A conversation with Warrior Queen
Annette Henry a.k.a. Warrior Queen is a Jamaican dancehall, reggae and dub performer, a strong voice bridging the reggae and electronic genre. You can find her on LP’s and recordings from established producers and artists like The Bug, Skream, Vex’d, Mungo’s Hi-Fi, Sunship, Sarantis, Kalbata, O.B.F., Dub Gabriel, Kush Aurora and you would instantly recognize her aggressive and special approach. She is very much present in the electronic dancehall scene having released new songs this year with Schlachtofbronx, Sam Binga and Jahrkon.
I must say from the first that I consider your lyrics prophetic. You speak of wars, tyranny, bombs but also about the love and kindness within people. Do you view yourself as a prophet musician?
First and foremost let me say a special thank you and greetings to Bucharest for the interest in my music. I would say that I hope I am a prophet musician, it sounds a bit overwhelming to think about that. My inspiration has been driven by a prophetical aspect, at first it was unknown to me, I haven’t seen it like that, but it was unraveled like that to me at a later time. Songs like Poison Dart, Insane, Aktion Pak, Dem A Bomb We, Almighty Father have come from me talking to Kevin and the other producers about the world seen on the news and TV, the chaos, Babylon and serious tings around us all, in our environment. The music and instrumentals are perfect for such science-fiction, but not quite, lyrical content and approach. With the dancehall sound in mind and that electronic and electric modern music we made something new and different, but still legit and real.
My original stage name was Wendy Culture, then it evolved into Xena The Warrior Princess. After years in the music business, in this fraternity and becoming after time a veteran deejay, I decided that Muma of the princess is the queen and I aspired to that. So I changed my name into Warrior Queen. It very much suited my diversity of style: hardcore music with fierce raw live performances, war sounds different from the early dancehall I started with and deejayed.
You have lived in London for a time then moved back to Jamaica. Do you feel your roots are here?
I feel like Jamaica, my homeland is a beautiful and blessed country. Not only it is the home of legends such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and Bunny Wailer, to name just a few, but the place where instrumental music genres appeared Old Skool’s, Reggae, Dub, Dancehall and my number one love: Dancehall! I have to mention the forever inspirational dancehall performers: Sister Nancy, Lady Saw, Carlene Davis, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Vybez Kartel, Mavado, etc. Dancehall and reggae define Jamaica as the one and only, that little dot on the map, full of unfolding talents and people.
And I also do have an amazing family here, 8 siblings, 6 girls and 2 boys.
How would you define community and what does it mean to you?
A community for me is where I live, for example the countryside, that area in the town or the parish. I lived in so many places and had made very different family-like relationships with communities from different types of genres and I would sum it all up as a very friendly atmosphere. I’ve lived in the Red Light District, May Pen, Clarendon, Central Village, Spanish Town, Saint Catherine in Jamaica and in the Jamaican communities the main focus of everyone was and is entertainment.
From back in the ‘90s to the early 21st Century my main source was music. I am now again living in Jamaica, but I also lived in London where I hooked up with The Bug, Skream, Sam Binga, Mungo’s and started many collaborations in the Dubstep, Dancehall and Reggae scene.
I know a lot of people are waiting an album from you. Do you have any news on this?
Ahh! The world is waiting for my album, I know. There are no near future plans though, but I love to perform with a live band and hope that most definitely sometime I will release an album and perform it live with musicians.
But any new collaborations? More orthodox roots recording like the one with Mungo’s Hi-Fi or should we expect something experimental like P.A/ Hard Love?
I would say both and more! I have trending recordings in the styles of reggae and gospel too. New tunes this year with Mungo’s, Bleep Blop, Jahrkon and a Ubikar collab alongside Killa P who was also on the now legendary London Zoo LP.
After such an extensive career, with a lot of shows, is there any place in particular where you would to perform?
I don’t have a special a place. I like to perform wherever my talent, fans and promoters invite me. I have been to a lot of places in Europe, Asia and America. I found them all very interesting, the people are incredibly supportive, I hope to revisit these countries soon.
I remember one of my favorite touring moments when Kode9 knelt in front of me during a gig with The Bug in the UK and said “I love you Warrior Queen!”. He is such a fan of our Poison Dart song and he has always played it in his sets.
Every moment touring with The Bug has been awesome and memorable. There were also moments of despair, like when I came back by train to a Berlin gig from Poland. Before I left my phone was dead and I had no means of communication left. It was just me and my patois and time was running out. It was a day full of ups and downs, but I managed to get the last train just in time. Oh my God, I was a big relief when I arrived at the venue just a few minutes before the show started.
You have a lot of energy on stage, a powerful combination between Gloria Gaynor and a punk band, something that opens up a door of a thousand genres. What kind of music do you also listen?
Hahaha. Very nicely put. Thank you. From a tender age I admired Gloria Gaynor and her versatility a lot. Me used to listen to Queen and Tears For Fears on the radio and see their videos on television. They were an inspiration because of the tings they spoke about.
I now dig and listen constantly to a lot of Caribbean styles like Bachanal (Soca), Country, Gospel, Alternative, Reggae, Rock and Dubstep. I am proud to be a musician and try to be more than Dancehall, Dub and Jamaican sounds, I lived in Britain for quite a lot and it is a part of me and my sound now.
But you are right though I have a collaboration with a punk band called Cold World a chune name Whagman.
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