Note To Self
One of the interesting things about listening to Janine Cunningham’s third album as Jah9 is hearing how neatly the values and aspirations of roots reggae map onto modern life. As befits a culture of the individual, the music here doesn’t telegraph from a place of political outrage but of personal discovery—at one point, Cunningham describes revolution as a “spiritual experience” (“New Race [A Way]”). Elsewhere, we hear passing reference to the perils of social media (“Ma’at [Each Man]”), explorations of self-care and mental health (“Note to Self [Okay]”), and an uplifting case for that old-fashioned thing called introspection (“Field Trip”). And while roots is Cunningham’s cornerstone, Note to Self is surprisingly diverse in its influences, encompassing bits of jazz, spoken-word poetry, soul, and African music for a sound that frames roots not as a tradition isolated in Jamaica but as a vehicle for self-empowerment that has rippled through black music on a global scale.