I had a very long conversation yesterday with one of Jamaica’s most successful musicians who is without doubt a pioneer in the advancement of reggae music internationally . This musician, who is now based in the USA expressed deep concern for the future of reggae music from Jamaica in light of what is now being described by some persons in the North American music industry as “Modern Reggae” . As the conversation progressed I discovered that the music recorded and performed by American bands such as SOJA, Slightly Stoopid, Iration, Rebelution and Stick Figure, is being branded “Modern Reggae” .
I am driven to write this note because of the very high level of respect I have for the person my conversation was with, and the coincidental publication of a relevant article in the Jamaica Gleaner today Sunday September 22, 2019 . This so-called “Modern Reggae” has grown to dominate the reggae festival circuit in the USA, and led to the recently announced partnership between the Cali Roots and Reggae Rise Up festivals, the two largest reggae festivals in the USA. In recent years “Modern Reggae” artistes have also dominated the Billboard Reggae Charts, with reggae music from Jamaica playing second fiddle . In May 2019 Cali Roots Radio was launched on SiriusXM’ reggae channel The Joint .
In my opinion there is a good and bad side to this thing called “Modern Reggae” On the good side, the rising popularity of bands such as The Green, Common Kings, J Boog, Fortunate Youth, and others mentioned above, and the growth of reggae festival audiences in the USA, will most definitely bring new and mostly younger fans to discover and support reggae music . The bad side is what my respected Jamaican musician friend fears – that there is an effort afoot to create and claim ownership of a new brand of reggae music, and that traditional reggae music artistes primarily from Jamaica will fail to take advantage of the growth of reggae music now being experienced in the USA, the largest single market for music and entertainment in the world .
The debate about the current state of reggae music and the role of Jamaica in the global reggae music market has been ongoing for several years . Maybe it is time for a serious reggae music business summit that brings together a group of persons who can act to design and implement a collective strategy and action plan for the advancement of the Jamaican music industry within the global music market .
“ACTION, NOT A BAG A MOUTH”
Photo: © 2019 Sista Irie