Named after the Italian word for Love, Ammoye is to music what the stars are to the sky – beautiful. The smoothness of her voice draws listeners in, and the power of her lyrics holds them as she effortlessly sings about Life, Love, and justice. At the age of 5, ...
Through struggles and setbacks, Jamaican-Canadian singer and songwriter Ammoye always heard a voice inside, reminding her of her worth. Now, she’s become that voice, spreading a message of uplift, love, and spirit to the world on The Light, the 3x Juno Nominated latest album (out July 28, 2017).
“I call myself a soul rebel,” a theme she explores on the album’s song of the same title. “It’s about following your soul path, the path of your higher self. This is especially important for black women, who are told they are less than, that they don’t matter. I follow my inner voice, my intuition.”
Intuition led her to a spiritual awakening several years ago, and took her back to her native Jamaica to seek out collaborators and producers for her songs. Ammoye tapped both beloved reggae elder statesmen like Sly Dunbar and Donovan Germain and fresh newcomers like the funky Kingston producer duo Natural High Music. Drawing on the sounds she grew up with (gospel, along with roots reggae) and those she heard as young woman in Toronto, The Light also embraces electro-pop moments (“Are You Ready?”) and R&B (“Salvation-Redemption”).
“I use my own experience to push my writing. My music has a message of love,” says Ammoye. “I want to inspire women and girls to find that sense of love and light within themselves, not outside themselves. I want to share the messages I have gotten, the healing I’ve received. I hope people find that in the music.”
Ammoye was raised by her grandmother in Jamaica, and her strength and resilience inspire the young musician to this day. She grew up singing at church, later starting a gospel group once she came to Canada, Sisters in Christ.
Yet she also organized fellow artists into a collective and collaborated broadly in her new home. Her sound blended the soulfulness of Jamaica with the edge of drum & bass, the sinewy grooves of R&B. She sang with Michael Buble, with the rock band the Arkells. She won fans and awards, including several nods from the Junos, Canada’s answer to the Grammys.
Ammoye’s path took a stunning turn about three years ago, on that led directly toward The Light, as she had a spiritual experience that shifted her perspective dramatically. She saw she was more than the pain and wounds she felt, that the limitations and burdens of her past and her identity meant nothing. “It was uplifting, and it helped me see that piece of God in everyone. I had to put it into song,” she recalls.
To do that, Ammoye writes from her heart, from her gut. She collects moments of inspiration, the melodies she hears, on her phone. “It may be something I hear in a movie, or something a friend says that moves me,” she muses. “I always go into a meditative state when I’m writing and let my intuition guide.” “Jah Jah” emerged from just such a state, as Ammoye listened to a friend playing a guitar riff. It conjured a scene in her mind, and she heard herself singing a song to a crowd. She pressed record on her phone and got the gist of song down. She played the idea for Sly, who instantly loved it and produced the track.
Reggae is male dominated, and while Ammoye has shared the stage with everyone from Ziggy Marley to Beenie Man, she and other young female reggae artists like jah9 often struggle to gain recognition, to be taken seriously.
That challenge and its ultimate lesson in strength and persistence inspired “Don’t Count Me Out,” a song that rose from hardship as Ammoye was forced to go on vocal rest due to medical issues. “I had to heal, but I was headed back to Jamaica,” she remembers. “I couldn’t record, but I could still write. I took the tracks that Donovan gave me and sat there on the veranda, at my aunt’s, right across the beach. I get a lot of inspiration around water, and the song came to me.”
Inspiration also comes from her bandmates, Di Cru Band, the go-to house band for visiting reggae artists. Ammoye got to know them as she opened for reggae stars, and she connected with the all-Jamaican group. “I built relationships with these musicians as we performed together. We’re just so in synch. We bounce off each other,” says Ammoye. “They are my main go-to band.”
In these divisive, troubling times, Ammoye’s music shines with an alternative, one forged equally on Jamaica and in Toronto’s melting pot. “There’s a lot of dark energy right now, and the powers that be have a lot to do with that. I feel I’m a lightworker,” reflects Ammoye. “I want to share the voice in my heart, and what that means for me is always holding the light wherever I go. It’s about love, unity consciousness, empowerment and positiveness. The light represents me, and I rise up to that.”