Toronto-born reggae singer Chelsea Stewart is not afraid to go old-school. The singer’s promotional street team has employed innovative guerrilla marketing tactics to sell CDs directly to people of Caribbean and black descent in her hometown, strong-arming the marketplace and creating a built-in audience for the young crooner.
BOOKING NUMBER: 1(416)-525-8785 KAREN STEWART
In the process, she has sold over 30,000 physical copies of Chelsea’s original singles and EPs combined on the streets of Toronto — an impressive feat in the age of social media and streaming.
“We’ve sold 40,000 mixtapes and over 30,000 CDs,” Chelsea said. “Social media is great, but nothing beats the way we’ve connected with our people by selling them a tangible copy of the tracks and getting the music directly into the hands of the people in my city. We took notes from Master P and Jay Z and decided to sell CDs out of our purses instead.”
Now, the singer has turned her attention towards the release of her self-titled, eponymous album, an 11 track masterpiece that announces her arrival on the reggae scene in no uncertain terms. Released in February on her own ‘Baby Momma Music label, the album explodes with nyabinghi drumming and dub poetry, before seguing sweetly into mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, and even dancehall. But the strength of the album lies in its content, its writing, and its love philosophies.
The lead single, ‘Forever Your Girl’ , an ice cream smooth love ballad on a ska-infused rhythm, has already set tongues wagging in the close-knit reggae community where excellent word of mouth is the gold standard for success.
“People love the retro vibe of ‘Forever Your Girl’. When we had our album listening party, that song had everyone dancing and skanking. We knew it would be the perfect lead single,” Chelsea said.
The ‘Forever Your Girl’ video which has been serviced to the major video outlets in the Caribbean.
The album is a feel-good romp which boasts instrumentation from Grammy winning producers Sly and Robbie. Other standout songs include the pop-influenced ‘Kiss You Again’, and the silky smooth ‘Crush’ where Chelsea’s apple-sweet vocals soar over a banjo rhythm.
The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily paused promotion of the album. Chelsea used the the extra time to learn a new music instrument.
“I have been adding to the wealth of my brand by learning a new instrument, it’s the early stages. The pandemic massively slowed up the promotion of the album, the album launch was cancelled and many other shows,” she said.
The confirmed global death toll from the COVID-19 virus reached at least 400,000 fatalities while, worldwide at least 6.9 million people have been infected by the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University, whose aggregated tally has become the main worldwide reference for monitoring the disease.
Chelsea has performed all over the world, wowed audiences at the Rototom Festival in Spain, performed at Ninjaman Birthday Bash and Reggae Sumfest, the annual LIME Skool Aid in Jamaica, the city of Hong Kong and a concert at the ‘Indigo at the O2’ in London, England.
This globetrotting, Juno-nominated independent artist has performed on four of the seven continents. Chelsea Stewart recently completed her first African tour. She had been invited to perform at the Moshito Music Conference and Exhibition in South Africa in September 2019, however she ended up doing several shows in South Africa, then she performed at venues in Botswana to the eastern coast in Seychelles and Mauritius.
She also visited Kenya and Ethiopia, doing press and radio promotions in those countries during the tour.
She returned to her native Canada earlier this year.
“Most Africans love reggae music, tell them you’re Jamaican and their faces immediately light up,” Chelsea observed.
Chelsea is keenly aware of the gender-politics that are at work in the reggae world.
“One of the reasons I chose to sing reggae music is because I wanted to represent my culture and heritage. But also because I noticed there was a lack of female representation within the industry. The most popular artistes are men, the producers are men, the engineers, the audio technicians at the stage shows, and the musicians are all mainly men,” she noted.
She is ecstatic that there is a new vanguard of young, talented reggae singers that is pushing the soulful horizons of the genre into the 21st century. A female teenager, Koffee became the first woman to win a Reggae Grammy earlier this year.
“My mom always says that everything in life needs balance, and we look around as co-writers and co-producers, and we don’t see enough women behind and in front of the scenes. I’m delighted to see that recently young women like Koffee, Lila Ike, Sevana and myself are currently representing the incredible artistry that women have to offer. It’s important for women to be able to sing along to lyrics that we can relate to simply as women. Just singing our songs from our perspectives is revolutionary in itself,” she said.