2008 Nyaka Eire! Concert: One on One with Kay Morris
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First published: November 28, 2007
Most church folks asked me if I knew what I was doing and I basically told them God had spoken to me to do this in a vision.
In the film industry, Angelina Jolie walks away with all the humanitarian awards but in the music industry, Kay Morris deserves them all. Her latest addition is the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award presented to her for her outstanding contributions towards HIV/AIDS causes in Africa at the 2007 Planet Africa TV Awards in front of a huge cheering audience. The Jamaican/Canadian singer/songwriter, motivational speaker and fashion designer has touched many people across the globe with her humanitarian spirit. Her recent endeavours have seen her share the stage with singer Sheryl Lee Ralf, work with movie star Denzel Washington and collaborate with Luciano on her current single "When You Cry", (a song dedicated to people affected by HIV/AIDS).
The international star's music has been featured in the sound track of the short film "Sleeping Dogs Lie" which made its world premiere in L.A. at the Magic Johnson Theatres, the Pan African Film Festival, Hollywood Black Film Festival in Beverley Hills, the National Black Arts Festival - Atlanta, GA in 2006 and at the Canadian Film Makers Festival in March 2007 to a sold out audience. In April 2007, it had an encore screening at the Reel World Film Festival in Toronto. Pauline Long has the pleasure to bring you her interview with Kay.
Pauline: Hi Kay, I have been longing for a long time to have a one to one with you. Now that you are finally available, can you please tell us about yourself and your background?
Kay: I am an internationally acclaimed multi-award winning gospel artist originally from Jamaica but who now resides in Canada. I am also the mother of three wonderful children, a minister in my local church and the founder and president of the Kay Morris Foundation (KMF), with branches in both Ghana and Canada. However, by profession I am a Workers' Compensation Analyst.
Were you brought up in a religious background?
Yes, I was raised by my parents who are Pentecostal pastors and I basically grew up in the church. Starting when I was a toddler, I travelled with my parents a lot to various functions across the island of Jamaica. I had to go to church on Sundays, attend school during the week and could play with my friends on weekends. For most of my young life, I was a church girl and thank God for the teachings in Sunday school and at home. It has helped to shape me into the woman that I am today one with great Christian values.
When did you start your music career?
I started singing at the tender age of four but took the music to a more professional level 13 years ago. At the age of four, my parents would take me to conventions to sing and of course, because I was so small in stature, they would have to place me on a table for the audience to see me. They would pay me to sing the songs all over again. As a teenager, I started my own group (The Regenerated Singers) at age 17, ministering at crusades and rallies across the island. I had an acoustic guitar that my father taught me to play and this was our back up instrument. I immigrated to Canada 27 years ago, at which time I became a member of a church and started singing on the choir. I became the lead singer in several popular groups and decided to start my own group in 1994.
You certainly had a very busy childhood with a very interesting start to your music career. What kind of music do you perform?
I am a very versatile artist. However, I am predominantly known for my reggae style. I started by singing mainly contemporary and traditional hymns but in 1994, I had a very clear vision one night in which saw myself singing at a very big event with three girls backing me up and the Emcee introduced us as Kay Morris and the Jewels. In the vision, the songs we were singing were reggae songs. I woke up from my bed, wrote the two songs, and contacted the three girls who became my back up singers. That vision became a reality and I recorded my first album in 1995 with the two songs as my first reggae songs.
That was a very bold move, what did the other church members think of introducing reggae into church?
Most church folks asked me if I knew what I was doing and I told them God had spoken to me to do this in a vision. I was the first person to introduce reggae to the churches and concert venues in Toronto. Today, it is the most sought-after music at concert venues across the country. Reggae is apart of my roots and what I did was to take the music and change the message. It created a huge impact everywhere I performed I picked up my first reggae award in 1995.
Kay Morris on stage.
Do you write your own music?
Yes, I do write 90% of my recorded material.
Where do you draw your inspiration for writing your own music from?
I am inspired by the word of God, the people I meet and life experiences in general. My music comes from within. Each song relates to something in life. I like to write positive and uplifting lyrics. So many people are downcast and need a song to uplift their spirits and help them through the day. So, my songs relate to life in general with the word of God as its foundation.
How many albums have you released to date?
Three full albums and two singles; my first album entitled "Live Again" was recorded in 1995 and had my first two reggae songs mixed with some traditional songs. My second album, "Armageddon", was recorded in 1998. That CD featured some rhythm and blues, reggae, calypso, and traditional songs. My first single "Pray a Prayer for Me" was recorded in 2000. This single featured a praise and worship song and reggae. This single allowed me to cross religious, racial and cultural barriers and was released in South East Asia (India) in the same year. My third album "Unite" was recorded in 2004. This album featured more reggae as this style of music grew to be very popular and my fans demanded more of it. This album was a hit and still is today. My second single, "When You Cry", will be released in December 2007 and the title track was written out of my experiences as a humanitarian. It addresses the current global crisis of HIV/AIDS, stigma, poverty, orphans, etc. The other track on this single is very uplifting. It is heating up the airwaves all over.
You have collaborated and been on stage with several famous artists and been featured on numerous movies, who is your all time favourite?
I enjoyed working with Denzel Washington, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Yolanda Adams and Luciano. I have always admired Denzel Washington as a great actor. I also like actress Sheryl Lee Ralph for her down-to-earth approach; I have shared the stage with her once in Toronto. I love the collaboration I did with Luciano on my new single "When You Cry", because it shows unity and strength, and solidifies the fact that we are advocating for the plight of humanity.
Kay Morris with CEO of Sunny FM.
Kay & Kojo at Sunny FM.
Who is on your wish list for your next collaboration?
Currently on my wish list are, Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder. I would like to collaborate with Paul McCartney because of his humanitarian approach to life and the fact that he is the greatest musician of all time. As for Alicia Keys , she shares my dream and passion to help those who are living with HIV/AIDS she has done many charitable shows and I look forward to sharing the stage and even collaborating with her on one of these events. Stevie Wonder is fantastic, I admire his courage as a blind musician who has done much musical collaboration to address world poverty and HIV/AIDS.
How did you start your humanitarian work?
I would have to say that my humanitarian work started when I was a teen. I have always been a very compassionate individual, giving clothes and food to the needy in Jamaica. It became more official in early 2003, after my music entered Ghana and I toured the country and met a young girl that was HIV positive. I found out that ARVs could not be purchased at the local pharmacy because they were only available through the hospital. I was committed to help. Because of this experience, my passion for humanity increased and the KMF was registered as a NGO in November 2003.
Tell me more about Kay Morris Foundation.
Kay Morris Foundation (KMF) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting primary healthcare in Africa. KMF is committed to fighting poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases affecting Africans. KMF seeks to aid communities in Africa and to empower them to respond to and meet their basic human needs. Our motto is "The voice of the voiceless"
Your music sends out strong messages and I suppose it is from within. Are you a spiritual person?
Yes, I am a very spiritual person. I write from my experiences and the word of God. It is sometimes based on the music industry, life in general, and being a Christian as a whole. My songs are generally born out of life experiences and enhanced by the Word of God. I believe with this approach, the songs will be more effective in spreading a strong message and bring hope to those who are in need.
Africa is a long way from your home, Canada. How and when did your relationship with Africa begin?
My relationship with Africa began through my music entering the continent, after which I visited Ghana and Nigeria. My first visit to Ghana was one of great excitement. It was a very welcoming atmosphere; people were very friendly and hospitable. It was great to see how committed people were to getting the KMF projects off the ground. I visited Nigeria and it was also a very good experience. I visited several churches, TV networks, and radio stations, doing interviews. I even got to tour Baddagery slave port. The surprising thing for me was that the guesthouse I stayed in had a North American flair. For a while, I had to remind myself that I was actually in Africa.
Nana Sika greeting Chief.
You have, in the past, received several awards for both your music and your humanitarian work. They include the Canadian Reggae Music Awards as a Top female artist for three consecutive years. How does it feel to be honoured with all these prestigious awards?
It feels very rewarding to have received numerous awards and nominations; I count them as blessings from God. I actually decided not to release another album for at least three years so that others could also win something.
2007 Nelson Mandela Award interview.
That is very selfless of you. Which awards stood out in your view?
I feel very good about my music awards. However, the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award is the most prestigious by far. It motivates me to do more for humanity.
You are currently in Ghana carrying out charitable duties. How is it going?
My 2007 mission to Ghana has been a tremendous success so far. I have visited several schools talking to students about HIV/AIDS and the importance of having an education. We donated medicine to the Ghana AIDS Commission and successfully launched our malaria intervention and prevention program in the Central Region.
Why did you decide to go to Ghana in a particular?
Ghana is where it all started. We decided that as KMF grew, we would expand into other African countries where the humanitarian need arose. Of course, I visited Nigeria in 2004 and through the Bridgeboys Interlink Project, KMF participated in a feeding program for the ghetto youths at the Apappa Railway Compound in Lagos. This year, we have had requests from several individuals and churches in Liberia, Rwanda and Kenya to assist with humanitarian aid.
Kay & KMF Ghana directors.
How do the people of Ghana that you have touched with your kind heart receive you?
I have been well received by Ghanaians and Africans in general. They applaud me for having such courage to do what I do for the people of the motherland.
You have Jamaican roots but have acquired African names; how did this come about?
Last year KMF brokered a $1.5million donation of anti retro viral medicine on behalf of the Ghanaian Ministry of Health. While in Ghana last September, I made a presentation of the first consignment to MOH officials and this made headlines in the news. As a result, the people and King in the Berekuso region decided to make me Queen Nana Sika, in honour of my humanitarian and benevolent work in the country.
Kay Morris at Berekuso Elementary School.
Your humanitarian spirit has seen you perform all over the world but where does your passion truly lie?
My passion lies in Africa and the Caribbean.
Music is a business but with your humanitarian spirit, I notice that you have taken your music to another level - you have used it to help vulnerable people. Tell me more about your new single "When You Cry".
The message in the song speaks about the global issues of poverty, sickness, disease and the stigma of living with HIV/AIDS. Being privileged to live in a first world country, I believe we can do a lot more about poverty and the AIDS crisis
Personally, the song literally makes me cry! What reviews have you received on it?
I have been receiving great reviews and comments about this song from people from various sectors of the world. The message is extremely powerful.
I understand you are going to East Africa in January 2008, is that right?
Yes, I will be going to East Africa in January 2008 to perform at a charity concert in Kampala, the Nyaka Eire Concert.
Will this be your first time in East Africa?
Yes, it will be my first time in East Africa and I certainly look forward to future visits.
How did it feel to be asked to join the Nyaka Eire concert, the biggest charity concert to be held for the first time in Kampala, Uganda featuring both East African and international artists?
Tell Children about books Berekuso.
I felt elated and honoured to be a part of this great fundraising initiative. This is where my passion is - helping others, especially people affected by HIV/AIDS. I look forward to performing alongside the East African musicians with great anticipation.
Would you urge other international musicians to use their music to reach out to people in pain, poverty and suffering around the world?
Yes, I would. I do encourage other musicians to reach out to those people in need. Many of them do donate their time to various fundraising initiatives. However, I truly believe that the will and desire to help humanity comes naturally from within. Musicians need to step forward and show the world we are united in the fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty. It is not always about money - it is in giving that we receive and together we can make a difference.
What do you do when you are not on stage performing or in a studio recording a new track?
When not actually performing or recording I spend time with my family and friends. I cook a great meal for the family, clean my house, go see a movie, go shopping, visit my dad in the nursing home, play and catch up with my kids about school/life, go to church, hang out with friends at a nice restaurant, etc. I go to work at my regular 9 5 job.
Let us now touch on a lighter subject, Myspace...
Oh yeah! Myspace is where the networking is happening. You can learn about what is happening in various parts of the world.
What do you think of Myspace? I mean without it, I would not have probably known you...
I believe Myspace is the catalyst for connecting people in the industry and yes, if it was not there, I probably would not have known you, Pauline.
Are you addicted to it?
Myspace and the Internet in general can be addictive, but I believe every individual has to take control of the things that seek to control them, apply discipline and stay focussed. Personally, I am not addicted.
I must admit, I sometimes get too busy to respond to Myspace friends. Therefore, I rely on my personal assistant. Do you personally reply to all your messages?
In most cases, I do because I am a very hands-on type of person. Whenever the need arises, I delegate and off-load the task to one of my assistants.
What is the best comment you have ever received on Myspace?
No bias here Pauline, but yours has been the best by far (see below).
You are a true inspiration and you deserved the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award. This new track will go along in comforting people affected by HIV/AIDS. The lyrics will uplift the spirits of those who were perhaps ready to give up on the fight for this disease.
Thank you very much Kay.
You are also fashion designer. Can you share with the readers and me some wardrobe tips?
Ladies, spin the matching purses and shoes to complement your outfits. Coordinates such as necklaces, bracelets and rings will also give an added touch of elegance to your attire. Guys, you need to coordinate your colours as well. For a touch of elegance, rep that double-breasted suit with cuff links, matching tie and pocket puffs.
What is next for Kay Morris?
I am trusting God that my plan to produce a music video for the song "When You Cry" will materialise in the near future and be followed by a full album.
Well, as always, I am inspired by your kindness, warmth and humanitarian efforts. I wish you all the best in your endeavours. Do you have any last words for the readers and your supporters?
I encourage the readers and supporters to participate in any way they can. Volunteer your time and donate some money to the various orphanages and NGO's in need. Assist organisers of fundraising events by helping to generate interest and buzz among your friends and families. Most importantly, I want to see you at the Nyaka Eire concert on 12th January 2008.
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First published: November 28, 2007
Pauline Long, UGPulse Beauty Editor, is a Kenyan based in the UK. She is the founder and CEO of Miss East Africa UK and Pol Management (a celebrity and events management company). She is also the co-founder of Miss West Africa. Her beauty pageant Miss East Africa UK helps raise funds and create awareness for the plight of the underprivileged East African children. Pauline is also the co-founder of Big 5 charity: a charity for the African girl child.
Pauline was born into a family of fashion designers with her mum being the pioneer and her role model. She acquired the desire and eyes for style from her mother who has been in the industry for just over forty years. During her late teens whilst living in Kenya, she worked in her mother's hairdressing salon and boutique. However her writing skills started off as a hobby in 2002 when she took time off work to become a fulltime mother and look after her two children. She soon took up the challenge of writing scripts which she hopes one day may turn into blockbuster movies or television dramas.
Currently, Pauline writes for various publications including Europe's leading African newspaper -Africa News and The African Channel. She's also part of the team publishing the new Karama Umuntu magazine. As a researcher and presenter for 601TV, Pauline presented for 601tv at the Alternative London Fashion Week in March, Europe's largest bridal show in April and in the same month she had one to one interviews on behalf of 601tv with various Ugandan top musicians including Bobi Wine, Blue 3*, Chagga, Nubian, Iryn, Buchaman, comedian Amarula family. This was when they toured the UK to perform at the Fire in the city gig.
You can find out more about Pauline and her work at: