Standing Strong, Not Still | Claudja Barry
by Michael A Edwards, Entertainment Editor | The Jamaica Observer
Glamorous, multilingual and highly travelled Claudja Barry is the picture of grace and unhurried, gimmick-free success.
Sitting opposite this writer inside the lobby of the Knutsford Court, she looks every bit like someone who has sung in some of the world’s best venues – among them Studio 54, The Saint, (NYC), The Palace (Paris), Budokan Hall (where she won the Silver Prize at the Tokyo Music Festival), The Verona Arena (Italy).
Her performances and stage presence have made her not only a star in the pop and club music arenas but have also made her an accomplished actress in film and television as well as on stage.
Barry may be best known to Jamaicans of a certain age as a founding member of the Euro-pop group Boney M, Barry left the group after only a year to pursue a solos career, and in fact doesn’t wish to talk about that time in her life.
She’s far more anxious to talk about I Will Stand, her current single that’s fast on its way to becoming an international anthem.
“Its really a song telling young women to stand up, to recognise their self-worth and not have anyone else try to define them,” she explains. The song has heightened personal relevance for the singer as she prepares to send her daughter off to college, but had its genesis some three years prior, when Barry, who had been on a self-imposed hiatus, decided it might be time for her to get her musical legs going again.
The single is presently lodged at or near the top of a number of international dance charts (including #4 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play), and already there are several remixes and versions making the rounds. A video is being planned and Barry is looking at 2007 for an album release. She is, in fact, a partner in the company, Donna Jean Records, that released the track.
But the real story is Claudja Barry herself, her amazing travels in the entertainment world, and her current perspective having learned through experience. Born in Jamaica, Barry left with her parents for Toronto Canada at age 7. In her teens, she headed south to New York City, to study acting with the famed Actors Studio of lee Strasberg. From there, she jumped to London, landing the lead role in the Royal Court Theatre production of AC/DC, which won the Evening Standard Critic’s award for Best Play.
She again hopped the pond, so to speak, this time landing in Germany, where she appeared in several musicals, including a musical adaptation of Othello (which in turn led to the Boney M call). Hollywood also called, and barry had roles in the features Rappin’ and Paper People.
Her solo musical career includes the disco classics Boogie Woogie Dancin’ Shoes, Dancin’ Fever and Down And Counting all of which were staples on Jamaican radio. She also found time to produce a gospel album, entitled Love Him Forever.
Though now based in New York, Barry has carved out a special place for the land of her birth. ‘ I intend to have a base in Jamaica,” she says. “I’m not saying I’ll be here all year round, but I definitely want to be established here.”
Having experienced the pleasures and challenges of life in Europe and North America, she is both philosophical and pragmatic. “The European way of life is closer to the ideal than the US or even Canada, but the thing is, there aren’t any major solo acts breaking out of Europe right now, like there were say five years ago. So even though the go-go life of America can be very difficult, that’s where the music is happening for the moment.”
Having been back to the island on several occasions, Barry is struck by need to create opportunities, particularly for the young, to realise their potential, but doesn’t wish to get on a soapbox. “There is an incredible amount of talent here,” she says. “I’d like to be able to do something to help them , especially our young women, empower themselves.”
With her career and family on the main burner, the social activism will have to wait a while. Through I Will Stand, Barry is trying to speak to one issue, as directly as possible, in the way she knows best. People are listening.