Deeply mystical, Jah9 has emerged from a chrysalis of poetry, dub and spirit to become a powerful femiNINE energy within a universal grassroots movement of consciousness. Inspired by the open spaces in the instrumental dub of 1970’s Jamaican roots music, Jah9 sings with a voice that belies the dimensions of her physical body, from a soul much older than its current vessel; “reminiscent of that darkly operatic wailer for truth & justice, Nina Simone.” Her philosophy–profoundly spiritual, and her style–Jazz on Dub.
Born Janine Cunningham, Jah9 spent her first 9 years in Falmouth, Trelawny, on the rural western edge of Jamaica before moving into the city of Kingston, in 1991. Transplanted in the city, this country girl, used to the idyllic Falmouth where everyone knew everyone else, was suddenly struck by chaos disguised as order in Jamaica’s capital. Highly sensitive to her surroundings, she ventured inward and found an outlet for her feelings in the words that she wrote.
Growing up in a conscious family with a preacher for a father and a social worker for a mother, Janine had always been aware of the injustices in the world. However, it was not until she was on campus at the University of the West Indies that she would embark on a pivotal journey to find her true voice. At UWI, she would gather with a group of fellow socially conscious and Rastafari brethren by a fire to steam herbs and reason for long hours. There her heart was opened to the teachings of Haile Selassie I and her ears to the hypnotic bass of the heavy dub rhythms of roots reggae. Janine eventually embraced her childhood nickname, Jah9, as she learnt the significance of the word “Jah” and the number “9”.
A staple on Jamaica’s underground poetry scene by 2009, in instrumental dub she found a place where her words could live, and the songs she started to write found eager encouragement. Jah9 began recording with renowned keyboardist and flautist Sheldon Bernard and her demos caught the attention of the legendary Beres Hammond, who then began helping to develop her recording technique. She later teamed up with popular producer Donovan Bennett of Don Corleon Records and released her first 2 singles in late 2010.
Her focus and determination eventually culminated in the release of her debut album entitled “New Name”, an homage to her personal spiritual journey produced by pioneer dancehall selector and roots producer Rory ‘Stone Love’ Gilligan. Voted album of the year by AchisReggae.com, “New Name” has been described as “quite simply, the superb sum of its parts: a straight cultural roots album” by United Reggae’s Angus Taylor.
Since 2013, Jah9 has performed on the main stage with her band ‘The Dub Treatment’ at most major European and US reggae festivals. Described as “black magic” and “possessing a chilling yet bewitching vibrato evoking a young Ella Fitzgerald and a rootsy coolness à la Erykah Badu” her dub-filled live performances elevate consciousness and invoke a spiritual reawakening.
Jah9, a certified yoga instructor trained in Kemetic, Ashtanga and Iyengar methods, has been known to compel her audiences during her live set to pause, breathe deeply and feel empowered. She opens minds and soaks them in knowledge and positivity. As a way to intimately engage with her fan base, Jah9 also curates an organic rhythm-based yoga experience she calls ‘Yoga on Dub’. Jah9 is rooted in her African heritage and driven to serve. In 2015, while on tour in Italy and Malta she was intent on engaging with African refugees, sharing with them insight on the new environment they would face, natural wellness as well as yoga/breathing as healing therapy.
Jah9’s words are a reflection of the life she has constructed. Considered a nation builder and community activist, she has been heavily involved in youth development work. She has helped develop programs for at-risk youth in Kingston, worked on the creation of “Healing of the Nation” public awareness campaign and been at the core of the creation of the non-profit youth and arts advocacy group known as Manifesto JA in 2005.