Nattali Rize brings a new frequency to reggae
Australian singer-songwriter Nattali Rize is fast becoming one to watch on the competitive reggae scene. Following the release of her polished debut album Rebel Frequency, she talks to RFI about breaking into the male-dominated genre, and finding her tribe in Kingston, Jamaica.
Nattali Rize is surprisingly small in the flesh, but far from fragile. With with her long blond nats and radiant smile outlined in scarlet, she cuts an unusual and refreshing figure on the roots reggae scene.
Australian-born, she moved to Kingston, Jamaica, a couple of years ago and launched her live five-piece band with musicians from Jamaica and Australia.
She says Kingston was an obvious choice for connecting with reggae’s culture and roots, but it’s turned out to be much more.
“The beautiful thing about Jamaica is that it’s a small island and you can meet as many artists as you want and the community of musicians there are really supportive of one another. What I found when I moved there, what I loved, is that there’s so much less ego and they say ‘music is not a competition it’s a mission’. So that sort of consciousness is prevalent in the music scene in Jamaica and that’s had a very positive impact on me, I felt like I moved there and found my tribe in a sense.”
One of those musicians is Julian Marley, son of Bob. They'd already met in Australia and done some shows together when she was performing with the urban roots band Blue King Brown. Back in Kingston they were able to hook up and record the track Natty Rides Again.
“It had been our intention to do something together and after a while it just worked out," she says. "He got a riddim, listened to a couple of songs and chose [Natty Rides Again]. So we went into Tuff Gong [Bob Marley's] studios, and just started writing on the spot. Within 40 minutes we’d recorded all the vocals and the parts and it was just natural. That’s what I found with all the artists in Jamaica, they’re so quick, the inspiration is flowing at this high rate and that inspires me.”
“Full Freedom” from mental slavery
The album Rebel Frequency reflects Rize's desire to use music to sound frequencies that will resonate at a higher level than those currently on offer, a sentiment expressed in the title track.
‘Said all we really need to do is build some new systems,
for the ones we’re living under now, well that’s not really livin,
You overstand we’re singing cause’ we love this world we live in,
never underestimate the Powers of the People in it!’
The process involves what she calls Full Freedom.
“Full Freedom means freedom from mental slavery, freedom to be who we are as human beings, freedom from the chains of a system that has for so long oppressed our potential,” she explains.
“Because we’re actually multi-dimensional beings of light and people forget that. "But what’s happening is that there’s a great remembering happening on the planet at the same time as a great awakening.”
People are starting to think “beyond the confines of the narrow paradigm of thought which is current world culture, capitalism and corporates running of governments that don’t really serve people but profits,” she continues.
But first there has to be an "inner revolution", a theme she explores in the song Evolutionary (feat.Jah9 and Dre Island).
Taking back power
Another stand out song is the dub-step inspired Warriors, where Rize’s background in rock shines through.
“We love that heavy dubby kind of style of reggae," she says "and Warriors does kind of cross over because we also like so many kinds of genres of music. The outro features an incredible Jamaican guitarist Monty [Savory] and we just let him free reign because we just enjoy watching him perform.”
So who are the warriors in question?
“It’s about the generation of who we consider to be real warriors, who’re taking their power back and starting to look, not so much to politicians or current world systems for any sort of change, but instead at themselves and create real change within themselves and their communities."
In Jamaica that could include musicians, or people practicing yoga and meditation.
“In the arts there’s lots of warriors because art in itself is a creative and free expression. So people that are turned into that connection to their higher self are manifesting a world of colour and diversity and different ways of living and loving together.”
In Australia, she cites the growing indigenous resistance and uprising. And in the US, the DAPL pipeline protestors.
“Those sorts of movements really inspire me personally, lyrically, musically and as an evolving being on the planet. That’s why I’m here: to be a reflection of that and to also include some of my own revelations and thoughts and philosophies in music for the greater good of all of us.”
Rize’s own vocal frequency also leans towards the higher ground. Happily, tt has its imperfections: hardly surprising for someone who shies from the overly commercial and wants to keep it real.
As for flowing in a male-dominated reggae arena, the Australian warrior is undaunted.
“My experience has been really positive" she laughs. "Maybe I’m just a bit immune to it, because when I walk into a place I don’t really see a gender, I kind of see people and their energy... as long as it’s a good energy then it’s good with me. Yes there’s mainly male artists in reggae but there are some incredibly powerful female artists as well coming through. Janai, Kelissa, Hempress Sativa, SaRita, and many others.”
Rize doesn’t sing about women as such, she’s too ‘one world, one people’ for that. But she believes women are beginning to tilt the balance in this testosterone-driven society.
“I would say that at this time on the planet there is definitely a divine feminine energy coming, rising to balance the masculine energy that has been overloading the planet in many ways. We are evidence and manifestation of that. You’ll see that in all women and all female artists for sure. It’s a powerful thing and that’s why we’re here.”
Nattali Rize is touring Europe. She plays Paris’s Trianon on 19 April. Follow her on facebook