Raised in the inspirational hills of St. Andrew, Jamaica, Kelissa developed a natural inclination for music, largely influenced by a RastafarI and reggae upbringing. With parents as lead vocalists in the original reggae band ‘Chakula,’ creation and appreciation of music was a constant feature in her home.
“I was living music before I was born. It welcomed me into the world and it brings me home wherever I am.”
At an early age Kelissa participated in a children’s music group called “Rainbow Riddims” where she learned to play different instruments and was introduced to the world of performing through vocal, instrumental and drumming ensembles. Her interest in music was reinforced at home where she mimicked her parents’ musical tendencies in rehearsals, and wrote songs with her sisters and brother. She also featured on a children’s album produced by her mother ‘Goldilocks’. Kelissa’s early childhood exposure to music has also been cemented through her lifelong involvement in dance.
“The physical interpretation of sound into movement, as well as the use of body to create sound, has added deeper dimension to my understanding of music.”
Music traveled with Kelissa to the United States where she won an undergraduate scholarship to attend Whittier College (WC) in Los Angeles, California. As part of the Whittier Scholars Program, Kelissa had the opportunity to design her own curriculum, which focused heavily on music. Kelissa’s vocal ability was strengthened through her engagement in the college choir and renowned ‘Speech Level Singing’ (SLS) training. Her passion for percussion reflected in her participation in the ‘Brazilian’ and ‘World Percussion’ ensembles. She also received practical experience in music production including live and studio recording. As co-founder of the Black Arts and Cultural Dance (BACD) Group on campus, Kelissa created a platform that facilitated her on-going interaction with different audiences and talented young performers from across the world. She sang at numerous open mic events both on and off campus and as a member of the WC womens soccer team, sang the national anthem for home games. In the final year of her program, Kelissa was selected to showcase her talent at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Being acknowledged for her perfect pitch and strong voice she was invited to perform at the House of Blues in Hollywood and at the ‘Sea 2 Sea Conference’ at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
“Music has always been a mediator between my current reality and where I was before, and paves a path for where I go next.”
Kelissa also sojourned with her music to Africa where, during extended periods in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana, she was able to seek out multiple opportunities and broaden her musical scope, including traditional music. While attending University of Ghana she benefited from hands-on instruction in traditional drumming, xylophone and dance. During her time in Africa, she also expanded her musical abilities by teaching herself the guitar and collaborating with numerous musicians and producers in the studio, in the streets and on stage. This included several guest appearances in packed nightclubs in Addis Ababa and reggae on the beach in Accra. Kelissa’s unique background and rich international experiences have influenced her music by coloring it with diverse sounds, insightful messages and penetrating performances.
“My music has evolved into an expression of my background as well as my stimulating living and traveling experiences.”
Kelissa currently resides in Jamaica and while engaging in several entrepreneurial business ventures, she continues to make music her central purpose. Since returning to Jamaica she has featured on multiple live shows such as ‘Conversations with Julian Marley and Richie Spice,’ ‘Conscious Reggae Party Series,’ ‘Green For Life Eco-festival’ and ‘Wickie Wackie Live’ to name a few. Kelissa’s ‘Anbessa Productions’ recently teamed up with ‘Zinc Fence Records’ to produce her first Extended Play (EP) project, soon to be released. The first single off the project ‘Love Letter’ is an “Afromantic” prelude of Kelissa’s soulful, poetic and world beat music, that not only provides a reservoir of her life experiences but also a spring that never seems to fail in inspiring others.
“Music gives us direction, a cure for our heart and a gateway to the divine. My passion is to share this with the world.”