Interviewed by Joana LeRoque for Reggae Festival Guide
RFG: Who Is Empress Ayeola the Artist?
Empress Ayeola: Born in the UK and was brought up in Jamaica from the age of two years old in Parish of Manchester where I went to school and was fortunate to have Sonya Spence Recording Artist with hits such as “No Charge, Leaving On A Jet Plane, When) as my English, Drama & Music teacher whilst attending Primary and Secondary School. Blessedly, she recognized that I had talents so she invited me do some background vocals for her along with a couple of my school friends was where it all started. I was about fourteen at the time. Growing up with the likes of Legends such as Bob Marley, Culture, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, The I Threes, Burning Spear, Big Youth and before that I had the likes of and now Beres Hammond, Mykal Rose ah tell yuh there’s too many to mention but yeah I have been influenced by my peers. On returning to the UK, it was March 2000 when I took on a new name (Empress Ayeola, means joy and wealth in life) started chanting for Rastafari now di fire ah blaze (hahahah). ISAT INNAT (fire mamma) meaning in Amharic, which was released in April 2005.
RFG: I see that you appeared on Reggae Sumfest 2018 what was that like for you and was it your first time performing in Jamaica?
Empress Ayeola: I give thanks to Downsound Entertainment, Reggae Sumfest, and Harmony House Music for the strength. It’s a blessing to have graced the stage with the likes of legendary Beres Hammond, Damien “Jr Gong” Marley, Maxi Priest among others such a joy. Previously, I’ve performed in Jamaica on Rebel Salute 2007, H.I.M Earthstrong Celebrations 2006, Dec 2017 Stars Meet Stars in Mandeville Manchester alongside King Yellowman & Biggaton May 2018 Merritone Music & Mikey Productions New Kingston alongside Legends Eric “Monty” Morris & Dennis Alcapone and also Rohan “Sixy” Morris, “Monty’s son.
RFG: Have you toured prior to your appearances in Jamaica and where?
Empress Ayeola: 2001 in France at the Gibus & Jamaican Royal Festival & with Jah Mason,
2002 London Oceans “Jamaica 40th Independence Celebrations with Pat Kelly, Ken Boothe, Mighty Diamond, Frankie Paul and Dennis Walkes.
2003 Brockwell Park London with Queen Omega, Prince Allah among others.
2004 in France, Cannes &UNICEF Humanitarian Reggae Festival” with Queen Omega and Sister Carol.
2005 Live band @ BBC Radio One, Love Has No Boundries with tour, Miami w/ Beres Hammond, Marcia Griffiths among others,”Niedergoshgen Splash” Switzerland with Ijahman Levi, Capleton & many others.& Wiesen Festival” Austria
2006 USA Lackark Stadium, & Wisdom Knowledge &
Over-standing& with Mutabaruka, Fantan Mojah, I Wayne,
Queen Ifrica, Turbulence plus other top names. France “Jah
Sound Festival& with Bunny Wailer, Earl Chinna Smith also
JahMali. Belgium &Geel Festival& with Sister Carol &
The Congos & Earl “Chinna” Smith.
2008 Holland with Queen Ifrica & Turbualance , (Solo) France and Hungary.
2009 Scotland & Falkirk Festival, UK tour with Chezidek
September of that year.
2010 & 2011 continued in Spain, France, London and Germany.
2014 Dub Champion Festival Vienna Austria
2015 P.O.W Brixton London & Jamaican Independence
Celebrations Maestro’s Night Club.
These are just some of the things I’ve done as you know I can’t mention everything
RFG: Have you recorded for other labels other than Gaddamaweh Productions, if so who?
Empress Ayeola: Yes my second released album Straight to the Point is on Nu Edge label, which I’m still promoting even though it was released in 2013 I was not able to promote due to unforeseen circumstances, Digital B, Peckings,
Stingray, Uprising, Blessed Ones Muzic House among others.
RFG: Latest releases and what can we expect from Empress Ayeola?
Empress Ayeola: KGN Capital & Us Against The World current releases from Empress Ayeola & The Legends Album with Legends such as Big “Jah” Youth, Mykal Rose, King Yellowman but as you know wi haffi leave a little surprise fi di fans dem but I have more Legends coming at yuh real soon, I’m also looking forward to being back on the road cah Jah works can neva stop!
RFG: What influences your music?
Empress Ayeola: The love for Rastafari livity, the principles that guides I & I towards Universal Love, Peace & Unity. The emancipation of oneself from all types of slavery. As you know slavery comes in many forms, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Political, Habitual etc….. The Unification of I & I yes
RFG: What was the idea behind Empress Ayeola & The Legends Album?
Empress Ayeola: Well Joana we have to give credence to the foundation of the music where it began, from Ska to Mento Rocksteady to Reggae where we are now. This is my way of honouring our Legends.