Reggae naturally spread to the other Caribbean islands after its birth in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaicaâ€”its roots influenced by ancient traditional music originating in Africa, kept alive by Rastafarians and evolving over time.
I went to a party one Saturday night with my girls and while grooving to some Mary J, Usher and the other citizens of that genre while surveying the crowd at the same time.
I noticed that although the majority of the party goers were Black there was a sprinkle of other races and ethnicities also.
There were even a few Asian kids hanging out next to the DJ booth. Well I didn’t go to the club to stare at people so I went back to doing my groove thing. Then the reggae came on and the DJ said “I want give a shout out to all my West Indian Massive, nuff respect.”
Well I thought that was the end of that now on with the music but then he continued to say. “What about Brooklyn, raise your hands! England, Belgium and last but not least Japan. I was born in Japan but I tour the world playing my music and everywhere I go I get respect.”
It was crazy—the crowd was loving him and how could they not. He knew his business and he didn’t just play, he mastered it. His mixes were crazy, he knew all the classics, he handled the legendary riddims with skills that suggested he was a born and raised West Indian rudeboy.
It was amazing to watch reggae strip everyone in the party of their differences to see them alternating from dubbing in a dark corner and pressed up on walls to displaying the latest dance styles in the center of the floor, to raising their hands and chanting together, united by the sweet sweet sounds of reggae.
That night we danced to tunes that encouraged us to live life, love freely, think consciously and give praise. The party winded down to “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright. Give thanks and praise to the lord and I will feel alright.”
Bob Marley is definitely a legend because he was on to something when he sang those words I thought as I saw the flushed faces and the mellow mood of the crowd. I was definitely feeling alright and everyone looked as if they caught contact from the music the deejay from Japan spun. As soon as those thoughts ran through my head I had an Epiphany.
Reggae naturally spread to the other Caribbean islands after its birth in the ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica—its roots influenced by ancient traditional music originating in Africa, kept alive by Rastafarians and evolving over time.
With mellow beats and conscious lyrics, preaching words of hope and freedom, it was also used as a weapon against civil disorder and political corruption. Its beginnings was humble but it quickly became part of the West Indian Culture. It was inevitable because although separated by bodies of water, West Indians sometimes see themselves as one. When people from these countries migrated to places like New York, Montreal, England, and some other large cities in search of securing better lives they took the reggae culture with them and it was passed down to new generations.
I am one of these generations and some of us always saw reggae as belonging to us, a birthright handed down to us by our parents. One of the possessions they brought from the West Indies intertwined in their passports, dreams and longings that settled where they settled.
Reggae didn’t disappear when West Indians left or waited on us to cross into new territories. The ember that first started glowing in Jamaica is now a raging fire that burns internationally and attracts lovers to it like moths to flame.
In the 60’s reggae stretched all the way to the battle fields of Vietnam. The song “WAR” by Bob Marley & the Wailers became an anthem for protesters during that era. It is said that Hip hop was born out off of the inspiration of dancehall culture—it was behind Garage and Jungle music in the UK. Today labels are signing reggae artist who were instrumental in the foundation of reggae from the 1990’s
My epiphany; reggae wasn’t just ours anymore. A young man from Japan can become a reggae world clash title holder, a dance hall queen from Switzerland who’s roots have nothing to do with west Indians is practicing the dutty whine right now, the Matisyahu is the world’s first Hasidic Jewish reggae star and is working on his second album, and reggae ton is tearing up the airwaves.
Whether it’s down in a sweaty cramped basement in Brooklyn, a posh London night club, a swanky bar in Montreal and on the stretch of Miami beach, it’s happening. In shanty towns like places in Barbados, Trinidad, Antigua and Jamaica it keeps happening. Turntables, sound systems, dancehall and night club speakers proclaim that it keeps growing and the Reggaeloution can’t stop.
To comment on this article, or to advertise with us, or to subscribe to New York’s favorite Pan-African weekly investigative newspaper, or to send us news tips, please call (212) 481-7745 or contact [email protected]