Dawna Lee

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London singer-songwriter, although a teenager in the 1990s, her musical heart lies in '70s roots reggae.
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b. Dawn Lee, c.1973, London, England. Lee embarked on a musical career while in her teens. Her initial inspiration came from artists such as Marcia Griffiths, Bob Andy, Bunny Wailer and Freddie McGregor. She originally learned to play the bass guitar by strumming along to records borrowed from her brother’s Jah Youth sound system based in Forest Gate, east London. While attending school she joined the all-female band Equityalongside five fellow students. Lee filled the role of lead guitarist as well as providing lead vocals. Following the band’s demise she embarked on a solo career. Her performance and dexterity impressedEvelyn Maurius of the Women In Music collective who invited her to build rhythm tracks for the group in 1987. Inspired by her work with Maurius, Lee demonstrated her feminist stance when she recorded rhythm tracks on acetates for the all-female sound system Gold Label. She also released her debut on vinyl voicing her denunciation of ‘Apartheid’, which was accompanied by MC Cinderella’s interpretation of the song ‘Free Africa’. Suitably encouraged, Lee subsequently arranged and recorded her own demo tracks that led to a release in the lovers rock style. Her debut in this genre, the sublime ‘Six A.M.’, surfaced through the Progressive Sounds collective in 1993. The song was a dancehall smash that exposed Lee to a wider audience through the UK reggae chart. Accolades followed including an award for Best British Newcomer at the Annual British Reggae Awards of 1994/5. Her reputation for professionalism resulted in sessions with producer and former Reggae Regular guitarist, Patrick ‘Chiki’ Donegan. She also appeared alongside Shinehead, Half Pint and her self-proclaimed luminary Freddie McGregor. Notable releases at this time included ‘Are You Ready’, ‘Man Look Good’, ‘Goldmine’, ‘Teach The Children’, ‘If I Ruled The World’, ‘Make Love’, ‘Melody Life’ and ‘Wanna Be Down’. In 1995, she pre-empted Mr. Vegas’ remonstrations with Jamaican DJ Superman (performing as Sandeeno)for the advisory ‘Nah Go Down Deh’. Lee also worked on sessions with Lloyd ‘Musclehead’ Francis and Dennis Rowe of the south London-based Saxon Sound. The session resulted in ‘Smile Awhile’ which demonstrated her conscientious style of yore. Her most significant success came in 1996 with Mykey Simpsonwho had released a number of her previous hits. With the prolific producer she released ‘I’m Gonna Live Love’ a remake of the ‘Danger In Your Eyes’-rhythm. A series of hits followed, including ‘Don’t Give Up’, ‘Live Good’ and, in 1999, ‘Bigger Than Dat’. Her debut album featured remakes of classic Jamaican rhythms with new lyrics. The rhythms were inspired by hits from Fabian, Bob Marley, Horace Andy, Errol Dunkley and Augustus Pablo.