On January 2, 1962, Ophlin Russell, better known as Sister Nancy, a seminal Jamaican dancehall deejay and singer, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. Also known as Mama Nancy, She was the first female dancehall deejay and an important female voice on the dancehall scene for over 20 years. One of her most famous songs, “Bam Bam,” was labeled a reggae anthem by the BBC in the United Kingdom.
Sister Nancy was one of 15 children. Her brother Robert is better known as Brigadier Jerry, also a dancehall deejay. She and her siblings were raised in a conservative household, and she was expected to take on the role of elder in the community, promoting the conservative values of being drug-free and family-oriented
Although her father encouraged her to pursue Christian music, she rebelled against her traditional upbringing and followed her brother into deejaying and dancehall. When she entered the dancehall scene, she was often the only female to turn up at a dance. During her teen years, she sometimes performed on the Twelve Tribes of Israel sound system. She also worked with the Jahlovemuzik sound system, and for several years on the Stereophone sound system with General Echo.
She ran away from home for months at a time and followed DJ Junior Chalice throughout Jamaica and St. Thomas. While in St. Thomas, he gave her a chance to deejay when she was 15 years old.
She toured internationally, and both she and her brother Brigadier Jerry made their debuts in London in 1982. Sister Nancy credits her brother with being her inspiration, which is reflected in her work and career. Sister Nancy’s work is similar to her brother’s in its focus on cultural issues and spiritual tone.