen years “by accident” while writing lyrics about things that mattered to her, Suarez doesn’t limit herself to one medium and considers herself a jazz and R&B vocalist as well. Moving to Miami to further her music career, Suarez is well on her way with dedicated fans from Cuba to the U.S. to France and beyond.
8. Lira - South Africa
South Africa’s Lira is no stranger to the spotlight. A multi-platinum album seller with accolades from entities like the MTV Africa Awards, MOJO Awards, Essence Magazine, and Glamour Magazine South Africa, Lira is a unique vocalist who fuses funk, jazz, and soul elements into her music. Her inspirations include Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin, and their wisdom and artistry have served her well - she is one of the most popular and decorated musicians in Africa, and her talents have carried her star quality from South Africa to Europe and North America.
9. Les Nubians - France/Chad
Sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart make up Les Nubians, the Grammy- and NAACP Image Award-nominated R&B duo from France. Being raised between Paris, Bordeaux, and the African country of Chad, Les Nubians use their background as the muse for their music, with a sound critics have coined “Afropean.” Les Nubians have become one of the world’s most popular French-language musical groups, and the Faussart sisters continue to tour, perform, and release new music.
10. Amara La Negra - Dominican Republic
Born in Miami but repping the Dominican Republic, Amara La Negra has taken the international music industry by storm. Fully aware of her desire to entertain from a young age, La Negra took dance, singing, acting, and modeling classes after school while most of her friends were having fun riding their bikes and swimming at the beach. The work has paid off for La Negra, as she’s now doing what she was meant to do — entertain. Not only is she making waves musically, but her unapologetically Black aesthetic has placed her in a position to empower other Afro-Latinas/Latinos to embrace their natural hair, skin, and bodies as well.
Photo: Sidney Rocharte - MissLira.com
Bee Quammie is a Toronto-based healthcare professional, writer, and founder of ‘83 To Infinity and The Brown Suga Mama. Recognized by Black Enterprise & the Black Canadians Awards for her digital work, Bee aims to live '83 To Infinity's motto: "It's never too late to learn something new, do something new, or be someone new." Follow her on Twitter at @BeeSince83.