With two albums under her belt and numerous local and international stage performances, Etana is truly the Strong One.
She showed this strength and a coming of age, as far as live performances are concerned, when she stepped onto the Studio 38 stage Friday night. It was another of Pulse’s showcases which in the past has featured the likes of Tarrus Riley, Tanya Stephens, Mavado, Lady Saw and more recently R&B sensation Melba Moore.
At the end of Etana’s performance on Friday, which lasted just over an hour, one was left with the sense that this was far from the Strong One’s best, but by no means her worst. So this one ranks in the ‘OK’ category.
The demerit must be handed to her backing musicians. The small acoustic-type aggregation featured percussion, bass, guitar and keyboards. For some reason there seemed to have been a disconnect between the artiste and her musicians. That sync that one has become accustomed to was sadly lacking on this outing.
That said, Shauna McKenzie (Etana’s real name) was not going to make her ‘players of instruments’ rain on her Studio 38 parade. Not even a ‘false start’ with the opening track Free, could throw her off. She clearly came prepared to vocally treat the audience and this she did.
Wearing her hair in the trademark ‘fro and performing barefooted, she delivered all the favourites from her albums, and then some.
The small but appreciative audience at Studio 38 was treated to Etana’s strong vocals on tracks including her breakout tune Wrong Address, two classics from reggae icon Jimmy Cliff — You Can Get It If You Really Want and The Harder They Come — which added variety and texture to the performance.
Throughout her set, the conscious empress urged her audience to work towards what is best for them, and not to be deterred by naysayers. Following the banter, she drew for her supporting tracks, Bad Mind, Chatty Chatty Mout and Talk, which were all well received.
Another recurring theme during Etana’s performance was that of love. For this, she belted the popular Warrior Love, which was the first track to get an unsolicited response from the audience. Other popular tracks chosen to express love were Crazy Love, Marley’s I Want to Love You and her duet with Italian reggae act Alborosie, Jah Blessings, which she performed with her backing vocalist Clyve.
Despite its shortcomings on the night, the band seemed to get their act together for Roots as well as the track Day By Day taken from Etana’s second album, Free Expressions. Both these pieces seemed ideally suited for the instruments and the acoustic set.
The Strong One would round off the night invoking the essence of Rastafari with the classics Rastaman Chant, Rivers of Babylon and Fly Away Home, before declaring that she was anointed from the crown of her head to the sole of her feet and could sing her final track of the night, I Am Not Afraid.