Every year more than 33,000 kids graduate from Jamaica's secondary school system and are confronted at that time with the task of selecting an option that will literally shape the remainder of their lives. It is a decision juncture that most of these kids who are between the ages of 16 and 17 years old are completely unprepared for. Most, by virtue of this situation, will either join the ranks of the unemployed or under-employed, as socially and academically, they had been unprepared for the future that lay ahead.
This was a decision that faced Mykalia "Koffee" Simpson in 2017 as a 17-year-old as she graduated from Ardenne High School in Kingston, Jamaica. It was a decision point that threw her on what looked to be the certain ashes of her life.
The Reggae Month Interview
I had the privilege of interviewing the now Colombia Recording artiste and youngest Grammy Award-winning "Koffee" in a recent segment of our Sunday School program that was aired during the recently concluded Reggae Month observances for 2021. Apart from being Jamaica's first female Grammy Award winner, Koffee is the youngest to have realized this accomplishment. She is a phenomenal talent, absolutely grounded, with a maturity that belies her tender years.
I have been following Jamaica's music for the better part of the last 40 years of my life and have invested much of my time studying artistes from different genres over different eras and their work in developing the island's rich musical history from Toots to Marley, to Dennis Brown to Beres Hammond. All are great artistes in their own right but like Robert Nesta Marley, Koffee is special. Her ability to write lyrics speaks to a connection with the social fabric of our existence that is unmatched by any Jamaican lyricist at this time. She has a level of introspection, a command of language and expression that is absent among her peers.
Burning released in 2018 literally set the place on fire as she turned to music to comment on a system that has defined the lives of millions of Jamaican youth year on year. That was the work that got my attention. Her Grammy-winning "Toast" is an Anthem for people everywhere, particularly among the young. Its reprise "gratitude is a must" is a celebrated statement among young and old everywhere, but it is what she has done since that underlines the fact that "Koffee" will be the face of Jamaica's music for years to come. Songs like "Lockdown" and "Pressure" are commentaries that speak to the issues impacting not just Jamaicans at home, but to people everywhere. Give a listen to the video. Feel free to share.
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