WAYMATEA ELLIS, AKA SISTA J OF SOULJAH FYAH (MF GALAXY 034)
WRITING LYRICS, RUNNING A BAND, AND THE BLESSING OF EARLY ADOPTER SUPER-FANS
Waymatea, better known as Sista J, is the band leader, lead singer, lead lyricist, and founding member of Souljah Fyah, one of Canada’s most popular and most celebrated reggae bands. Souljah Fyah has released three albums including their self-titled debut, Truth Will Reveal, and I Wish. The band has just returned from producing an album in Jamaica that is scheduled for release early 2016.
Unlike most of her contemporaries in popular music, Waymatea is an accomplished song writer, weaving her albums with everything from searing anti-genocide anthems and hometown cheer-sections to spiritual hymns and tender songs of heartbreak.
In this episode of MF GALAXY, Waymatea discusses:
- What poets and prose writers who want to try songwriting need to understand to find artistic success
- Her practice of editing lyrics, and the magical mindset for creating those lyrics in the first place
- The power of ironic contrast between lyrics and melody
- The business of running a band, and the surprising first business move Waymatea made when she formed Souljah Fyah
- How her professional school teaching background shaped the way she ran her band, and when and why that stopped working
- Her unexpected advice for how millennials should promote their bands, and
- The amazing power of early adopter super-fans
Waymatea spoke with me on December 3, 2014 by Skype from her home in LA—that’s Leduc, Alberta.
Note that throughout our conversation, Waymatea’s young daughter makes several quiet cooing remarks and sound effects. Full disclosure: Waymatea and I are good friends; we met when we were both children, and in the early 1990s we worked together in EBONY, an African-Canadian youth group. We begin with Waymatea introducing herself.