Jamaican-Canadian artist Ammoye seamlessly integrates reggae with gospel, R&B, and electronic sounds. Her new album, The Light, has already been nominated three times for a JUNO award. This summer, she took a moment out of her hectic schedule to chat with So Gutsy about inspiring change, embracing differences, and finding the light within your higher self and sharing it with the world.
Britt: What draws you specifically to create reggae music?
Ammoye: Well, as you know, I’m half-Jamaican, and I grew up with my grandparents back home, and reggae music was a big part of my life growing up. More so the conscious reggae, my grandparents grew up playing a lot of Bob Marley music, and Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff… That was the kind of music that I wanted to make when I decided that I wanted to pursue music professionally.
Britt: Your music has been considered “melting pot reggae” because there’s influences like electro-pop, R&B, and other genres. Where did those influences come from?
Ammoye: Well because I grew up in Jamaica, and in Jamaica they love music. It’s not just reggae music that you hear…you’re hearing reggae of course, but you’re hearing country music, you’re hearing pop music, R&B, soul, and funk. I was influenced by all of them. I just love music. I wanted to not put myself in a box, but to find a way to fuse all of it and make it my own.
Britt: Since the music industry and what people are listening to is constantly changing, does that fusion help you to stay in the present?
Ammoye: Yes, absolutely. I love the differences that these different genres bring to the music industry. I want to tap into all of that and I guess just make it my own and that’s what I’m doing with The Light.
Britt: Is there a message you want to portray through your lyrics or sound?
Ammoye: I want people to be able to relate to it, get inspired, be motivated by the music that I make and then go and do their own thing, whatever that is.
Britt: Do you have a specific audience that you want to inspire?
Ammoye: The audience that I’m talking to are people that are looking for change. People that want to see and do things a different way. People who embrace the differences of all different cultures and not try to be competitive. They understand a message of unity, consciousness, and bringing us together instead of tearing us apart.
Britt: Do you find these messages coming as a reaction to what’s going on in our current world?
Ammoye: Absolutely, I see and hear about it every day. I want to be a good news channel, but I feel like these things are happening to bring about change. I just want to bring a positive light to these issues that are happening around the world. I believe that even though we are different cultures and we do things differently, it’s okay. We can embrace and celebrate those differences without being afraid of them.
Britt: What reminds you that you made the right choice in choosing music as your career?
Ammoye: I always knew that I loved music; however my family wanted me to go the professional route. The music industry is very scary. Especially the reggae industry can be, as a female. I was really focused on being a flight attendant when I was younger. I loved traveling. I wanted to get the opportunity to travel around the world. I wanted to, at that time, do travel and tourism. I was going to school for that. While I was doing that though, I felt like I was always distracted. I wasn’t focused on it, and it wasn’t feeding my soul. I didn’t want to just chase a paycheck. I wanted to feed my soul and be happy with what I was doing. Music makes me feel alive. There’s a bigger purpose in doing music… My lightwork, you might call it.
Britt: You said something earlier about the struggles of being a female reggae artist. Can you expand on that?
Ammoye: Especially with reggae music, a lot of the time you’re pressured to look a certain way and to present yourself a certain way. But for me I find that standing my ground in the way I dress — I love fashion, don’t get me wrong, I love fashion — but I do it in a very sophisticated way. A lot of the promoters tend to put the females at the start on the bill where there’s not a lot of people in the audience yet. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s one person in that audience or 10,000. Now they show me a lot more respect, but you just have to be consistent and stand your ground.
Britt: Have you ever taken any risks in your music that weren’t well received, or that caused any big setbacks?
Ammoye: I got booked for a show and they asked me which song I would want to perform, and I said that I would want to perform “Shooting.” And that song is about anti-violence. Talking to youth about how they can find other ways to express themselves. They wanted something softer, so I decided to do “Soul Rebel,” which speaks to the same thing, and “The Light.”
Britt: When you have people who don’t agree with the message that you’re conveying, is it hard to move past that or to not let it get to you?
Ammoye: I try not to dwell on it and make it an issue. I have so many other songs on the album that speak to the same messages just in a different way, so I just kind of pulled “Shooting” and just went with “Soul Rebel” and “The Light,” which speak to that message anyway and keep it moving. I know my audience will hear that song anyway when they find the album.
Britt: Where else did you find inspiration for this album?
Ammoye: The inspiration came a lot from my spirit within myself. I have been going through what I call my “spiritual awakening.” My “higher self” within myself, teaching me about who I really am and finding validation within myself instead of outside of myself. Just seeing things a lot differently, and looking at the world differently. I wanted to express myself from that point going forward. I saw the light within myself.
Britt: When so much of the inspiration for this album came from something inside of yourself, what’s it like to have this message put directly into this work that’s then going to be communicated to people all over the world?
Ammoye: I was scared to share all of that because I know that people aren’t all ready to hear those messages or they’d rather be distracted, but because of my relationship now with spirit, I am a lot more confident with myself. I feel confident enough that they will understand where I’m coming from, and I feel that there’s a lot of people like myself who are awake now on our planet and are ready for this kind of music and these kind of messages.
Britt: Your message trying to give that inspiration to other people, I think letting yourself be raw and bare like that, gives other people the confidence themselves to think, “Okay, well if she can do it, I can follow her.”
Ammoye: That was the intent. There’s a lot of people right now, something within their life’s purpose, because of fear, and of how society depicts how you should be and what you should be, and what you should do according to how the powers that be say you’re supposed to do things. I wanted to be an example of how you can do things the way you want to do things. If you’re brave enough to follow your inner voice, your divine path and everything else will fall into place. Everyone came to this planet with a gift.
Britt: Who are you listening to right now that is pushing you or inspiring you to keep creating and evolving your music?
Ammoye: I love people like Chronixx, another reggae artist in the reggae revival movement. I love people like Jesse Royal; his message is also about change and female empowerment and bringing balance to the music industry. I love people like Stephen Marley, as well. I also love modern, mainstream artists like SZA and The Internet.
Britt: Do you see where your music is headed in the future?
Ammoye: I can see doors opening all over the place. I feel that energy. I feel that people are ready to hear my message. I’m just ready to take it all over the world. I want to have my own label where I can find artists that I can relate to and help them shine their light and get their music out. I want to be able to have a creative platform where artists can be artists.
Britt: Do you have any advice for other artists who are just getting their foot in the door?
Ammoye: Don’t count yourself out. There’s so many people who want to do that. Listen to your own voice. And even though you may struggle sometimes, believe in yourself. You have guidance and support of your spirit, and nothing is more important than that. When you believe that, and you pay attention and focus on that, everything else, mark my words, everything else will fall into place. Take it one day at a time. One step at a time and follow that flow. It will all work out.