Three years ago, Jah9 boarded a one-way flight to Tanzania, guided by what she describes as a “divine calling.” She had never been to the country before. Now, she calls it her home.
While a divine calling led her to Tanzania, the sweeping force of the global pandemic pushed her to the initial crossroads. She was launching her third studio album, Note to Self, in Ethiopia in 2020 when borders began closing. With urgency bearing down on her, she weighed her travel options: Return to her birthplace of Jamaica, fly to the U.K., or remain in East Africa.
In less than twenty-four hours, she had made her decision.
After arriving in Dar es Salaam, the nation’s largest city, Jah9 felt the strain of the unfamiliar. Though considered an official language alongside Swahili, English is spoken by just a slim minority of Tanzanians. So for eight months, she turned inward, spending days at a time in silence, focused on understanding, healing, and growing.
Global lockdowns also eased professional and social demands. “The rest of the world paused, but because Tanzania wasn’t experiencing lockdowns, I didn’t have to stop. I chose to,” she said. She immersed herself in “energy-rich” spaces, eventually finding solace in Tanzania’s “pace, patience, and people.”
“Tanzania facilitated my ability to be in the world and not of the world. The outcome speaks for itself; I feel transformed.”
Now, after a three-year recording and performing hiatus, Jah9 is ready to share the fruits of her labor.
On May 26, she will return with “Open Heart,” an affirmation, reflection, and celebration of her spiritual growth and limitless potential. Throughout the reggae soul track, which is produced by Iotosh and will be out via VP, Jah9 pieces life’s lessons together into a mosaic. The music video, directed by Ash Mswaki, invites viewers into the artist’s world, offering glimpses of lush landscapes, East African symbolism, and a softer, more complete Jah9.
She will follow the single’s release with a return to live performance at City Splash Festival in London on May 29. For her set, Jah9 chose to forgo a band in the traditional sense. Instead, she will be joined by a pair of background singers and recording engineer Hopeton “Scientist” Brown, who will rework with the performances in real-time throughout his live dub mix of the show.
But even as Jah9 opens herself back up to the world, traveling between Europe and Jamaica to connect with family, friends, and fans, it won’t be long before she finds her way back to East Africa. There is, after all, no place like home.