Interview: Tanya Stephens

Tanya StephensSeit mittlerweile deutlich mehr als einem Jahrzehnt zählt Tanya Stephens zu den bedeutendsten weiblichen Dancehall-Artists und kann wohl als eine der besten aktiven Songwriterinnen im Reggae-Business gelten. Dementsprechend begeistert wurde im Herbst letzten Jahres ihr mittlerweile sechstes Album “Rebelution” aufgenommen und weitgehend als eines der besten des Jahres gesehen. Anlässlich ihrer Deutschland-Tour im Februar führte die Darktales-Crew ein Interview mit ihr über “Rebelution”, dessen Lyrics, Combinations und weitere Themen:

Darktales: Please introduce yourself to the audience, Vivienne Tanya Stephenson.

Tanya Stephens: This is Tanya Stephens. Well, my name is Vivienne Tanya Stephenson but I perform on the name Tanya Stephens. I sing primarily reggae but I’m influencend by everything you can think of.

Darktales: Your first tune ever recorded was “Dear Friend”…

Tanya Stephens: Yes, “Dear Friend”. But it wasn’t released [giggling]…

Darktales: It was recorded in New Name Studios. Do you still have contact with Noel Brownie?

Tanya Stephens: We are running into each other some time again, but he lives in England and I live in Jamaica, so it’s a little bit hard communication. But whenever we see each other, as well as the other guys who worked at the studio. It’s always love.

Darktales: In 1996 you came up with “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet”, gaining your first big hit tune. Comparing lyrics, riddim and background of this song with your last records (Gangsta Blues & Rebelution)… Are you searching distance from the current dancehall scene ? It seems so…

Tanya Stephens: I’m going away from it? Not deliberately, but I have a big catalogue of hardcore dancehall songs and I feel like if everyone wants to hear hardcore dancehall songs, it is not very hard for them to find some. I wouldn’t want to keep making the same thing for the rest of my life or career. I feel I should introduce more variety and plus, when I started out I was a teenager and now I’m an adult woman and I have so much more experience and I think I’m wiser and I have a lot more to share. I have incorporated more things into the music; I feel like I have a obligation. You know, it’s a big responsibility – a voice which has to been heard actually everywhere. So I feel like I can’t just be party and dancing all the time. I want to say something that means something more. So it’s seems like I’m moving away- but I’m not. I’m still the same person, just with more experiences.

Darktales: Talking about “Rebelution” and the tune “Do you still care” – do you think some artist in Jamaica don’t have the courage to say what they think or what they feel?

Tanya Stephens: [giggling] … I don’t know… Well I’m a little bit away from the music industry in Jamaica. I live in the countryside and I don’t see many artists or musicians. I just see my band and myself, so I don’t know what goes on in the minds of the people. I just know that the image that is being painted of Jamaica doesn’t represent me. And it doesn’t represent many people from my community. I have a responsibility to recount what it is out there. The picture that’s being painted is that we are homophobic and that we are overly aggressive and violent towards people who have different choices from us. That’s not true. Jamaica is a nation which is made out of many and this is still true. It always has been true. Every kind of person lives in Jamaica and that’s why I have felt to do this. I don’t know about anybody artist, but the few guys who are talking crap, they don’t represent all of Jamaica.

Darktales: concerning the music industry in Jamaica and your current record Rebelution: In your intro tune you talk to the Jamaican music industry. Do you think you (and your boyfriend / Tarantula Records) can really set up a revolution?

Tanya Stephens: [Laughing] Of course, it takes only one person! I mean, everybody who did something tremendous was a little person before they did it. They only become large after they did it. Every living human is capable to make a change. Even if I only change myself and be an example that other people may choose to follow. This is still making a change and I live like that. It only starts with one.

Darktales: Compared to your other records Rebelution doesn’t sound like a strictly reggae album. Do you think it’s about time to do something different, or do you just have enough of being labelled only as a reggae artist and nothing else? Was it planed to record a ‘non reggae album’ to reach a broader audience [laughs] or has it just happened by accident ?

Tanya Stephens: [Laughing] Well, reaching a broader audience, I think happened by accident. Trying to record a non reggae album wasn’t planed either. We just made music. Tarantula is basically two people: Andrew Henton and myself. We are the complete company. We do everything. The way we work is to do whatever naturally comes to us and whatever we are motivated or inspired to do. We do not care what it becomes. Whatever it becomes we were motivated to do. I will hold it up with pride and if everybody likes it it’s fine and if no one likes it it’s still fine. We don’t care. It wasn’t the intention to care about any market. Of course we love everybody to like it. So you can run around and try to crap a market. But if the market comes to you, you have to say thanks. And it seems that the market has come.

Darktales: Talking about your lyrics on you current album: “If Wishes Were Horses”. What’s your greatest wish?

Tanya Stephens: Oh my god – my greatest wish? [silence]. I don’t wish very much. I make plans and I execute them. So I don’t have many wishes. So everything I feel might I have to wish it – I did it.

Darktales: I was wondering a little bit why Rebelution doesn’t contain any combinations. Is there a special reason or didn’t you find any artists whom you think of they represent what you wanted to say?

Tanya Stephens: On this record I have so much to say. There wasn’t space for anybody else for real [laugh].

Darktales: Is there anybody you want to do a combination with in the future?

Tanya Stephens: I don’t really do names and people. I do ideas. If there’s a song, I feel a particular artist and I feel to have the same views, then I reach out to them. I just do music with people who I feel connective- and they don’t even have to be – they don’t have to be popular or anything.

Darktales: Rebelution again: You talk about war on Iraq and similar things. [paused] It’s very global. Comparing to other artists and other records: it is very unusual. Do you think the Jamaican scene is too narrow minded?

Tanya Stephens: [giggling] I couldn’t say that, because I do Jamaican music [laughing]. Honestly, so far it has been a little bit limited. The music that is getting the majority of the international attention has been quite limited so far. But there are lot of other people in Jamaica who don’t get noticed. Maybe, if the international media starts focusing more broadly, then you have more messages coming.

Darktales: Last words to the audience?

Tanya Stephens: Thank you very much! Thanks for all the support I have been getting; thanks for everybody who have picked up the record (whether they liked it or not) and definitely to those who liked it and told it another one. That has been my biggest promotion so far.
Every night I come out and I see people on the shows and I’m shocked all over again and I’m just happy.


Interview by Darktales Crew, Stuttgart, 25. 2. 2007 / darktales.de