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Tessanne Chin in 2006, when Caribbean Beat singled her out as a talent to watch


Kees Diefenthaller of Kes the Band earned her respect in Jamaica and the Caribbean. She performed regularly at major concerts, including Jamaica’s Jazz and Blues Fest, Reggae Sumfest, and the island’s Jamaica 50 Grand Gala. She opened for leading recording stars, like Patti Labelle, Gladys Knight, Peabo Bryson, and Roberta Flack, and even toured the world as a back- up singer for reggae icon Jimmy Cliff. And as far back as 2006, a Caribbean Beat feature on up-and-coming Jamaican musical talents highlighted her “big,


throaty voice” and “outstanding


vocal mastery.” Chin says she felt grateful to earn her living singing at a time


when many other musicians struggled. Jamaican music insiders and Chin’s loyal fan base were convinced of her talent. Reggae Sumfest head Johnny Gourzong, who has twice booked Chin to perform, told Jamaica’s IRIE FM it was just a matter of time until Chin hit it big. “Her talent as a vocalist is immense,” he said, “and we knew that this was going to happen. Whether it was going to take five years, ten years, or fifteen years, we knew that one day it was going to happen.” And yet, for a long time, it didn’t. Despite earning a comfortable living in Jamaica, Chin


grew increasingly frustrated by her efforts to move her career forward. “It’s difficult as a singer to get airtime in Jamaica,” she says. “You rarely hear local singers on the radio. In fact, you


42 WWW.CARIBBEAN-BEAT.COM


hardly hear reggae on the radio. Dancehall is what is dominant.” And the absence of local venues for live entertainment also made it difficult for Chin to expand her local following. ZJ Sparks of ZIP FM, one of the radio stations that did keep


Chin in regular rotation, puts it this way: “I think we were all waiting for something to happen for Tessanne internationally. The talent was there. That was indisputable. But you can have the best product in the lab, and if only the developer knows about it, it doesn’t matter.”


D


espite the frustrations, giving up was not an option. Singing is Chin’s lifelong passion, fuelled by the support of her family and a profound belief that it is her highest


purpose. Born on 23 September, 1985, she grew up in a highly creative


and musical family, with parents who were members of a band, The Carnations, and a sister who later rose to local stardom under the stage name Tami Chynn. Tessanne got bit by the performing bug singing during her parents’ rehearsals at age five, with her aunt singing backup. “I was sure then,” she says. “I knew that was what I was supposed to do.” Her first public performance came at age seven, with Cathi


Levy’s Little People and Teen Players Club. After that, the bug took hold permanently. At age eighteen, she started singing


COURTESY GARY JAMES


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