MANY PARENTS try to keep their children from making their mistakes, while others are pleased to see when their children follow their route to success.
And so it is with music.
Though legendary Jamaican singer, Derrick Morgan, did not have a big influence on daughter, Queen Ifrica’s earlier days in the music industry, the seemingly innate talent is something they both have in common.
Morgan, who grew up in Kingston, made his debut on a talent show in 1959. Born in 1940, he rose to prominence after hitting the airwaves with Long Tall Sally and Jenny Jenny. He had just finished his studies at Kingston Senior High and decided to try his hand at a music career. “I used to do school concerts every weekend and they used to get over very nicely,” Morgan said. He said he was a fan of Little Richard and was introduced to the public after winning the Phase One talent show. Producer Duke Reid helped Morgan to record his first hit, Lover Boy.
One of his most enduring hits, though, was the 1962 Forward March, done on the brink of Jamaica’s independence, and his musical run-ins with Prince Buster are the stuff of ska legend.
Morgan went on to musical glory but there was still a void, his daughter, Queen Ifrica. After Morgan and Ifrica’s mother had parted ways, he eventually lost touch with her. She was born in Spanish Town, but raised by her grandmother in St Mary. “I grew up around that community of strong Rasta background in the form of most of the people that time is Rasta people,” she said.
She told The Sunday Gleaner that that time was special to her as she grew up with a lot of “knowledge that was not prevalent to the regular public”.
Ifrica started surfacing musically in 1995 after being touched by the death of Garnett Silk. “I was always singing at school … and all the Rasta functions we used to have, but I never really took music serious until I started hearing Garnett Silk. That was something different for me,” she said. Ifrica said she went to Reggae Sumfest after Silk’s death and told the organisers she had a song she had written about Silk. “Ever since that, people have been encouraging me to take music serious,” she said.
She said, though, that the defining moment came after meeting Tony Rebel at a stage show in Montego Bay in 1998. She said Silk’s family had put on a show to celebrate the singer’s life. “I was there and a hear ma name call. I went on stage and ended up doing about five Garnett Silk songs,” she said. Ifrica was then introduced to Tony Rebel by a representative of Flames Productions and has been in the outfit since then.
She said she grew to appreciate her father’s contributions to music as the years went by. She said after they really got to know each other, she would spend quality time with her father in Jamaica and in Miami.
“Being a seed of his, I love music also. Him being such a great icon … it’s always good to go to people like those for advice,” Ifrica said. “I was not quite familiar with him in the earlier ages, I just used to hear a lot about him. That was good to know that I have a father with that kind of status,” Ifrica said.
She said although she still had support from her father, there was no personal contact. She, however, knew she wanted to do music.
She said that while she still ponders what led to the isolation from her superstar father, their relationship is now solid. “A lot of kids like me don’t really know the reason we don’t get to grow up with celebrity parents, but we know they are our parents,” Ifrica said.
She now has two children of her own, Imeru Tafari, 12, and Amakai Tafari, 5. She said she would not force them to be involved in music, but would encourage them if they chose that path. Ifrica said she also believes music is in the genes.
Morgan said he and his daughter reunited after a then pregnant Ifrica was spotted by a friend. “She know of me all the while as her father, but I never met her,” he said. He said they met at a hotel after Sumfest 11 years ago. “When I met her that night, it was such a joy,” he said. Morgan said he appreciates what Tony Rebel had done for his daughter as it was instrumental in what she is doing now.
Morgan later produced and released a cover song called Strong Lion for Ifrica. “I feel like a number one (when she performs) … I would call her up and tell her I’m proud of her,” Morgan said.
“Whenever I go to Europe and do his songs, I get the biggest forwards. People are still, today, in tune with his work that is coming back from as early as the ’50s,” Queen Ifrica said of her father.
–Andre Jebbinson, Staff Reporter, JAMAICA GLEANER