So, July 1st is now designated International Reggae Day. thanks to the efforts of Andrea Chung, who fought long and hard, to have this Day, Accepted, Acknowledged, and Revered, for its import, in recognizing the efforts and hard work of the early trailblazing pioneers, whose work, creativity, and entrepreneurial hutzpah, brought Reggae out of the urban ghettos and made it into a world power.
Now, that Reggae Is A World Power, it is interesting to see all the Waggonists hopping on board, hoping that the music will give them a lift, but in the early days, when Promoters, Writers, Performers, and Musicians were in the trenches, and hoping for a strength, those same powers, turned their back on those who needed help. In Fact, not only did they turn their back, they denounced the Music as being Counter-productive and destructive.
That these same self-serving hypocrites are seeking to ride Reggaes Gravy train to the bank, is as palatable as seeing the new Ganga-converts, who for years frowned on the use of Ganja publicly, whilst profiting privately, now at the forefront of the new entrepreneurial Ganga movement.
And so, Reggae, is no longer declasse, in fact, it’s now regarded as high-fashion, being featured in Hollywood Movies, Global Commercials; And its Musicians and Artists the toasts of the musically Woke.
As we commemorate another July 1st, lets not forget the Spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, which was Reggae’s initial mantra, before it was hijacked by two-bit hustlers who transformed the music into one of warring tribes, promoting Murder, Misogyny, Homophobia, Choppers and Chopping. But let us not forget that The Tourist Board, The Government Of Jamaica; Corporate Jamaica, once scorned and treated the Music and its exponents, with disdain and as public enemies.
Its not that we want to dwell on these rank hypocrites, but we should use their history, to understand why to this day, there’s no comprehensive Cultural Policy, that includes and or promote Reggae, And now that Reggae, is a global force, let us demand that it be now curated for best-practices; that the infrastructure be put in place to assist with its international Marketing and Promotion, pretty much the same way, we Promote Tourism.
Finally, to commemorate this year’s staging of International Reggae Day, We generated A Top 10 List, of those whose contribution took the Reggae out of the doldrums and into its own on the World Stage.
- Chris Blackwell: Had an ear for new and emerging sounds, and was one of the earliest producers, to get behind the music and push it uphill until it started resonating on the British Market and then exploded on the International Musical scene. Now Chris Blackwell’s role cannot be overstated as the early Conduit, that took Reggae out of the urban ghettos of Jamaica, and unto the world stage via Britain.
- Robert Nesta Marley: Enough cannot be said and or written about the effect Bob Marley had, in taking Reggae to the World. Bob Marley was A Rebel With a Cause, and at a time when the World and Counter Culture desperately needed one. We are talking 60s and 70s here when social ills such as Institutional Racism, Apartheid In South Africa; and the Global Struggle of the underserved and under-represented people needed a champion. Politically, we had champions such as Fidel Castro, Michael Manley, Samora Machel, and Nelson Mandela, languishing in a South African Prison; his wife Winnie, fighting and doing her darnedest to keep his name and the Struggle alive. Against the suppression supported by US President Ronald Regan; British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And Pic Botha, in South Africa.It was a time ripe for social revolution and Bob Marley took the fight to the Oppressors, using Music as his weapon of war. So much so that the American CIA was Charged with blacklisting or assassinating; And because of his musical militancy, Reggae was Banned In South Africa, as it was (rightly) deemed revolutionary. Truth: Bob Marley, is remembered and celebrated for his Music, but he was very much the Freedom Fighter, whose music helped to liberate Many African Countries from under the yolk of Colonial Oppression,
- Mille Small: One of the earliest Global Ambassadors of Ska/Reggae. Her chart-topping Cover of My Boy Lollipop made her an international sensation and made the international audience sit up and pay attention to the new sound and stars coming out of Jamaica.
- Don Drummond: Sadly Don Drummond’s Talent and early Contribution to Reggae music, became overshadowed by the tragedy that overtook his life. With reports of him reportedly going insane; and during an insane jealous rage, attacking and stabbing to death his live-in companion Anita ‘Marguerita’ Mahfood. Lost in the narrative is his brilliance as a musician, a fantastically talented Trombonist,, who as a Founding Member of the Skatellites, helped in defining if not creating the Reggae Sound. And who as an early disciple of Rastafari, was instrumental in forging the link between Rastafari and Reggae Music.
- Clement Coxone Dodd: The Founding Father of Reggae, as it was his Studio 1, Recording Studio, that was at the forefront of defining the sounds of Ska and Reggae, in the early 1950 and 1960s, when Studio executives, largely encouraged aspiring Jamaican musicians and performers, to copy the Country and Western sounds coming out of the United States; or Soca, coming out of Trinidad and Tobago. Sir Coxone Dodd, was one o,f if not, the very first Srudio owner and Producers who entertained, encouraged, and promoted the early inner-city sound, that was Ska, which branched into Reggae, and eventually, captured the imagination of the World.
- Sonia Pottinger: At a time when women were basically widow-dressing and or Arm-candy, for their husbands and or companions, Sonia Pottinger, dared to be different by helping to chart the Course for not only the development of Reggae Music but also a Management Structure, for the emerging reggae artistes and musicians. Truly a pioneer, Sonia Pottinger, probably amassed one of the single largest reggae catalogues, during her years as a Producer and later as a Manager. But her true legacy was probably her role as guide, mentor, and narrator, to young performers, during the infancy of the music and its journey through the early developmental stages, as the music progressed from Mento to Ska, on to Rock-Steady, and the evolution that became Reggae.
- Pat Chin: Pat Chin, is regarded as one of the Corner-Stones of Reggae. Some even say the Foundation. And no surprise as hers was a key and pivotal role in assisting the music to eek find its own feet and eeked out its own space and finally come to terms that it had created its own niche, and that niche had made the World, it’s oyster. The Story of Pat Chin, is synonymous with that of Reggae Music, as in the formative years of Reggae, Patricia Chin and her Husband (Randy) Vincent Chin, owned and operated one of Kingston’s first Record Shop, known simply as “Randy’s”, but the brand, eventually became symbolic of Indie labels and a cornerstone of the burgeoning genre, that became reggae. As a distributor, Miss Pat (as she became known), and her husband Randy were crucial players in the music’s evolution as they were retailers of records and in the early days the practice of budding artists, was to buy records and use them as the foundation for their own sounds, by a process known as Toasting, the front-runner and or precursor to what we now term D-J-ing. Basically, aspiring artists would buy records from Randy’s and in their appearances at the weekly shows would essentially do ‘Voice-Overs’, on originals, eventually creating a “New” record, that hyped demand for them and their craft. Realizing the growing need for Studios to facilitate the demand and help fashion the direction, Randy and Miss Pat, established the Studio 17 Recording Studios, which facilitated the growth of early reggae. In fact, today VP Records, which came out of Randy’s, is the single largest Indie Distributor of Reggae Music Today, but Miss Pat’s legacy is being there on the Ground, early and offering advice and guidance to those whose dream was to make their mark.
- Third World: If Reggae, ever needed Ambassadors, the the Band Third World, was indeed its Ambassador. As this was a band, that first debuted in 1973, and strictly speaking, was not regarded as a Reggae Band, as its members were scions, largely drawn from the Burgeois establishment. They were, however, hip, engaging, and very avant-garde, which had some commentators comparing their sound to Rock. But that was an academic perspective. From a musical perspective, they connected with the Bourgeoisie (translated) Uptown crowd and developed a local following quite early, that blossomed into an international Fanbase, following their hits that became like Anthems, for the Global Reggae Marketplace. Songs Such as; Try Jah Love; Sense Of Purpose; and, Now That We Have Found Love; were international faves, rocking the dancefloors and airwaves, globally, winning over new reggae converts with each performance and or with each airplay. Dubbed a cross-over band by commentators, Third World became just that a bridge connecting to new audiences, who became reggae enthusiasts. For their early and faves With the multi-talented musician Cat Coore as its defacto Leader, along with Ibo Cooper, Irving Jarrett; Bunny Rugs; Richie Daley and Willie Stewart; Third World was truly chart-toppers and their music attracting US College Kids and the alternate Music crowd, already drawn to Reggae, because of its Protest content, socially, politically and intellectually, the band became an instant hit, a bridge that took people from the Hardcore sell of Reggae, to what some considered a less toxic version of the music.
- Toots Hibbert: Dubbed the James Brown of Reggae, by one commentator, Toots Hibbert, was the personification of Reggae, his early Hit; 54-46, was relatable on all levels as it was the embodiment of the Struggle, to get Jamaica and Jamaicans to accept the Music of the People, that was from the People and for the people. Toots, eschewed the ‘Bad-man’ flavour that many early artists adopted as their persona in the hope of connecting with their audience, opting instead to hone his skills as a performer and became one of the best performers in the history of the music. The beauty of Toots and his long career was that he connected at all levels and in an unobtrusive manner. Clearly a protagonist, he never made the music threatening; and he himself, never represented a threat, but represented the Music and was one of its best Brand Ambassadors. Literally, Toots Hibbert spanned the years as a performer and made the music that much more accessible to all the generations he spanned. And this was so, from the beginning.
- The Founding Partners Of Reggae Sunsplash: Don Green; Tony Johnson, Ronnie Burke; John Wakeling, and Ed Barclay. These Five Jamaicans, who were not performers and or Producers at the time, probably has made the biggest impact on Reggae Music, in terms of Internationalizing the music, when they came together, and against all odds, formed Synergy, the group that promoted Reggae Sunsplash, and the vehicle, that was to launch the single largest International Reggae Festival ever hosted. First staged in 1978, at Jarret Park, in Montego Bay St. James, prior to then, Reggae Music was basically regarded as Low-brow, ghetto music, frowned upon by the Jamaican establishment, the Government; Corporate Jamaica, and importantly, the Jamaican Music Industry, (With a v\few notable exceptions). After the inaugural staging of Reggae Sunsplash, Reggae Music that was steadily gaining a foothold in the music fraternity as a new genre, of protest-music, became a stable, with fans and followers across the globe. Not only was Reggae now fashionable, its male exponents, became Sex-Symbols and international stars. Sadly, the enterprising youngmen, who launched the Reggae to the World, were eventually bankrupted by their vision and ambition. But their’s was an immeasurable contribution to the development of the music, as the Festival became a showcase for the best and emerging Reggae Artists, and the Blue-print for the Staging of Reggae Festivals across the Globe, as its dusk to dawn model, found international favour, making all-nighters of Reggae Festival a staple of the international music scene.