With a thick and rootsy sound, but an edge that suggests she's a Burning Spear or Mutabaruka for the 21st century, Jamaican singer and songwriter Jah9 combines reggae, dub, dancehall, jazz, and R&B with a strong sense of mysticism and spiritual awareness. Her 2013 debut, New Name, put her on the map and over coming years she gained a following and plenty of critical acclaim, signing with the VP label for albums like 2016's 9 and 2020's Note to Self. In addition to her music, Jah9 is highly involved in community activism, youth and arts advocacy, and teaches yoga.
Janine Cunningham was born and raised in the Western rural town of Falmouth. College brought her into town, the campus introduced her to Rastafarians, and the Rastas introduced her to dub, roots reggae, and artists like dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. Taking her childhood nickname of Jah9, she became a staple of Jamaica's progressive poetry scene, while recording demos with producer Sheldon Bernard led her to the legendary Beres Hammond. Through Hammond, she signed with Don Corleon Records in 2010 and recorded the singles "Warning" and "Keep Holding On" with producer Donovan Bennett. Her breakthrough year came in 2013 when her track "Brothers" shared a single with Chronixx and his song "Smile Jamaica" on the flipside, then her debut album, the aptly titled New Name, landed on Rory "Stone Love" Gilligan's label, Rorystonelove. A year later she released the compilation Singles, and in 2016 she joined the VP label with the single "Bloody City."
Encompassing the power and symbolism of her namesake number, she released her sophomore album, 9, on September 9 of that year, deepening her "jazz-on-dub" sound. The album was later deconstructed with newly recorded dub-heavy versions as part of a 2017 collaboration with U.K. producer Mad Professor under the title, Mad Professor Meets Jah9 in the Midst of a Storm. Jah9's next proper studio album, 2020's Note to Self, featured guest spots from Chronixx, Tarrus Riley, and Pressure Busspipe. ~ David Jeffries