Spotlight on Shema
Young, gifted and black! That's basically what Yeshemabeth McGregor,
daughter of Freddie McGregor and Judy Mowatt, embodies. She's
talented vocally as well as lyrically, business-minded and beautiful.
So, for those who don't know who she is and where she's coming from,
Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, 23 years ago and known by her
"pet name" of Shema, this young lady didn't actually decide to get
into the music business. Instead at just nine years old, one of her
mother's backing singers never showed for a concert, so Shema stepped
up and said she could do it. Her mother was no doubt surprised, but
as Shema always attended the rehearsals, she knew the set and her
mother gave her a shot. Shema say, "Ever since then I've been
singing for her.
It doesn't end there though as Shema's father was also integral in
her entering into the music business. At just 15 years old, she
recorded a duet with Freddie and she said, "I did that and liked
it." Once Freddie built the Big Ship studio, Shema was all set to
record an album.
With both parents being singers, they were an obvious influence on
Shema, but she also cites the "American market" as a source of
influence. People like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, The
Spinners and Mariah Carey. However, it wasn't until 1997 when Shema
really hit the scene big time.
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Her father had started working with some people from Japan and as she
recalls, "They came down and I had just recorded a single in the
studio. They heard it and asked me if I would do an album for them
in Japan. The album released in Japan and did pretty good."
Not just a vocalist, Shema is also a songwriter and says, "Most of my
stuff is original and ideas are from personal experiences. Being
true to myself, I write about anything I see or feel." Her music is
what she calls, "Reggae Pop." Why? "Being in Jamaica, I don't do
the straight Dancehall that is the norm here. My albums have been
more R&B influenced and that's the market I'm now currently
The fact that Shema is Jamaica-based has had no impact on her
popularity in Japan and she feels she's doing "pretty well
considering there's a lack of female singers out here in Jamaica."
Onto the number of albums Shema has released - a whopping three already,
and she was due to start working on the 4th at the time of this
interview. The albums are Let's Talk About It (1997), Baby You're
Mine (1998) and From Me To You (1999-2000). Of all her singles,
she says the title track from her 1st album has managed to "maintain
it's status" in Japan, but in Jamaica, her most popular single is a
ballad called “Swept Away.”
Shema is looking to launch her own company, Mabeth Music, and had
built a rhythm called 'The Tritan.' On it she had voiced herself,
Rappachino and Stephen (her younger brothers), Ranty Roots and was
planning on voicing Freddie too.
Her popularity in Japan is phenomenal. The first time Shema performed
on stage in Japan, it was to an audience of 80,000 people. But she
says, "That taught me how to utilize stage and deal with audience and
stuff." However, Shema is not new to touring, as she had already
worked with her mother as well as her father. As such, she has been
to quite a few places, including South America, Zimbabwe, London,
America and some Caribbean islands. In all of this, her best
response has to be from her Japanese fans.
Due to her being in and around the business for a while, Shema says
she makes a distinction between Dancehall and Reggae music. She
says, "Dancehall music right now lacks moral and I think the artists
themselves need to take a page and realize people are listening and
there's so much you can teach the people that are listening." In
terms of Reggae, she says, "Reggae artists like Bob Marley, Dennis
Brown, Freddie McGregor, Judy Mowatt - those people have set a
foundation for Reggae music to go much further than it already is
right now. Reggae right now has so much potential and we have to
utilize what we have and take it as far as we can."
Shema advises budding artists to, "Keep true to yourself. Keep it
real. Believe in yourself." Wise words from one so young.
In her spare time, Shema claims she is a "home body" and as such stays
home, writes, plays the piano and spends time composing. She says,
"It's fun for me."
For the future, Shema intends to have her own business and hopes to
be doing "more albums and producing" as well as "being out there as a
female entertainer." With her drive and determination, not to
mention the experience she has already clocked in the music business,
no doubt we'll be hearing a lot more of Shema in the future.
Shema can be contacted through Big Ship on Jamaica at 876 925 2409.
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