Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? For all its strengths as an international city, Houston has been suffering through a real dearth of quality homegrown roots-reggae acts for years. And one of its very few talented female artists in the genre hardly ever plays out around town.
That would be Kyra Noons, also known as Neutral Sister. About a decade ago, Kyra and her baby sister Bianca were known as the Neutral Sisters, and were tapped by some to cross over into the pop marketplace. Eighteen months apart in age, they were featured in an August 2003 Houston Press cover story, around the time their album Live N Direct was released.
Aiding the Sisters on the album (produced by John "Pops" Dowling) were Sly N Robbie, the famed Jamaican bass-and-drums duo who have backed artists from Beenie Man and Grace Jones to No Doubt, Michael Franti and Sting. Live N Direct is still available on iTunes, and well worth seeking out; both the sisters' strong vocal interplay and the rubbery grooves hold up exceptionally well.
Born to a Jamaican mother and English father, the Neutral Sisters performed at various events like iFest, the opening of Toyota Center and the Main Street Block Party around Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. They became regulars at reggae festivals both in the States and the Carribbean, but Bianca sadly passed away in November 2008 after lingering in a diabetic coma for a year.
"I carry the torch onward and upward for us both now," Kyra says.
She's still out there all right. Kyra has released scattered singles like 2010's "Hold On Haiti," after the devastating earthquake that struck the impoverished Caribbean nation in January of that year. She also appeared at the 2013 JaGa Reggae Festival on the Island -- Jamaica-Galveston, get it? -- and as an opener at "Reggae Ambassadors" Third World's 40th-anniversary concert at Stereo Live last month.
She's even traveling to East Africa for several shows in December, including Nairobi's 7th annual Arts Festival. Now in her mid-thirties, Kyra was actually born in Kenya of British parentage and was raised outside of London. She moved to Jamaica at age 10, and attended high school in Montego Bay until departing for Houston. "Jamaica is very important to me," Noons says.
Home Base: Just Houston, says Noons. "Never sure where the next gig will be!" she explains. "I always love the festivals."
Good War Story: Kyra's choice is a Neutral Sisters gig opening for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in Jamaica while Bianca was still alive, she says.
"We were on a stage on Cornwall Beach in Montego Bay that was surrounded by people and there were no monitors on the stage," Noons explains. "We could not hear ourselves properly on the mikes, and there was such a delay on the sound that as we were singing we felt the song getting slower and slower, we were singing and hearing our own words seconds later!
"Luckily we were totally in sync with each other, and the song's strong message of putting down the guns and dealing with peace and not war seemed to stand out even more the slower we sang!" she adds. "It was a wonder, but we still got a great writeup in the local paper, thank God!"
More with Kyra on the next page.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "It truly has heart."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "How fair-weather people can be at times."
Five Desert Island Artists:
- Junior Kelly
- Buju Banton
Best Concert You Ever Saw: Sunsplash in Jamaica -- "a three-day concert that brought out all the greatest reggae artists and some international ones"
First Song You Fell In Love With: Survivor, "Eye of the Tiger" -- "the theme song for Rocky [III] back when I was a little girl!"
Keep an eye out for Neutral Sister updates at neutralsister.com.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
THE ROCKS OFF 200
DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
THE ROCKS OFF 100 2013 ALUMNI
Crystal Toliver, Source of That Yello Echo You Hear Mr. Castillo, Song-Sniping DJ DJ Big Reeks, The Chief Waxaholic Melane Gutierrez, The Coffin Queen Folk Descendent Kevin Taylor Kendrick Eloy Contreras, Deathrazor's Sharp Thrash Vocals Robert McCarthy, Guitarist From Beyond Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, The Manichean's "Quiet One" Charlie Horshack, LP4's Guitar Warrior Kathryn Hallberg, Little Girl Gone Tessa Kole, PuraPharm's Voice and Vice Richard Griesser, Vintage Camera Hound With Enviable Archive Downfall 2012, Sci-Fi Metal Storytellers Kevin Choate, Drum Like You're Screaming DJ Rockwell, Booth Pimp and Party-Rocker Ash Kay, the Freakouts' Punk Vocal Head-Butt Pat Kelly, The Godfather of the Suffers Michelle Miears of BLSHS, Siren In the Machine DJ Remix, Genre-Hopping Mix Maniac Kahna, Brutal Nation's Metal Booking Queen DJ Ill Set, Enemy of Wack Tracks Shane Tuttle, Updog Owner and Album-Cover Designer Electric Attitude, Renegades of Funk Sama'an Ashrawi, Trill Gladiator Recon Naissance, A Rap While Matt's Guitar Gently Weeps DJ Klinch Asks, "Can You Dig It?" Jose "Chapy" Luna, Percussionist Con Corazón Love Dominique, Wicked Heart R&B Chanteuse Chris Gerhardt, Mastermind of Giant Battle Monster The Jobe Wilson Band, the Boys From Chambers County Kimberly M'Carver, Missouri City's Nightingale DJ Panchitron, Stirring the Cumbia/Moombahton Melting Pot D.R.I's Kurt Brecht, Thrash Zone Supervisor Sloan Robley, The Last Houstonian Banshee Jack Saunders, Dealer of Grit & Jangle Richard Ramirez, Noise God and Black Leather Jesus Mike Meegz, Scoremore's Houston Lieutenant Jacqui Sutton, Houston's "Jazzgrass Lady" Robin Kirby, Silk and Sandpaper Songwriter Billy Dorsey, Grammy-Winning MARATHON Runner David DeLaGarza, Don of Tejano Stars La Mafia Jason Puffer, Your Psychedelic Sex Panther Tobin Harvell, Fitzgerald's Unflappable Floor Manager Walter Suhr, the Straw That Stirs Mango Punch! Tony Garza, La Orquesta Salmerum Founder OG Ron C, Chopstar King of the Purple Dome Football, etc., Giving Emo Back Its Good Name Angela Jae, Renaissance Artist Shellee Coley, Voice of the Northern Woods Blaggards, Houston's St. Paddy's Day House Band DJ Meshak, Hongree Records' Sound Selecter K-Rino, South Park Coalition's Southside Maven DJ Candlestick, One Niceguy and a Very Busy DJ Danielle Renee, Only Beast's Destroyer of Walls Felipe Galvan of Los Skarnales Kristine Mills, Houston's Brassiest Voice Brian Davis, Punk Drummer, Horror Composer Elroy Boogie, Top-Notch Turntablist Sean Ozz, Wizard of The Abyss Alyssa Rubich, Angel of Instability Alphonso "Fonz" Lovelace, Righteous Drummer Frank Zweback, Funkmaster General OG Bobby Trill, Bombon Beatmaker Beau Beasley, Organist for the End of Time Rapid Ric, Mixtape Mechanic Dwight Taylor Lee, the Wandering Bufalero Coline Creuzot, Soulful Pop/R&B Singer Cristina Acuna, Cactus Music's Twitter Fingers Clint Broussard, Blues In Hi-Fi Man Now Back On FM Nortnii Rose, Houston Ska's Greatest Hope Ramblin' Chase Hamblin, the Man Who Will Be Paid Chris Alonzo, Bringing Night Flight to Facebook
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW