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Naked Reggae Music!!!!
That's what most Jamaican reggae singers are inspired by; STRUGGLE! I don’t know if you’ve ever listened closely to a Bob Marley or a Peter Tosh song legalize it. These songs are all talking about the livid struggle. The struggle of men who are seeking desperately for something they need or the end to their grueling fight for a cause. Let’s pack up all the sweet sing along tunes or the faintly luring curiosity of a man flashing his locks on a stage might embark upon you. What’s left? Their lyrics; raw words that most people don’t really hear. If it wasn’t for the rhythm from the base guitar or the soothing wail of the man with the microphone showered by the lift of his background singers, you would probably just say that he is a mad man straight from the streets. “The end is nigh!” Am I right?
Let me delve into a bit of history to lucidify things a bit for you:
Becoming an artist
Now reggae music began in the 1960s. It was there a cosmic fusion between a plethora of genres (Ska-Jackie Mittoo and Winston wright , rock steady, rhythm and blues and even jazz) and the stench of men on the brink of poverty and committing unlawful deeds, all culminated into what we now know as reggae.
The streets: Now when I say the streets I don’t mean that these are vagabonds. But instead what I mean is that some of them find themselves during the early political struggles (PNP and JLP), where men in suits forgot about the people and only remembered the joy of winning. It is here that many underprivileged Jamaicans found themselves inevitably scraping the bottom of life’s jar for survival; man a hustla, a popular statement. Dirty politics was one of the core reasons why many persons back then suffered. How guns got to our soils was also more than rumored to be due to politics,(Mark wignall). Picture yourself living a confined space where life itself has denied you of its basic provisions, and the only thing left for you to do is procreate with the woman/women next to you, and next to release you’re succumbed anger on the males around you. Options are minimal in the ghetto. It’s these elements that will scar men negatively throughout their lifetime, (the birth of his demons).
What next? We see that the reek of poverty lunges men to the streets to fend for food or the latter to a studio, (Studio one in particular).
Hope: It’s here at the studios where young boys or young men like Dennis brown, Toots and the Maytals john holt and many others find themselves. Oh and by the way if you don’t know any of these artists, then you need to do some serious research. They fight to express life through their songs, singing only that which they know. They know that their mother was killed gruesomely by a police, they know that they’ve never seen their father, they know what it feels like to kiss death. It’s this they use to reproduce their bitter wisdom into words with sounds. One love, one of bob Marley’s biggest songs, why do you think he sang that, where did the words come from. These songs serve as a release, the cry of a desperate boy who dreamed for something he’s never seen. When you see a man performing on a stage whirling his locks he’s not just a performer a protesting man, yielding his picket fence. “Look at what life has done to me. Let’s do better!” It’s their medicine from a world of illnesses
Jamaicans line up on the street for a singing competion
From here on we’ve seen where artists like bob Marley Peter tosh and etc… become global legends. The bitter woes of their past has created nectar that people from all parts of the world are compelled to have. It’s after this they find themselves welcoming unprecedented riches. A combination drums, rhythm guitars, echoing singers and the expression clouded look of the man dancing ritualistically on stage woos and fascinates millions. But I remind you that he dances on hot coals. He dances and sings the pains that he knows in hope of a listening friend.
A blazing trail: Many present and young artists such as Cronix, Tyrus, Riley Etana, Queen Ifrica are now feeding off the ‘Vybz’ and swing of their icons. They learn how to channel the wiles of their lives tales into songs. Here are some new young artists you might like.
Who do you think has had a longer journey from poverty?
Bob Marley tries to unite politicains
The Demons of Reggae
However as a Jamaican it pains me to say that old habits die hard. Picture this appraisal. If you take a lion out of the wild where he no longer has to kill for his meat, where things come to him while he waits patiently; you take the hunt (the adrenaline from the beast). How will his/her environmentally developed psychosis deal with such a change? This is where many people both locally and abroad have seen where violence and crime follows many reggae artists; the newer ones in particular. But picture Peter Tosh a reggae legend; shot dead in his house in 1987 when a three armed gang came to his house demanding money, a prolific Jamaican dancer Mr. Bogle shot and killed at a dance, Bounty killer a famous dance hall artist claimed to be involved in the beating of a woman with a hammer and there are many more examples that I could give. Now I can’t say for sure whether or not the artists in any of these events were truly involved in any criminal activity throughout their demise or accusations. But the identifiable fact is that violence simply seems to follow a lot of them.
No if you may have noticed only one reggae artist was named above in an altercation, and it was one in which there was no proven fact of any criminalistic nature on the artists ideal. This brings me to my next topic of discussion, Dancehall; the bad seedling of reggae. Firstly I must say that many persons find it extremely exhilarating with its fast beats and deep cognizance of reveling and self-gratification. So yes you’ll find a handful that will say that dancehall is inspirational, especially because there are some artists that produce good quality music. However it is still widely seen as mirroring violence, war, Gunman mentality, dynamic and lividly sexual contents. And I remind you that it is this music that is now rampaging throughout the schools, buses and closed doors of many innocent teenagers. Vybz Kartel for example, another artist that easily rolls off the tongue. He has been imprisoned for the murder of a certain man called Clive Williams. But even though he is behind bars he still remains to be one of the most famous names in dancehall, and more so than he as ever been before! In the video below a dance hall artist confirms that they are only singing what they know.
If you ask me dancehall is tarnishing what many reggae artists have worked so hard for (A music that represents healing for themselves and others). The artist that have evolved reggae into dancehall are said be described as teaching or displaying their demons as opposed to repressing or relinquishing them as other’s have done in the past. What we find then is that the struggle of ordinary Jamaicans in the past has reaped prosperity, but in the latter years their craft has is being poorly emulated by their young fans. Has reggae failed?
Here’s a list where there is a demarcation between what some call hardcore and quality music.
Complete Opposites right?
Repulsion scale (10-0)