It was supposed to be the theme song for an online talk show but, almost immediately after being released on YouTube, DJs paid attention, and Jammette Woman hit the radio airwaves.
Gerelle Forbes, one of the four vocalists on the song, explained she and the second vocalist, Tyker Phillip, host a weekly live talk show called 2 Jammettes, every Sunday at 4pm on OURRadio.fm and on the Digicel Go Loud App.
The third vocalist, singer Shannon Francois, is also a cast member and director. And Richard “Chromatics” Rajkumar, owner of OURRadio.fm, is featured on the track.
2 Jammettes, which premiered in September 2021, forms part of Forbes and Phillip’s overarching Jammette brand that they co-developed as directors of their own media company, Sthenic22 Ltd.
After 42 episodes in season one, the duo was ready to start season two of 2 Jammettes in September 2022 but they wanted a theme song. Since both Forbes and Phillip have a background in theatre and media, they decided to use their skill sets to write a song that was relevant to the character of the jamette.
“Initially, the theme song was supposed to be a verse and a chorus, just to be the intro of the show. Not with these two. It’s all out or nothing,” said Francois.
So, the three women went to Roderick “Chuck” Gordon who helped them write it.
Forbes said they were in the recording studio with Mevon Soodeen of Xplicit Entertainment when he encouraged them to do a full song. Additionally, they felt if they were going to put out a full song, and both Phillip and Forbes are film producers, they could as well make a music video.
The video was posted on the 2 Jammette’s YouTube channel at 3 am on January 10, and Phillip immediately started broadcasting it to family, friends and associates. In a few hours, the video had 400 views. A few hours later, there were over 1,000 views, and by 2pm, it was being played on next99.1 fm.
The next day, they heard it being played on Boom Champions 94.1 fm, and, within ten days, the YouTube video had almost 2,000 views. Two days after the release, they sent the song out to DJs.
“The song has a J’Ouvert feel to it. And although we just wanted it for the theme song, we are trying to teach with this Jammette brand. The best way to reach the masses is through frequency/sound. And we still have to honour the other experienced artists on the team who came on board with full support from the inception, so we had to commit 100 per cent,” said Forbes.
She said Jammette Woman has nothing to do with Carnival and is just three characters introducing themselves through song. It is an anthem voiced by three different types of jamettes, telling stories of spirituality, revolution and mischief.
Those themes are true to the vocalists’ personalities as the articulate, bold, formidable women joked and laughed scandalously as they told this reporter about their serious work of examining critical and complex issues within society, about which they are extremely passionate.
They said the intention was to release the song in September for the start of season two of the show but obstacles kept cropping up, delaying the project. However, it worked out for the best as the lyrics have references to aspects of Trinidad and Tobago heritage, carnival history, and changing people’s understanding of what is a jamette.
And the fact people are listening to music during the Carnival season makes it a good time to get the song on the radio, and expose people to their lessons.
Those lessons are part of what Sthenic22 Ltd does.
Forbes said, “Our objective is to relearn, retell and re-teach who we are through the arts and have that information accessible. That means archiving, production and brand development.
“One of the products we have under Sthenic is the Jammette brand. It uses the characteristics of the jamette to teach culture and our heritage on different media and platforms.”
The company also does concerts to teach different disciplines as well as workshops with the nation’s youth, covering topics such as calypso, TT culture, heritage, hygiene, sex education, love, independence, and the importance of food and gathering as a major part of the identity of former slaves and indentured people.
And just as a jamette is an ally of, and support for her community, so is 2 Jammettes.
Phillip said the ages of their viewers range from teenagers to people in their 80s, and mostly men. They get involved in the topics as they are eager to learn history, get information, and contribute their perspectives and experiences.
“Of course, the traditional spelling is with one ‘m’ but we find that ‘m’ was looking lil lonely and we wanted that ‘m’ to have a friend. And it’s two of us on the show so we put two m’s with the two t’s. Also, in a way, it symbolises community, and that we can’t build by ourselves.”
According to Phillip, the word jamette originates from the French word diametre, so the jamette straddles the line between high society and lower economic spaces. She is ready and able to get involved in and defend her community. She is someone who knows everyone’s business but did not gossip, will help as many people as she could, and will “call people out” on their words and deeds.
She said in some instances, the jamette would have had to resort to “transactional sex” to care for herself and those she loved, which just made her fearless and non-judgmental.
“The character of the jamette is one who is a pillar in the community, a staple in the space whether it’s in your family, on your street, in your neighbourhood, in your office. It’s that person who is prepared for anything that happens, and takes care of everybody without anybody asking.
“That stems from the original jamette, who existed in the space like the barrack yard, who was a central figure in the community. Everybody would flock to that space because it was safe, because they felt comfortable to be themselves, to be honest.”
She added that a jamette could also be a man who defends and supports women and girls. They are the sort who hold men and boys, even those who are their peers, to account when they “say or do anything out of timing, make disparaging remarks or disrespect women in any way.”
This Carnival, 2 Jammettes has left the studio and is “on the ground.” They will be attending fetes and concerts, having conversations with artistes about their personal lives and other topics outside of music. Today, they will be on Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain, and they intend to attend calypso tents, stick fighting, Panorama and more.
Forbes said there is revelry and celebration during the Carnival season but also chaos and “slightly disturbing” occurrences. And they want to be present to call people out on their actions
“You see children walking on the road, doing what they feel like and people are afraid to say, ‘Aye! Don’t do that! Who you talking to so?!’ Or a thusty looking old man want to play he tracking a girl in a uniform. And all the adults around seeing that happening and not say anything. The space don’t have a jamette woman to tell him, ‘Mind yuh business. Yuh doh find you too old fuh dat?! Yuh too stink!”
Forbes told Sunday Newsday the Jammettes brand will soon release a show featuring businesses and how they affect their communities. Otherwise, the directors intend to slowly build the brand.
They said they do not want to rush it as many people have reacted badly to them using the word ‘jammette.’ They have had people trying to convince them to change the name, calling them Jezebels, or telling them they “need prayers.”
Phillip said, “We need to dig deeper in the retelling and reclaiming of that word. That means focussing a lot on the content that we produce on our show, the stories we tell, the people we invite on, and the conversations we have.”
She said she likes that they are making people uncomfortable because, hopefully. It would make people pay attention and take some kind of action.
Francois said she expected to “stir some pots” because people would just see the name and not actually listening to the song. She too expected the song would make people feel uncomfortable and she hopes it would make them take a long look at themselves.
“We hold up the mirror for ourselves first and y’all after.”
Forbes said after this experience, there will be more music from Jammettes, but the next time, there could be different singers. She believes people have things to say, and music and Jammettes could be avenues through which they could say it.