By Stephen Cooper
With a legendary career spanning over forty years – during which she’s toured the world several times, acted in Hollywood movies, and recorded countless hit songs – Sister Carol is a reggae icon; her music is a cultural, intellectual, and spiritual treasure.
That’s why I was so excited when Sister Carol released a new album called “Opportunity” in September; I knew I had to get a copy immediately. Then, after listening to the album and being blown away by its quality, I was overjoyed Sister Carol was agreeable to discussing it with me, on Halloween – along with other subjects of interest to music fans and citizens of the world – via Zoom; during the interview that followed, Sister Carol was in New York City, and I was in Los Angeles. What follows is a transcript, modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.
Sister Carol: Greetings. How are you doing, Stephen?
Q: I’m doing very well. It’s very nice to see you again, Sister Carol; it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And how are you doing –
Sister Carol: Are you hearing me clearly?
Q: I am hearing you clearly. Are you hearing me?
Sister Carol: Yeah man, mi a-hear you, mi a-see you.
Q: Excellent. How are you doing, Sister Carol?
Sister Carol: I’m alright, you know. Just very concerned about myself, my family, and the world at large, you know?
Q: Yeah these are perilous times, truly perilous times that we’re in. Now of course, Sister, you’ve been interviewed countless times throughout your career. But I think that the first time I interviewed you, shortly after you wowed the crowd at the 1st L.A. Reggae Vegan Fest was extremely memorable. That was in 2018. Seems like ages ago now, I know. And because I’m not going to rehash any ground you and I have already covered together, I would simply urge the people that are gonna be listening [to] or [who] read today’s interview, to google up that first interview we did. Because among other things, you may recall, we discussed: veganism, marijuana, Rastafarian beliefs and practices, respect for women, and, we talked about some of your fondest memories, Sister Carol, of late reggae superstars Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott. You told some stories about them that were really beautiful – so I hope that people will go and check that out. Now Sis, when last I saw you, you –
Sister Carol: Excuse me. Just a second, are you recording now? Or are we –
Q: We are recording. We’re recording. Everything’s recording.
Sister Carol: Okay. Alright.
Q: Now Sis, when I last saw you, you were promoting your ganja-inspired album “THC” (“The Healing Cure”) –
Sister Carol: Uh-huh.
Q: – and you told me at that time you had just completed another album – one you were gonna call “Reggae Inna Mi Blood.” Did you ever release that new album?
Sister Carol: No.
Q: What happened with that?
Sister Carol: Sometimes, just like everything else, plans don’t go necessarily as much as you put them into place, you know? And things happen, just like nobody knew that we’d be experiencing a pandemic right now. Things happen, you know? But my mother always said, “What doesn’t cost life, doesn’t cost anything.” So you know, I’d say that album come to face what we call a gridlock within a traffic jam. And we’re waiting on certain legal issues before it can be cleared for it to be released.
Q: So it’s there – [and] it might still come out?
Sister Carol: Yes, most definitely. But not as planned. Just like everything else in life.
Q: True. Of course, just last month, you released a genius – I think it’s a genius new album called “Opportunity” on the Tafari record label – and I want to ask you a number of questions about that album that you just released. But before I ask you about “Opportunity,” I would be remiss not to point out that in the last year, in 2019, you were involved in at least three major collaborations. First, as was well reported in the Jamaican press, you were recruited by Michael Goldwasser at Easy Star Records to sing on a ganja-themed song by pop star Jason Mraz – that’s a song called “Time Out,” in case folks want to check that out. But also, in 2019, you chanted and sang on two extremely compelling songs, both of which have really excellent [must-watch] official videos: First, you made a song with reggae icon Marcia Griffiths called “World Needs Love.” And also, just last month, close in time to when you released your new album “Opportunity,” you appear on a really exceptional [and] moving song by your daughter, Nakeeba Amaniyea, that’s called “My Jamaica.” These two collaborations that you did last year, “World Needs Love” and “My Jamaica,” I found stunning. Not only because the songs and the videos are beautiful, but because [of] the subject matter: Violence, and in particular, violence in the form of police brutality and socio-economic inequality, they are front and center in [both of] those songs. “World Needs Love” even came out before George Floyd’s killing by the police. Can you describe how these two collaborations – this one with Marcia Griffiths and then also with your daughter, I guess start[ing] with Marcia Griffiths – how did that come about, you and Marcia getting together?
Sister Carol: Okay, so the idea for the song came from our producer, Mr. Noel Alphonso, with the song “World Needs Love.” And Marcia’s long been an inspiration ever since I was a child, to me. And I had the opportunity of working with her many times. So when I asked her if she would sing on the song with me, she didn’t hesitate, she just came on board. So we did the song together, and you can see clearly: the world needs more than love right now.