Thu | Oct 22, 2020

No lockdown, curfew for Jah9 in Ethiopia - Completes ‘Note to Self’ challenge

Published:Friday | September 25, 2020 | 12:08 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer

Physically and mentally a world away from the cabin fever gripping the multitudes who remain in full or partial lockdown across the globe, multidisciplinary artiste, producer and yogi Jah9 is healthy and happy. Speaking to The Gleaner from her base on the African continent, the cultural curator reiterated that in Tanzania, it is business as usual.

“Lockdown caught me in Ethiopia, where we had the launch of Note to Self [2020 album] and we were supposed to travel to the UK next. But that was when this whole pandemic thing erupted, and one of my road managers said it was best to go to Tanzania,” she explained.

Jah9 discovered that the Jamaican Consulate in Tanzania is run by the ex-wife of one of her elders in Jamaica, and she was happy to host the group. “I feel blessed to be here in a time like this. I haven’t experienced any mask wearing, lockdowns or curfews. There is regular nightlife and things are just pretty normal. I don’t want to seem insensitive, so I don’t go on social media much, but the truth is that I don’t know the feeling that you are all experiencing,” she said honestly.

Despite the World Health Organization questioning the Tanzanian government’s strategy on COVID-19, President John Magufuli declared the country “coronavirus-free” early in June, thanks to prayer and fasting by the citizens. In May, he dismissed a US Embassy warning that hospitals in the capital Dar es Salaam were “overwhelmed” and said the health crisis “is exaggerated”. Magufuli reportedly told Tanzanians that donations to fight coronavirus could be used to transmit the virus, and instructed them to “tell the donors to go and use them with their wives and children”.

According to Jah9, “The president here isn’t interested in taking instructions from the West. Malaria is way more challenging than COVID-19 . The drug that people here take for malaria, hydroxychloroquine, is also used to treat coronavirus. So the people who get the virus recover, or they probably have the drug in their system that it somehow prevents them from getting it,” Jah9 theorised, adding that there was “so much politics and misinformation involved”.

It comes as no surprise that the social scientist is content to chill in the place she has called home for the last six months, even though she misses her family. “I wish I could transpose my family here. This is such an energetic space. Being on the continent changes your perspective. There is just so much land, so much space. I’ve slowed down so much and detoxed from the ways of the West. A 10-year goal in Jamaica is like a three-year goal here,” Jah9, whose goal was to one day live in Africa, shared.


She threw out a challenge to young creatives to pack their bags and head to Tanzania, pointing out that a lot of persons in the diaspora are using this as an opportunity to “come home”. In dollar figures, Jah9 stated that US$1,500 can purchase a round-trip ticket, and she emphasised that “if you can survive in the West, you can thrive here”.

Jah9, who released her third studio album, Note To Self, in March, on the cusp of the pandemic, recently completed a virtual, six-week challenge, based on the themes of introspection and intimacy encapsulated in the project. She told The Gleaner that the challenge was particularly needed in these times and it was designed for all who are ready to know themselves and grow themselves. “Over the period, we built up quite a community, starting with close to 1,000 persons, and we had quite a few brethren in the group as well,” she said. Not many Jamaicans, however, engaged in the activity.

The yoga teacher explained that every fortnight, for six weeks, challengers tackled the themes of self-study, self-love, and self-governance through activities like journaling, planning, self-checking, habit-tracking, and yoga. And although the course was free to the participants, they were so appreciative that halfway through the challenge, Jah9 gave in to one of their demands and inserted a donation button.