The little island produced the Big Music
Reggae music is conscious music with the truth laid bare for everyone to hear. Bob Marley once quoted that reggae music was a music made by rastas and that it carried the earth force. The Rastafarian message, often in the lyrics, is still strongly conveyed in a lot of the music that is listened to today, however, from the start it was clear you did not have to be a rasta to make or love reggae music. It was a music for the people with the heartbeat rhythm with lyrics about real life and all the expressions of life, love, and love lost. Dancehall came later and is now predominant in Jamaica. Today every country has its own version of reggae sound from Germany to Japan, Israel to India and Hawaii to Brazil.
The slackness of some of the artists and lyrics can be disturbing as it confronts the dark side of the society that has evolved in our time. That said this music is uplifting and penetrates the soul like no other. It will soothe and caress you or make you want to jump out of your chair and do something. It has set the world ablaze and does not compromise to fit in with any culture or society. Some rasta artists include Sizzla, Luciano, Capelton, Bob Marley and family, Culture, Burning Spear, Buju Banton, Inner Circle, Junior Marvin, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. They blast out their conscious lyrics, however controversial, and the heart rhythm with force and determination.
Rastafari existed in Jamaica from the 1930s and definitely staked its claim in the modern music business of the sixties, through musicians like Don Drummond and Lloyd Brevett from the Skatalites. The rastas had been persecuted in Jamaica and children were told to stay away from The Blackheart Man, but in the seventies, they started to rise up and began wearing dreadlocks openly and rasta camps and meeting places were no longer destroyed by the police and soldiers. Michael Manly stood up for the poor and this included the Rasta community. Their style of reggae included conscious lyrics and a heartbeat rhythm which synchronised with the natural movement and rhythm of the people working and moving in their everyday life
Then came The Wailers and their conscious lyrics, powerful heartbeat rhythms and rebel drum and bass. The music took on another dimension. Bob Marley took reggae and ras Tafari out of Jamaica and spread it all over the world and today everyone knows what the symbol of Bob Marley represents. In Africa during the fight for freedom years, if you showed a Jamaican flag it was a sign of unity and that you could be trusted.
Dancehall now fills the streets of Jamaica and some of it is not so conscious. Dancehall artists put down their own riddum mixes and they come and go like the wind. Reggae and it’s manifestations have always reflected the mood of the people and times can be pretty tough in Jamaica these days.
Reggae music and it’s legendary heartbeat are now an international force and has no borders or boundaries. Every country seems to have its own version. Music for the people and a reflection of the times we live in.