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I Am An Islandista: Ebonnie Rowe of Honey Jam

Barbados’ music scene needed Ebonnie Rowe to come along.

Ever since the Bajan-Canadian started the Barbadian version of her famed all-female music showcase Honey Jam, she has unearthed a dizzying array of talented performers in some frankly unexpected genres.

Sure we expected R & B, pop, reggae and of course soca singers but the Honey Jam Barbados stage has also nurtured and played host to rapstress Karma Nai and country crooner Malissa Alanna.

Honey Jam producer Ebonnie Rowe: "[I'm] living my dream of working full-time doing something that I love."
Honey Jam producer Ebonnie Rowe: “[I’m] living my dream of working full-time doing something that I love.”

It is Ebonnie’s infectious enthusiasm that is the engine of the showcase and has been from its genesis in her native Canada in 1995, where Honey Jam sprung up out of her concerns over how women were portrayed in hip-hop. The Canadian showcase has gone on to produce stars like Nelly Furtado and is a hotly-anticipated fixture on the Canadian music calendar.

The assertive slogan associated with the showcase “playgirl but no bunny!” perfectly captures both the spirit of Honey Jam and that of Ebonnie herself.

With the 2013 season of Honey Jam underway and the next crop of potential Honey Jammers set to take the stage at auditions on Wednesday at Divi Southwinds, Islandista got into the mind of Ebonnie Rowe to find out what makes her tick and how she has kept the torch burning for great female musicians for nearly two decades.

Islandista:… is Ebonnie Rowe?
Ebonnie Rowe: A woman, friend, sister, daughter, seeker, dreamer, doer

Is: …has most influenced what you’re doing now?
E.R.:  What I’m doing right now is living my dream of working full-time doing something that I love which is producing the Honey Jam artist showcases and workshops and Honey Jazz concert.  I can’t really think of a particular individual who has greatly influenced my choices to do what I’m doing now because so many people told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t do it and that I could never get to the point where I’d be able to do it full time. I would have to say that seeing the quiet despair of so many people desperately unhappy and not living out loud, feeling trapped and that they had to stay in their box and do what was expected instead of what they had a passion for, really inspired me to not be that type of person and to follow my bliss.

Is: is an islandista to you?
E.R: A woman from the islands who loves and identifies with her country, is proud of her heritage and seeks to represent that island well, like the line from the pledge “and by my living to do credit to my nation wherever I may go.

Is: do you love most about your island?
E.R: The clear blue waters and how when the sun hits it it looks like diamonds on the water.  I love the golden, sandy beaches, the natural beauty of the East Coast, the fruits and food, the warmth of the weather, Black Belly sheep, the bold colours of the fruits and vegetables and all the characters and personalities in the market and the distinct and unique accent of our people.

Is: do you see yourself in five years? In ten years?
E.R: Alive, healthy, happy, close to the end of the rainbow.

Is: is your ‘happy place?
E.R: In the pillow forest.

Is: do you call home?
E.R: In the castle of my skin.

Is: you worry, what do you worry about?
E.R:  You mean what do I not worry about!  It’s something  I’m working on but there’s a lot – business stuff like ‘how I’m going to ever respond to the million emails in my in box!’  Raising enough sponsorship funds for my projects – personal stuff like the health and well-being of myself and all those who I love; big picture stuff like what’s going on in society and the world at large.  At the end of the day you have to choose your battles and be satisfied that you’re doing the best you can on all fronts and there is only so much that you have control of.  Also if you worry all the time you’re missing all of the wonder of life, the pulse of living in the moment.

Is: are you happiest?
E.R: When I am in love and things are going well – it feels magical and everyone can tell – you exude a glow of happiness and peace.  Love has a power to heal and uplift. It’s awesome.

Ebonnie Rowe (center) with singers from Honey Jam's spin-off event, Honey Jazz. (from left: Niki Nicole, Mandy Cummins, Ebonnie Rowe, Karma Nai and Rhesa Garnes)
Ebonnie Rowe (center) with singers from Honey Jam’s spin-off event, Honey Jazz. (from left: Niki Nicole, Mandy Cummins, Ebonnie Rowe, Karma Nai and Rhesa Garnes)


Is: do you love what you do?
E.R.: Because it is fulfilling, it feeds my soul, it challenges me, it gives me the opportunity to use all of the skills I have and some I didn’t know I had, and because it is impactful in the lives of others and brings joy.

Is: would you like to be remembered?

E.R.: As someone who sought to make a difference in the world, to affect positive change, to help others.

Is: do you unwind?
E.:R: walks on the beach, sleeping, watching movies, gazing out  on the water surrounding my beautiful island Barbados.


By Me

island ~ ista
From Latin -ista via Portuguese -ista
one who follows a principle; an adept.

As an islandista I live, embody, exude the spirit of the Caribbean islands.

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