Puma Jones and Koffee at two ends of Reggae Grammy

Puma Jones (left) held on to the Reggae Grammy when she was part of Black Uhuru, many years before Koffee was born.

In an ideal world, one dreadlocked woman who was part of the first Reggae Grammy trio would now be congratulating the dreadlocked woman (some would say Koffee is still balancing being a girl and a woman) who has hoisted the most recent golden gramophone for Best Reggae Album.

However, Sandra ‘Puma’ Jones, part of the trio Black Uhuru, which won with Anthem in 1985, died in New York, USA, in 1990 from breast cancer complications, a full decade before Koffee, whose Rapture EP is the 2020 winner, was born.

Puma Jones (centre) played a pivotal role in Black Uhuru.

Striking similarity

There is a difference in the name of the award that they won. Black Uhuru took the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Recording, but with the name change in 1992, Koffee took home the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. Puma and Koffee have more than locks in common in how they present themselves physically; there is a striking similarity in how they dress in loose-fitting clothing, which keeps the focus on their vocal delivery rather than their bodies. The same goes for Sharon and Cedella Marley as part of triple winners Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers.

Koffee was happy as ever after collecting her Grammy award.

The other winners of the Reggae Grammy have not had that issue, as it has been an all-male affair, not only in the eventual winner but almost even the nominations. For the 2020 award, Koffee was up against the all-male bands Third World (More Work to be Done), Steel Pulse (Mass Manipulation) and the combination of Sly and Robbie and Roots Radics (The Final Battle). In addition to Black Uhuru, the 1985 nominees were Jimmy Cliff (Reggae Nights), Peter Tosh (Captured Live), Steel Pulse (Steppin’ Out) and Yellowman (King Yellowman).

Shaggy (left) and Sting copped the Reggae Grammy last year for their album, 44/876.

Repeat winners

After Yellowman’s nomination threw dancehall’s hat into the Reggae Grammy ring, it took a mere seven years for a deejay to take the trophy, Shabba Ranks winning in 1992 with As Raw As Ever and again in 1993 with X-tra Naked.

The deejays have had an on and off hold on the trophy since then through Shaggy (1996, Boombastic and 2019, 44/876 with Sting), Beenie Man (2001, Art and Life), Sean Paul (2004, Dutty Rock), Buju Banton (2011, Before the Dawn), Koffee (2020, Rapture) and of course Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley (2002, Half-Way Tree; 2006 Welcome to Jamrock; and 2018, Stony Hill). The offspring of reggae and beauty pageant royalty is part of the firm Marley grip on the golden gramophone. Including Jr Gong’s wins the Tuff Gong’s children have taken home 12 Reggae Grammy wins, starting in 1989.

Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley has won the Reggae Grammy three times.

Other repeat winners are Jimmy Cliff (1986, Cliff Hanger; 2013 Rebirth), Bunny Wailer (1991, Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley; 1995, Crucial! Roots Classics and 1997, Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary) and Burning Spear (2001, Calling Rastafari; 2009, Jah is Real). The few other women who stood a chance of joining Puma and Koffee were Judy Mowat, who was nominated in 1986 with Working Wonders, Rita Marley in 1992 with We Must Carry On, Sister Carol in 1997 with Lyrically Potent and Etana in 2019 with Reggae Forever.