By: Elorm Nutakor
In recent months, there’s been one music genre that I just can’t get enough of. It’s not obscure, nor is it a relatively new genre that just emerged. The genre I am referring to is reggae, a form of music that I have reconnected with and that is starting to reconnect with the world in subtle ways.
My love for reggae is not surprising — it was one of the first forms of music I was introduced to as a child, when my dad would play CD’s of the late Lucky Dube. As I grew up, my personal taste in music gravitated towards more popular genres like hip-hop and alternative rock. My renewed interest in reggae actually sparked around 2010 when Nas & Damian Marley released their collaboration album, Distant Relatives. The mix of hip-hop, reggae, and dancehall influences and its lyrics about Africa captivated me. Distant Relatives still remains one of my favorite albums to this day.
After listening to that album, I no doubt started looking for some of my dad’s old reggae CD’s in our house and rediscovered something I had been missing for a number of years. Reggae is a very spiritual and emotional form of music. Listening to it has, at times, brought me to the point of tears (or at least I’ve imagined myself crying while listening to reggae). The lyrics often deal with real-life situations that hit close to home, but at the same time provide me with a more positive outlook on life. Even when the artists speak about negative circumstances, a tiny hint of hope is usually present. Lyrics tends to be so straightforward yet so true, and the accents of the artists only add to the listening experience. Plus, I’m convinced something truly magical happens in me every time I hear the female background vocals (present in a lot of popular reggae music).
The tropical sounds and instrumentation of more traditional forms of reggae induce an atmosphere of relaxation, while the rapped, up-tempo sounds of dancehall are perfect for dancing or even just wilding out. Reggae is music that influences the mind and soul. I don’t know if it’s just my African roots, but when I listen to reggae I often dream about growing some dreadlocks and move to the Caribbean or somewhere in Africa and just chill. Nothing could get in the way of my good vibes. The more I listen, the more vivid this dream gets.
Now, as far as reggae is concerned, just about everyone has heard of Bob Marley — but reggae didn’t die when he did. His sons have actually done a great job of following in his footsteps. For instance, Ziggy Marley has released tons of albums and even performed the theme song for the children’s TV show Arthur. Stephen and Damian Marley have also been active artists for years; they even manage their father’s record label, Tuff Gong. The Marleys, however, are not the only ones currently keeping reggae alive.
In the early 2000’s, genres like ska formed as an infusion of alternative and reggae music. Bands of this time including No Doubt have clear roots in reggae. Artists like Shaggy, Sean Paul, and Wyclef Jean gained relevance with their reggae and dancehall music. As a matter of fact, MAGIC!’s reggae infused song “Rude” was one of the biggest songs of 2014. Snoop Dogg even briefly change his name to Snoop Lion and recorded a reggae album (but let’s just pretend like that didn’t happen.) In recent years, reggae has started to see a bit of revival. Artists like Major Lazer, Protoje, Popcaan, and more are big names in reggae today who represent the reggae revival. Reggae is certainly not dead, and while it may look a little different today than it did in Bob Marley’s time, it still stands as a powerful music form.