b. Michelle Gibb, 1969, Scotland. Sharifa loved to sing and recite poetry from an early age and demonstrated her burgeoning vocal skills when she joined her primary school choir. In her adolescence she formed a vocal group with two school friends, accompanied by the drum ‘n’ bass of Lawrence and Chris ‘Scratchy Fingers’ Lecky, initially performing in school concerts. By the early 80s Sharifa began to follow the sound systems and moved with Dennis Rowe’s Saxon Sounds. Although Sharifa had not performed on the sound herself, she has acknowledged being influenced by Maxi Priest, Phillip Papa Levi, Smiley Culture and Tippa Irie. During her formative years she loved to write poetry, and, inspired by the excitement generated in the dancehall, she began to develop her songwriting skills. In 1985 Sharifa had her first opportunity to set her songs to music when the drummer from her school band invited her to perform with Jah Foundation. By the mid-80s Sharifa’s catalogue comprised songs relating to the experiences of the African communities in the UK, as demonstrated in her debut, ‘Fight This Fight Together’. She also embraced Ras Tafari, as Head Creator, in her search for truth and cultural identity. This indoctrination led to a significant change of lifestyle and appearance. With Jah Foundation she gained notoriety when she performed in a gala concert for Africa staged in Paris, France. The concert led to her being in constant demand as a backing vocalist from 1986-91, with performances throughout Europe, the USA and Jamaica.
In 1992 she was invited to sing on the Haile Selassie Centenary compilation, on which she performed ‘Get Ready’. In addition to her solo contribution, she provided backing vocals for Earl Sixteen, Horace Andy, Junior Delgado and Aqua Levi. The project also led to her initial encounter with Norman Grant, lead singer of the Twinkle Brothers and proprietor of the ethical Twinkle label. In 1990, she began recording with the Mad Professor at Ariwa Sounds where, as far back as 1984, she had provided backing vocals on ‘Kookoo Macka’. In 1994, Ariwa released Roots Daughters Part 3 featuring the Princess, and her solo debutHeritage, which included tracks recorded in Jamaica with Sly Dunbar and Lloyd ‘Gitsy’ Willis. In 1995, Sharifa was reunited with Norman Grant with whom she recorded ‘The Truth Will Prevail’ and ‘A Fi Reach Back A Africa’, culminating in her first album with the Twinkle production team.