feature: jaqee’s ‘yes i am’ sounds like nothing else in this world #soundcheck

April 8, 2014

Raised in Uganda until 13, her teenage years spent in Sweden before emigrating to Berlin as an adult, singer Jaqee’s music was destined to be a truly unique mix of sounds. On her latest full length Yes I Am, Jaqee blends reggae rhythms with retro synths and symphonic swells over songs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at an old school Cabaret.

By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor

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Opening with minimal percussion, Jaqee sets her mission from the top: “I wanted to become a hero for all the invisible heroes, an underdog from the cradle.” A lonely wah guitar wails in the background while a string section overtakes the rising dance hall rhythms. “Hero” seeps tension, never quite hitting the climax it seems to be building to. This is a song about potential, kicking off an album ripe with it.

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If the first track is a statement of intent, the title track is a declaration of self. “So I am here because I should be / It is a right and so it should be / I bless the ground that I was born on / Give thanks for the skin that I reside in.” Reggae guitars vie with krautrock synths for air beneath Jaqee’s powerful, but understated voice. That it sounds unlike anything else is perfect for a song about being proud of who you are. Literally no-one else could have recorded it.

On the stunning “Drop of Water,” Jaqee unleashes her cinematic scope. The stunningly restrained arrangement boasts strings with the lush depth of a classic Hollywood score. Jaqee makes a brilliant use of the balance between haunting beauty and earth shaking rhythms. The ode to music itself “Muziki” proudly showcases the ability of music to move us to…well…move as well to move us to tears. And before you go thinking this is all so serious and “important,” Jaqee’s clearly having the time of her life with a love song to Doc Martens. Anyone who was alive and wearing shoes in the 90’s will find themselves grinning ear to ear to the giant horns of “Docta Martens.” On an album full of some of the most beautiful odes to the potential of music to unite and strengthen, Jaqee isn’t afraid to also show the ability of music to make you smile for no damn reason at all, or maybe just because, yeah, I loved my Doc Martens too. Yes I Am is a testament to the fact that when an artist has such a strong, bold sense of self, they really can accomplish just about anything.