Lady Ann - One of the First Ladies of Dancehall

In the heart of Jamaica, amidst the pulsating rhythms of dancehall, emerged a luminary whose impact on the genre remains etched in history. Meet Barbara Smith, a trailblazing figure better known as Lady Ann, the rhythmic enchantress who took the dancehall scene by storm, leaving an unforgettable mark on the landscape of Jamaican music.

Lady Ann's journey into the vibrant world of dancehall began in the dynamic streets of Western Kingston, also known as Kingston 13. Her early exposure to the hypnotic beats of local roots reggae dancehall sessions circa 1975-1977, featuring iconic sound systems like Black Harmony and Soulatonie, ignited the spark of her musical passion. Sneaking into these sessions, Lady Ann found herself immersed in a realm of sonic innovation.

In the dancehall trenches, Lady Ann forged alliances with fellow musical pioneers such as Little John and Ranking Toyan. It was Little John who, in a groundbreaking moment circa 1978, passed the mic to Lady Ann during a legendary dancehall session hosted by the original Kilimanjaro sound system. They had no problem passing the mic to her as Lady Ann was naturally talented and could manage any crowd.

In those formative years, Lady Ann's musical tapestry was woven with threads of inspiration from luminaries like Clint Eastwood, Ranking Dillinger, Trinity, Ranking Joe, Louie Lepkie, Michigan & Smiley, Barry Brown, and Sugar Minott. Together, they harmonized on stages resonating with the sounds of Stereophonic, Metromedia, Gemini Disco, Lee’s Unlimited, Romantic HiFi, and the seminal Kilimanjaro.

Lady Ann's professional music odyssey commenced in 1978 with the recording of her inaugural songs, "Plan Your Family" (a collaboration with Ranking Toyan) and "Shine Eye Boy" for Don Mais’ Roots Tradition Label. In 1980, her collaboration with Leon Synmoie for the Thrill Seekers label birthed several songs that became part of her debut album, "Vanity," released under Alvin Ranglin’s GG’s label.

The turning point in Lady Ann's career came in 1981-1982 with the release of "Informer," produced by the great Rocky Gibbs. According to research, it is often stated in error that Rocky Gibbs’ famous producer father, Joe Gibbs produced “Informer” but research shows that Lady Ann stated it was his son, not the father that produced the classic. The background/murderer chorus was sang by Eek a Mouse, Tony Tuff and Errol Scorcher.

This anthem not only soared to the #1 spot on the local charts but also secured Lady Ann's position as the first female DJ with a #1 single and album in Jamaica. The success of "Informer" catapulted her onto the international stage, leading to tours in the United States, Canada, and the Cayman Islands.

Her accolades continued in 1983 when Lady Ann was crowned Jamaica’s first female DJ of the year. Despite a brief hiatus, she resurfaced in 1990 with the chart-topping hit "Lady Ann Couldn't Dunn," reaffirming her enduring influence on the dancehall scene.

Lady Ann's legacy echoes through Jamaican music history, a testament to her resilience, innovation, and groundbreaking achievements. Her journey, woven with collaborations with prolific producers such as Jah Thomas, Sly & Robbie, Henry “Junjo” Lawes, Bunny “Striker” Lee, Jah Life, and Shocking Vibes, showcases the richness of her contribution to the evolution of dancehall. With over sixty songs to her credit, including three full-length albums, Lady Ann remains a revered icon, gracing stages at prestigious music festivals like Sting, Reggae Sumfest, Reggae Carifest, Irie Jamboree, Westchester Reggae Fest, and Hot Shot.

In the rhythmic tapestry of dancehall, Lady Ann's name is eternally etched – a testament to her enduring influence, her groundbreaking achievements, and her role as a pioneer who paved the way for generations to come. Get the First Ladies of Dancehall here:

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