Tanya Stephens was born Vivienne Tanga Stephenson on the 2nd of July 1973. The 6th of 7 children, she grew up in a single parent home in St. Mary Jamaica. Her earliest musical influences were old Soul, Bebop, early Rock & Roll, Calypso, Country, and of course the local fare… Reggae. She cites artistes like The Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener as having made an indelible mark on her with their style of storytelling, later becoming a part of influencing her own style of writing. She also credits Smokey Robinson and Otis Redding for helping her to acknowledge her pain. Smokey remains her favorite artiste and ‘Tracks Of My Tears’ her favorite song to date.
Stephens grew up with a love of Literature which was fostered by her family. Books were far more prevalent in her environment than games or toys, and she remembers with pride that she became a member of the Richmond Public Library at 4 years old. Before ever thinking of a career in music or writing one song, she wrote poems and short stories. These were what later took on melody and opened the door to songwriting as she ventured tentatively into the world of music.
Tanya Stephens has been lauded as the best songwriter to come out of Jamaica in the last few decades, and her compositions have received critical acceptance getting compared to the likes of Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ as well as Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. Refusing to be limited by classification, Stephens expresses a deliberate intention to live outside of the box creatively and socially, and she covers the widest range of topics and expressions found in any one artiste from any genre.
By far Jamaica’s most diverse musical export, Tanya speaks of partying, sex, heartbreak, social change and human rights violations with equal comfort and dexterity from previously voiceless perspectives. Boldly exploring even the most taboo topics has earned Stephens the respect of the critics and listeners alike as she skillfully takes her audience on a colorful journey into the mind of her subject, extracting empathy and sparking discussion.
With seven studio albums under her belt, Stephens recently released her eighth titled ‘Guilty’. When asked why ‘Guilty’ she replied
“I’ve been accused of so many things meant to demotivate me that I lost count. I’m just saving my accusers some time so they can hopefully move on to their next target. I am guilty. Of not placing any importance on others’ opinions of me. Of continuing to explore every facet of my mind and sharing every thought worth sharing. Of understanding my relationship with my environment including the people in it. Of speaking from my heart without fear. Yes, I am guilty.”
Inevitably, the story continues!