If you dig into the canadian reggaescene there is one name that you will definetly discover really quick: Ammoye. Ammoye has worked with Juno award winning artists Dubmatix and Michael Buble, as well as Kreesha Turner, Corey Lee, Anjulie and Najja Calibur of Najjah's World, and others including Rise Ashen for their debut release "Haffi Win" (Balanced Records). Toronto based Ammoye is a multi-genre vocalist and therefore at home in different musical genres such as Reggae, R'n'B and Hip Hop. A unique voice and a style that can deal with a variety of music makes her special!
When you were young you emigrated to Toronto with your mother. What were your first impressions of the cultural differences between Jamaica and Canada?
My first impression when I first arrived in Canada was how multicultural it was - all the different races and cultures. It was exciting for me and I couldn't wait to start my new life in this new world. You see up until that point I had only interacted with 1 caucasian person ever. Most of the time I would only see them on TV. In Jamaica most of the people looked just like I did and so honestly I never considered race until I came to Canada. Seeing and interacting with all the different races here, was new but exciting and enlightening learning experience. Canada being so multicultural definitely made an impact on me and affected my life in a very positive way. My music shows that because it has so many influences in there. Reggae, house, dance, Hip Hop, R'n'B, Soul and more.
Since you grew up in Jamaica, Clarendon to be precise, you got in touch with reggae, dance hall and hip hop. Then living in Canada you opened your own music towards rock and soul music. So by now you are including even more different musical influences in your music. Does this versatility have some-thing to do with not wanting to be compartmentalized or categorized?
Yes, a little bit. I don't want to be put in a box and told to conform to someone else's idea of who and what an artist should be. I love music, all kinds of different styles of music. They all inspire and influence me in different ways and so that colors my music and makes it what it is and how you hear me deliver it. The music I create I call it Jamma, to me that means Jamaican flava meets North American influenced style of music. Its eclectic, diverse, hard, rough, smooth, spiritual and full of honest emotions.
Coming back to Reggae and Dancehall. You are based in Toronto and are among the most active artists in the city. How would you describe the present reggaescene concerning artists and audiences. Is there a community thing going on?
Yes, there is definitely a community thing as you call it going on here in Toronto when it comes to the reggaescene. Most of the veteran reggae artists like Beres Hammond, Barrington Levy, Sly and Robbie and people like Marcia Griffith, just to name a few, still play to sell out shows here very regularly. As well there are always concerts being held across the city every several months featuring all kinds of various reggae artists brought up from Jamaica or other parts of the world to perform. Most times when these concerts are held they're sold out. However Reggae for some reason still remains more underground than mainstream. Reggaesongs are not consistently being played on mainstream radio here in Toronto, but I do see it growing and changing for the better each year.
Who would you point out as the main actors in Toronto's reggae scene?
For me personally in the reggaescene here in Toronto right now are people like Dubmatix, Steele, Tanya Mullings, Carl Henry, Friendlyness and Human Rights as well as Artist like Humble who are the main actors on the scene currently. These names you hear all the time.
Jay Douglas and Ammoye (Foto: Roger Humbert)
I have seen a picture of you and Jay Douglas, a Toronto based veteran, performing on stage. What do you admire most about this exceptional artist?
I love Jay's wisdom and humility as a well seasoned artist. He gave me valuable advise pertaining to the business side of things and he's very sincere and giving when he performs. He always performs effortlessly and makes it all looks so easy, a natural.
Which artists would you consider as mentors for yourself – from early childhood up to today?
Ohh, I love this question because I get a chance to talk about my biggest influence when it comes to music, Bob Marley! He is my biggest mentor. I love and respect his writing, him as a performer, a man that had no issues with standing up and representing for equal rights and justice. He was a teacher and a philosopher to me. I am definitely aspired by him to write timeless songs like he did and be an instrument of love and hope for my people and all people bringing us together through music like he did. Other mentors for me in music are people like Sade, Lauryn Hill, Regina Belle, Anita Baker, Eryka Badu, Beyonce, Micheal Jackson, Carlene Davis, Whitney Houston and Gwen Stephane just to name a few.
You are continuously working with Jesse King aka Dubmatix. Your song “Lock Down” is among the best of his latest release “System Shakedown”. What do like most about working with him?
I absolutely love and adore Dubmatix! He has been one of my biggest supporters when it comes to my music career. I was introduced to Dubmatix by Aram Scaram and Sassalee, two other major supporters of my music and career as well, in I think it was 2006 or 2007 and we've been friends and have worked together ever since. I love the music he creates. He was the first to bring me the closest to Jamma, the kinda music that I always wanted to make. His style is new and fresh and exciting and it moves to create songs like "Lock Down".
How do you come up with lyrics? Is it something that you really have to sit down and concentrate or do they “fly” into your mind?
The lyrics I write are inspired from life. My life, my friends, my family and just my experiences. Sometimes it comes to me with a melody and I build on it from there. Sometimes it is something I'm going through at the time or have gone through. Sometimes the lyrics comes to me when I hear the beat. Something I read about and sometime's its a simple word that inspires a song. I'm always writing and creating in my head.
As with almost every musical genre men dominate reggae as well. How would you describe the situation for women in Canada trying to get attention as an artist?
I find it to be a challenge here a bit but I don't I actually refuse to focus on that. Yes the men are more dominant but I'm here to make my female mark and break boundaries and do my thing. I feel I have something unique to offer to the music world, not just the reggae scene but to all music and I feel confident, ready, willing and fully capable to go out there and show the world what I can do just like any man out there could do it. I'll be doing it though with the Ammoye funky and fresh flare through lol.
Your latest album with Rise Ashen is a very nice work of music. Is there any way to get physical copies over here in Europe?
Thank you! I'm really really proud of the work we created together. Rise is one of my knights in shining armor lol when it comes to music. We work so well together and he compliments me musically in such away that the chemistry just can't be denied. He, so far in my career, has been able to create Jamma music with me. "Haffi Win", my first collabo with him, is what I've always been working towards. A blend of cultures beautifully mixed and flavored for all music lovers worldwide. Its evident on the ride we take you on when listening to "Haffi Win". For sure, yes, you can get physical copies of the album in Europe at Juno in the UK as well as from Sonic Unyon in canada, Groove in the US. You can also get it digitally at various places such as Itunes and CD Baby.
Are there any projects in the pipeline right now that keep you busy? What is to be expected next?
Well right now the album is out for the world to hear and I'm really excited about it being my first release. It is keeping me really busy right now, promoting it and letting everyone know that it is out there finally. So right now I'm mostly promoting the album, performing every and anywhere I can. Doing interviews like this and basically working hard on this project. Letting the universe know that I'm ready and open to all the opportunities available that are right for me and my career. My hope is for the people and all music lovers to gravitate to the album and I want it to grow on the public and do well so I'm able to make this my career for life as this is my calling, my vocation and my dream. So long story short Karsten, except nothing but more beautiful and blessed things from me to come in the future. More music and more love more Ammoye as this is only the beginning.