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IS MADE I


A STAR 40 WWW.CARIBBEAN-BEAT.COM


By the time Tessanne Chin emerged as the champion of the US reality TV talent show The Voice, the Jamaican singer had already won herself millions of fans around the world — and stolen the hearts of her compatriots. But, with a track record on the Jamaican music scene going back a decade, hers was no magical story of overnight success. Kellie Magnus tells the story of a triumph that was a long time in the making


t’s the stuff of fairytales. On a starlit Sunday night in January 2014, Tessanne


Chin took the stage at a free concert on Kingston’s waterfront. The set-up was no different from concerts she’s graced in the past, with one noticeable exception. This one was hers: “Tessanne’s Homecoming,” an official


heroine’s welcome, staged in a beautiful but formerly rundown part of the city now positioning itself for renewal. There were performances by major singers. There were


fireworks. There was confetti. But the highlight of the night, for most of the thousands who thronged the streets and nearby rooftops, was watching Chin, tears streaming down her face, receive the Gold Medal of the City of Kingston from Mayor Sharon Brown Burke. It was “one of the most moving, proudest moments of my


life,” Chin later wrote on her Facebook page. And the medal was a fitting reward. Since winning the US reality TV show The Voice, Chin has become Jamaican royalty, receiving the kind of adulation and support usually reserved for the nation’s sporting greats. Just


four weeks earlier, on 17 December, 2013, a similar


crowd of thousands had crammed the streets in Kingston’s Half Way Tree — the unofficial official venue for public celebrations of Olympic and other feats — to watch the live broadcast on huge outdoor screens as Chin was crowned the winner of The Voice’s fifth season. Never mind that few of the thousands assembled on either night had heard of Chin before her first appearance on The


Voice on 24 September. In four short months, she had not only won the contest — bringing herself to the attention of millions of viewers around the world — but also won over a nation that can be hard on local artists who dare to colour outside reggae’s lines.


T


here’s something eerily perfect about Chin’s story. She’s a self-described “multiracial woman,” a living embodiment of Jamaica’s motto, “Out of Many, One People.” She’s an


artist known for a unique brand of reggae fusion, drawing together Jamaicans of all races, classes, and musical preferences. And she’s an unabashedly proud Jamaican, capturing international attention while staying true to her roots. But Chin’s apparently overnight ascension to international


stardom came after more than a decade of plying her trade at home in Jamaica. She was long a favourite at local venues, including Red Bones Blues Café and Carlos Café, at first as the front woman for the rock band Mile High. Comprised of Chin, drummer Andrew Thompson, guitarist Paul Chang, and bass player Jason Morris, Mile High earned a dedicated following for their distinct rock-reggae sound, but struggled to break through commercially. Chin found more success in her solo career, honing her


signature sound — which she describes as pop with reggae, rock, and R&B influences — and wooing audiences with her impressive range, sultry delivery, and emotive lyrics. Her songs like “Hideaway” and “Messenger” were local hits, and popular collaborations with artists like Ky-mani Marley and Trinidadian


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