There are now sub genres of Reggae from Dub to Dancehall. But the purest form is Roots Reggae. Since Reggae music’s inception it has spoken to social injustice, rooted for the underdog and through Rastafarianism developed an anti establishment voice like no other genre. Other genres have been rebellious. These come to mind ; Rock and Roll, Punk Rock and Hip Hop, whose roots can be traced to Jamaican sound system culture, see my previous article. These genres are heavy in anti establishment sentiment. Hip Hop had a great run in the 80’s and early 90’s raising awareness to the African-American struggle.
But none have been as consistent in it’s social agenda as Roots Reggae. Roots Reggae artists have chanted down Babylon for decades invoking the warrior spirit. This is not surprising when you take into account Jamaica’s rich history from Nanny and Paul Bogle, to the Pan-African movement and Marcus Garvey, to Rastafarianism and Reggae music with the impact of the late great Bob Marley. It’s no wonder Reggae artists’ lyrics often attack social injustice. But we can’t do it alone and we need many artistic and literary talents to help create real lasting change.
Here is a mix of Reggae lyrical warriors.
The African diaspora has a ripple effect that reaches all corners of the globe. Displacing millions of people robs not only those people of their roots but robs the world of the positive influences that would have been if Africa was left to develop without colonizers. This is the message Roots Reggae has been delivering consistently. In the U.S., the shortest month of the year, February is considered black history month. Many are divided as to whether there should be a black history month at all saying it should be taught as American history all year-long while others take the opportunity to increase their information sharing about the untold truths and numerous major contributions black people have made. These truths cannot be relegated to one month. It is the world’s story not his-story. One thing is certain no matter your race, religion or position in the conversation, or how hard politicians try, it is becoming more difficult to sweep the topic of racial inequality under the rug.
Roots Reggae is always there as a constant and it is great to see more and more dispel colonial lies. From the Black Panther party to the recent release of the Marvel Studios Blockbuster Black Panther. The voice of African ancestors will not be silenced. Many black people in the US and across the world in the African diaspora are rekindling the important discussion around identity. Perhaps the success of the Black Panther soundtrack will influence more music makers to move in a substantive direction. Jay-Z’s most recent album, with the title song and video OJ addressing stereo types, was a good sign.
He went to Jamaica and called on the warrior spirit working with Rastafarian Reggae artist Damian Marley on “Bam”, in the intro he says… “the prophets in the beginning were the musicians, the poets, the writers”. True ting! Maybe on the Black Panther 2 soundtrack we will see some Reggae collaborations. Unity is strength and it is easier to connect in this information age and cross genre lines than ever before. So let’s continue to link up and chant down Babylon. It is ultimately up to each of us as individuals but athletes, musicians and film makers have and can continue to lead the way and help change society by galvanizing the public. Muhammed Ali, Bob Marley and Black Panther are just some of the proof.
Here is Jay-Z featuring Damian Marley – “Bam”