Reggae singer Nelly Stharre
Reggae singer Nelly Stharre

Wednesday 19th August, 2015 brought the most tragic news InI ever could receive, one that rocked InI to the very core of InI foundation – that of the untimely and horrific passing of our beloved Sister Nelly Stharre, one of Dominica's finest singers, a militant Reggae artiste. What a Sister!

I have known Sister Nelly going way back to our high school days, at the Convent High School in Dominica. I would have been a few years ahead of her, but who could forget that sweet and bubbly Sister, flashing them nice ringlets, with her trademark battlefield boots, ready for the war. A rebel in the making!

We never interacted much with each other back then, but in 1999, on visiting home, I became aware of her presence through her hit debut song, 'Wake Up'; a beautiful Creole flavoured rendition, with a lovely accompanying video. This is one of the many things I loved about Sister Nelly - her love for our Creole culture, Dominica being a Francophone island. That love she had for our Creole culture saw her living in, and pursuing her musical career in the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe. When I first heard the song "Wake Up" , and saw the accompanying video, showing her to be a young Rastawoman, I got even more interested, I, being Rastafari too! I wondered about the authenticity of her trod, asking a mutual friend, if she was indeed Rastafari. I was assured that she was. I was also told that she frequented the very yard that I was so blessed to have emerged from as a young

Rastawoman, the Nyahbinghi yard in Dominica, by brother Wa. I then arranged through Sister Marvlyn (Brother Wa's queen) to meet her, and I give thanks and praise for that blessed occasion.

We met at brother Roi's yard one evening. She was very warm and affectionate; genuine and humble to the core. I will always cherish that time, as I was home on a visit to introduce my son to family and friends; he was six months old then. Sister Nelly herself was in early pregnancy of her first child. The energy of the time spent together was high. We bonded well that evening, the three of us – Sister Marvlyn, Sister Nelly and I, reminiscing on our Convent High School days and enjoying the time together. It was marvelous; a reunion of old friends. I remember Sister Nelly driving me home that night with Sister Marvlyn coming along, bringing freshly baked soya patties. When we got home I showed them some craft work that I'd traveled with.

Sister Nelly was indeed a militant soldier on the battlefield. I loved that she loved Rastafari. We were Sisters of this great faith. Her music was unique; soulful and generously flavored with Creole, very impactful. She called on leaders of the world to abandon war, seeking peace and love instead. She spoke of social injustice, where only one set of people can prosper, while the poor man always has to suffer. She encouraged the Rastawoman to rise, stand firm and be strong. She looked to Africa but also acknowledged her Middle-Eastern roots with, what I consider to be a classic: Peace in da Middle East, where she speaks of the turmoil and conflict going on there, fighting against the unjust removal of the Palestinians from their homeland. She spoke of what a wonderful world it would be, for InI to live in love and harmony, her very own 'Soul Country'. She sang of the joy of the Rastaman coming forth from Zion. Oh yes! Her music will be her legacy – a glorious and honorable one indeed!

InI wept bitterly for Sister Nelly, but we are consoled knowing that her life was not in vain. It is a testimony that shall strengthen me as I continue 'trodding' this path of righteousness. Bode well my Sister, for you are now basking in glory in the Celestial World. De I is in great company in the land of the Ancestors. In that I am assured!

Blessed be the Most High! Rastafari!

Sister Sera'el Tafari

(Joanna Terrell)