Music » Feature

Halifax, meet Jah’Mila

If you’re not already addicted to the Jamaica-born, Halifax-based artist’s distinctive, roots-y reggae, her Halifax Urban Folk Festival showcase will have you hooked.

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Cassie Josephine & The Cry If I Want To's w/Pretty Archie, Jah'Mila, Eaton McGrath & The Halifax All Stars
Sat Aug 31, 2pm
Halifax Waterfront
Free


Jah'Mila first came to Halifax to visit family and ended up staying for love.

Originally form Kingston, Jamaica, Jhamiela Smith Dunn would regularly come to Halifax to see her mother, who has lived in Canada for a decade. Then one trip, everything changed.

"On one of my visits, I started a relationship with a musician who's pretty popular in the scene: Adrian Dunn. Now we're married," says Smith Dunn, who performs as Jah'Mila, "so I want to say love brought me here ultimately."

Family and music go hand-in-hand for Smith Dunn. Her father Earl "Chinna" Smith is a legendary guitarist who has recorded with everyone from Bob Marley to Lauryn Hill. Of her nine siblings, six are musicians.

"[Family] is everything," says Smith Dunn. "My dad as well has been a vital part of not only exposing me to the inner workings of the industry but just watching the way that he carries himself and the way that he gives himself to music, is something to see and something that I chose to emulate as well."

Smith Dunn's mother played a part in Jah'Mila the musician by encouraging her to go to church and be part of the choir. Those music connections are even stronger thanks to marrying into a musical family from Cape Breton.

"Family is very important and it has actually opened doors for me, here and in Jamaica," says Smith Dunn, who once toured with the Wailers.

Smith Dunn's first connection to the Halifax music scene came during a visit to her mother back in 2012—before she met Adrian Dunn—when she stumbled upon the open mic house on Agricola and met Roxy Mercier from Roxy & The Underground Sound.

"She invited me to the next show, which would be my first taste of Maritime performing arts," says Smith Dunn.

From there, she had her mind blown by Erin Costello and then saw the Mellotones the next night.

"And the rest was history," Smith Dunn said of those initial connections to the Halifax music scene. It was only a matter of time before she got involved in the scene herself, showcasing her talents.

"I've been singing professional vocals since I was probably 17 years old. When I moved here, I was already involved in music. I just needed to find a space that would encourage that and develop it," says Smith Dunn, who started doing background vocals and performing with the now-defunct reggae band Dub Kartel.

While family plays a central role in her life and music, she's creating a special musical island of her own: Two years ago, Smith Dunn formed an eight-piece band (a seven-piece version will perform at HUFF) that's recording together and will release a new song in the coming months. Eventually, the plan is to release an album of music recorded with her band in Halifax along with songs recorded with musicians in Jamaica.

"It will be a proper melding of my two cultures in one project," says Smith Dunn.

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