Since dropping her first mixtape Murder, Sharon Stern aka Miss Red has been turning heads. Born to Israeli Moroccan and Polish parents, the MC has carved herself a niche in dancehall with her soprano patois vocals. Layered over the dark, low-end riddims of friend and frequent collaborator Kevin Martin aka The Bug, Stern’s ethereal vocals sit perfectly. This combination of individual talent delivers a fresh take on the dancehall genre.
On her latest release and debut album K.O., Stern widens the scope of her vocal offering from her past records. From the lightening fast chatter on ‘Money Machine’ to the spooky, near whisper on ‘One Shot Killer,’ she’s proven her versatility and originality as an MC. Parts of the album are deeply personal, drawing upon her early experiences of growing up in an immigrant family; the cover is a photograph of her late grandfather who passed away whilst it was being recorded:
“My Polish grandparents were the only people from their family to survive the Holocaust, and in Morocco my family were getting shit because they were Jewish but then in Israel they were also getting shit for being North African. As newcomers and pioneers of new villages, they had nothing at the start of their life in Israel and had to build everything from nothing”.
We asked Miss Red to share ten tracks that reflect her life on the road in London and Berlin. The selection demonstrates her roots in reggae and classical musicians from the Middle East, as well as her interest in more contemporary bass-laden music.
1. Iration Steppas – ‘Kilimanjaro’ [Iration Steppa]
Moving to London wasn’t easy. I arrived completely clueless, with a lot of motivation and zero experience or money. I lived anywhere people would let me for the first two years, working from the moment my eyes were open till they were closed, and I didn’t even care about all of that bullshit to be honest. I was just happy about the fact I was only some night bus ride away from an Iration Steppas dance. Their sound/vibe used to uplift me so much, I would be tripping over it until the next time. I would keep myself happy listening to this one over and over until the next dance came around.
2. Jah Shaka – ‘King of Kings’ [Jah Shaka Music]
From Iration Steppas to Aba Shanti via Jah Shaka, really, sound system culture was overwhelming my mind whilst living in London. Usually you would find me crossing the country from London to Bristol to Leeds to catch a dance.
In Jah Shaka dances you get a vibe of spiritual universal vibrations, and I would be smiling for the whole week after, as it made me feel real high, full of awareness and thankfulness through dub music. I could post some live session, but you really have to listen to it over a real LARGE rig or system. So catch this production by him.
3. Wayne Smith – ‘Life is a Moment in Space’ [Black Joy]
Spending time in Brixton definitely gave me maximum pleasure… I ate jerk chicken every day, whilst listening to dancehall in every corner, just spending my little amounts of cash on records, going into studios on surprise visits, and hanging with reggae legends then grabbing mics. Suddenly this was a reality for me, as it always seemed to be so far from my reality in Israel. Suddenly it was there for me, and this tune was the one for that moment, it has a kind of directness and softness that makes you wanna cuddle it… on repeat.
4. Mulatu Astatke – ‘Tezeta (Nostalgia)’ [Büro 9]
Being on the road can be mad… and fun, when you don’t know when you’re gonna sleep tomorrow and you’re just traveling with a friend from city to city. When all you have is a thumb for rides, some weed and a sleeping bag, you feel more connected to the world and its magic, because you realise you don’t really need anything except your freedom, and everything else is extra when you catch the best most beautiful times in life. For this vibe, there is no better soundtrack then Mulatu -Tezeta, the Ethiopian jazz musician that always makes me feel at home no matter where I am. Later on I saw him live in Berlin and his show completely blew me away.
5. Plastikman – ‘Contain’ [NovaMute]
Leaving London wasn’t easy… I loved it so much, but I was taking a risk pushing the limits and overstaying my visa, so I had to go somewhere, and Berlin was right over the corner. As usual I could never leave a place without leaving behind piles of drama (ain’t personal just life), and all I wanted was a therapy. At that time I started to be exposed to more and more producers, old and new. One I never knew before, but I really got to love was Plastikman. It got me straight away with this one.
6. Andy Stott – ‘Violence’ [Modern Love]
In Berlin it took me time to find my balance again, and at that time Andy Stott’s album ‘Faith in Strangers’ dropped. I was hearing it all the time and loving everything about it. We used to improvise movements and paintings, vocals and mumbles to this album to keep sane in Berlin’s grey winter. It was the only thing that kept me far from the cold. I ended up chatting on “Damage” on the mixtape I released that year.
7. Haus Arafna – ‘Mirror Me’ [Galakthorrö]
So I guess at one point in Berlin I was definitely losing my shit….it was too cold for me to think, and as I am not from a cold place, I was just completely blank, and felt totally numb.. I needed something to release me, and that was the same time I got to know Haus Arafna. This was the soundtrack for my out of control moment, freaking out in the snow trying to get warm again.
8. The Slits – ‘Daichi No Oto (“Earthbeat” Japanese Version)’ [CBS]
The Slits were a great inspiration. A mashed up, trippy all-girl band that couldn’t give less of a fuck… They mashed up language, styles, looks and I really got the feeling they had a great time doing it…To have them in my view, and to inherit their inspiration gave me great confidence. Great fun from Ari Up, also in Japanese.
9. Ahuva Ozeri – ‘Flower Valley’ [Kedma]
Coming in and out Israel all the time, having to see stuff going on but living away, it was putting me in a new state of mind, and Ahuva Ozeri was giving me the warmth and directness I needed. Her voice will walk with me forever.
10. Oum Kalthoum – ‘Enta Omry (You Are My Life)’
Spending a lot of time on the road , listening to Oum Kalthoum, gave me moments I will never forget. This kind of music just helps me to open my heart. There won’t be a day in my life, when this tune won’t be relevant.
Featured image: Kasia Zacharko
K.O. is out now on Pressure. Get it here.
Catch Miss Red at Corsica Studios tonight for her album launch with The Bug, Grandmixxer and Flowdan.
Tickets available here.