“I think I am a very upfull person … Empress I-Nalee smiles… Holding the Rastafarian faith. I find it very important to eat healthy and know what you are drinking. You are what you eat so Ireally practise that a lot. Very important these days. Just spreading the love and preaching for more unity.”
You recently changed your name from Empress Donna Lee to Empress I-Nalee? What was the reason to do that?
Well, I love my name and respect my parents for that. When I started to select Reggae music, my name was Sista D and afterwards Empress DonnaLee Messenjah. I was looking for a more ‘rootsy’ name. We were in Jamaica and a artist Kaya made a jingle and he just said: “I-Nalee’. Directly I felt that this was the name for me. I wanted something different, so that’s the reason. To be honest I have no idea if he knew my name was Donna Lee but I liked it! Donna is such a common name, I-Na Lee just felt right, that’s it.
You have been working for RAZO (Radio Amsterdam Zuid-Oost) for 24 years now. We are curious, what makes you stay there for so long? What makes you do the things you do over there?
I have been presenting and hosting Radioshows for 24 years. First I presented a Radioshow at Salto. After a while I got a job at Q Radio in Zutphen. Unfortunately that station stopped. So I replied for a job at Razo. At Razo I was the technician. I recorded and edited the news and assisted other program makers technically. I had my 2 radioshows. Wednesday morning and Saturday afternoon. At a certain point the subsidy stopped for Razo. Razo director asked mi to continue with broadcasting. So until this day RedLion and I still hosting our weekly radioshows
What do you get out of it? You still like to play Roots Reggae music but getting up each wednesday at 5 o’clock…
For me it’s a meditation and relaxation, you know. It makes mi feel happy, it makes everybody feel happy. So I just like to keep spreading consciousness and Roots Reggae music for the people. Especially these days…. Since the lockdown with the Plandemic !
Sometimes when I watch the news and I think here we go again, I like to play certain tunes to make myself feel good again.
“I see us all somewhere in the tropics. On an island where there is no vaccine needed. Maybe they have a little island somewhere where the government can send us. There we have soundsystems and we are just playing the music all together. Skanking, smoking sweet ganja.. That would be nice.”
Which tunes do you play in times like these?
Ooh there are so many ….Empress I-Nalee laughs…. When i was really younger it surely was Bob Marley. I started to listen to his music when I was a teenager and until this day his music makes me happy and strong. But really and truly the first hour on Wednesday we play only Nyahbingi. All songs I play are Concious Roots Reggae so there is always upliftment in the music!
But still, if you have to pick one tune… when a brother or sister feels down they have to listen to this tune…
Empress Ina Lee thinks deeply … Many songs…. The King of Reggae Bob Marley: War and Babylon system. Here in the Netherlands the Dutch people love 3 little birds. Also artists like Bunny Wailer: Love fire, Burning Spear: Jah is my driver, Fred Locks: Don’t let Babylon use you, Sugar Minott: Hard time pressure, Sister Carol: Opportunity, Empress Miriam Simone: Higher Heights, Princess Fyah Jalifa: Why worry. And many more!
Apart from the works for your successful radio show, what more do you do?
Before the lockdown I have been selecting and hosting at festivals, stage shows and clubs for 38 years. So I really miss that very much! Besides the music I have my own daycare (Lioness daycare). I take care of babies and youths till the age of 4 . This I do from my home. A beautiful thing!
About the sessions.. I was at Rastaplas where you were playing on King Shiloh Soundsystem and I have a few particular memories of that session. We were actually walking away and than you played a tune by Fikir Amlak called ‘Love your life’. A tune I always wanted to play on a soundsystem. The vibes were so good, everyone was smiling… What is the biggest difference between the radioshow and playing on a session like that?
Well of course you see more people. The crowd is fulljoying and dancing, into their meditation with the music. I want to make people dance and just free up. I was truly grateful to have done that.
If we take a look into the near future, like in a year or so… and you see yourself as a musician. Where will you be as a musician and what will you be doing?
I hope we can come back together again at Rastaplas and ReggaeLake, you know. That all selectas can play their music again. That’s what I hope, but I wonder…
And if you can dream a little bit? In 2 years everything will be alright and you are in the best place ever. Everything is possible. What do we see?
I see us all somewhere in the tropics. On an island where there is no vaccine needed. Maybe they have a little island somewhere where the government can send us. There we have soundsystems and we are just playing the music all together.
Skanking, smoking sweet ganja.. That would be nice.
“Well first of all it’s very important to drink a lot of water. First thing in the morning, start with a glass of water and fruits. Fasting is also important. Water fasting or fruit fasting. I know a lot of people just want to eat a nice plate of food or eat some bread. Invest in a good slow juicer, so you can make your own fresh juices.”
If Red Lion (King Shiloh Soundsystem) should describe you to someone who doesn’t know you, what would he say?
Weeell, I think I am a very upfull person … Empress I-Nalee smiles at Red Lion… Holding the Rastafarian faith. I find it very important to eat healthy and know what you are drinking. You are what you eat so Ireally practise that a lot. Very important these days. Just spreading the love and preaching for more unity.
If we check the Italness, the way you take care of your temple… Why is this so important for you?
As we are getting older you can get a lot of different pains and illnesses. That’s why it’s really important to check what you eat and drink. For a year now I have changed the way that I am eating. I did a scan of my body at a herbal doctor. The results of this scan will tell you what is good for your body and what is not. The doctor told me to stop eating rice, that’s one thing. Rice becomes sugar in my body. Everybody is different, everyone has a different physique. I am being really strict about what I eat and I feel much better. Rastafari Livity is all about Ital food!
Do you have any tips for people who want to change their eating?
Well first of all it’s very important to drink a lot of water. First thing in the morning, start with a glass of water and fruits. Fasting is also important. Water fasting or fruit fasting. I know a lot of people just want to eat a nice plate of food or eat some bread. Invest in a good slow juicer, so you can make your own fresh juices. I know a lot of people like white rice but there are healthier alternatives. It has to be really organic and I can hear people say: “Organic eating is expensive…”. That’s true, but it is your choice and in the end you will feel the effect of it. I feel really much better after more than a year now
Was it hard to have this new discipline? How do you train your willpower?
No! When you do your research you find out what is healthy and what is not healthy. You have to have some willpower that’s quite essential. I have been vegan for a long time now. I started as a vegetarian even before I became a Rastafarian. My niece had some illness due to eating meat so I eliminated that.
In describing yourself, you also mentioned keeping up the Rastafari faith. What does that mean to you? What role does Rastafari play in your daily life?
…Empress I-Nalee thinks… It gives me power. Not in a way that I feel I am great, but I feel strong. The way of living makes me feel good for myself and I hope the same for other people.
You are also very humble as we can see right now. I kinda have the same livity in that kind of sense. Meditation, Italness, listening to tunes about Rastafari and playing Binghi. It gives a grateful and powerful feeling. You can take on the world. Not from an egoistic perspective but more from a faith kind of perspective. Do I summarize this in the right way or am I quite wrong?
No that’s true.
Right now we are in Amsterdam, in ‘de Bijlmer’. You told us already how important this area is for you. What is your connection with this place?
Originally I came from Aruba, then I was in Alkmaar and from Alkmaar I came to ‘de Bijlmer’. It was a long time ago. My youths were born in ‘de Bijlmer’ and of course there is the connection with the radio station. From Amsterdam I love ‘de Bijlmer’ the most. The nicest area to live because of the big park and the ‘Gaasperplas’, the markets with the nice vegetables and of course the multicultural people. That’s what I like. If I leave here it will be to my warm island or Africa.
Which place brings you the best memories?
I would say the ‘Gaasperplas’. When my youths were small we used to go there and picnic. They were playing at the playground… Yeah, those are some good memories… Time went so fast. I have five grandchildren now. My youths are grown up. The ‘Gaasperplas’ is my backyard …Empress I-Nalee smiles…
We as people have to learn our lessons from time to time. What is the most important lesson you have learned? What is the lesson that changed you as a person or as a musician?
I really have learned to be free. When you are not free in life; that is an experience I had to go through. Life can be hard, freedom is a must. It is very important to be a free person. Able to express yourself anyway, anyhow
Interview: Brother B
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