Features — 26 February 2009 — by Evan Mose Hyde
About fifteen years ago a local singing sensation off Gibnut street soared to international acclaim on the wings of a cover of Tony Braxton’s R&B classic “Breathe Again”. That young sister was Tricia Lovell, better known by her performing alias “Sweet T”. Sweet T surfed on the dancehall rhythm of producer Bobby Konders of Massive B, adding street voltage into Braxton’s ballad and creating an instant club banger, which would eventually sizzle into a music video on BET (Black Entertainment Television) and also got featured on VP Record’s dancehall compilation Reggae Gold. Of all the microphone luminaries that dominated the Belizean entertainment scene in the late eighties and early nineties such as Daddy Russian, Gambino, Kenny G and Grandmaster, to name a few, it was the lady of the bunch who had the escape velocity to achieve spaceflight into the international music scene.
I don’t believe it’s any accident that Sweet T was the “anointed one”. She came from a stellar background of singing and performing from a very young age. She was rocking it with the Seventh Day Adventist Choir as a child, honing her vocal skills and talent for high-caliber performances. Reggae, and more specifically dancehall reggae, is ultra-masculinity terrain. On the international reggae scene, there’s been only sparse female success when compared to the overwhelming number of male superstars. Testosterone seems to be a prerequisite for achievement. In Belize, however, our sisters seem to be pacesetting for the brothers.
In 2008, the legacy of female champions on the urban reggae domain was maintained and upgraded by Melonie Gillett and Tanya Carter. Melonie Gillett, who first started singing as a child at family gatherings and then later on at the Sacred Heart school in Burrell Boom and Ladyville R.C., came to public attention via Channel 5’s Karaoke challenge in 2005 and 2007. In 2008, Melonie ditched the bland and uncreative world of readymade sing-overs, and went into her own home-cooked preparations. Teaming up with producer Kendoyle Simpson, a story in his own right, Melonie delivered the hit single “Rush” in July ‘08. Despite the well-chronicled difficulties for Belizean tunes to get airtime, “Rush” saturated the FM bandwidth, striking an immediate cord with listeners and club goers with its lust-laden lyrics.
Melonie followed up with her lyrical assault on low-quality love, with “Love me” in hardcore reggae style. On Friday night past, I had the distinct honour to debut Melonie’s first international single “Lean on me” on KREM Radio’s Serious Business. This single rides a riddim track called “Good Mood” produced by South Florida’s finest and internationally renowned Black Chiney. Sharing this riddim with our Belizean starlet are other household names like Daville, Marcia Griffith, Etana and Pressure. Ms.Gillett is taking it to the world!
Tanya Carter boasts that she has been singing publicly since she was four. She started singing at the Church of Christ, she says, and continued in the vaunted performing arts tradition of Grace Primary, winning gold in group and solo performances at the Festival of Arts. In 2003 she hit the recording studios for the first time at the Heights of Vibes studio and along with Linda Blease made a radio hit called “Wanna know you better”. Actually this tune—the product of goofing around with a little idle time— wasn’t even intended for airplay. This didn’t stop it from being well-received by listeners. Tanya followed up this with a colossal entry in 2007 with a tune written by Emerson Guild called “Show me”. Sam Harris collaborated on the duet.
In 2008, Tanya demonstrated her awesome songwriting skills and the full depth of her talent with her conscious reggae smash called “Hero”. In a couple of weeks Tanya will be dropping her much anticipated album, scoring another tally for the Belizean ladies, who continue to set an extremely high bar for the brothers to mount. From Sweet T and other superstar sisters like Meesha, who performs from the Hamptons to Japan, opening for such reggae stalworths as Richie Stephens, to Melonie and Tanya, our female singers have all contributed to and established a legacy of excellence that has been etched in the annals of Belizean music history. Ladies rule.