With the advent of digital music and the popularity of downloads, it seemed that vinyl 45s would be relegated to museums but, they seem to be making a comeback. In the UK scene some of the bands from the golden age of vinyl reggae are still going Misty in Roots and Aswad. Others are making a comeback like Black Slate. That got me thinking and I started looking at the reggae scene.
Back in the day when vinyl was king there was a lot of underlying tension in the community with ideals and causes like 'Rock Against Racism' which held rallies and festivals where reggae artists often had the opportunity to be billed. The music also reflected this 'reality' and this 'crossed over' because the issues could be related to by many parts of the community, not just the black community. Because of reggae's ability to be a vehicle for expression, some of the best reggae music was written and produced. I believe this period was reggae's heyday and all this great music captured on vinyl.
It felt great to have the latest single or even better buying what was called a 'pre-release' which was an imported single from Jamaica that was not generally available. To have these in a physical collection of records was something to be proud of. So there was always a rush to the record shop to get the latest singles before they were sold out.
With digital technology came the increased availability of music and also the need to do without a physical representation of the music. I remember thinking, this will never take off. People paying for music they don't own with no physical asset. How wrong can you be. However, the new breed of music lovers are beginning to rediscover the joy of owning something their musical heroes produced. Because of this, some artists are now releasing some tracks only on vinyl. The few pressing plants that still exist are in high demand with lead times for a run of vinyls being months. How times change.
In the dub scene, fans are willing to pay a good some for 'Specials' which are very limited edition vinyls that are not on general release. The merchandise table for the top sound systems and DJs now doing a roaring trade in vinyls.
Looking at the world at the moment, we are in a period of uncertainty and although the sub genres of reggae like lovers rock and dancehall are popular, there is definitely a rise in the popularity of Roots and Culture, Reality and Conscious reggae.Whether out of Jamaica like #RagingFyah #Jah9 and #MorganHeritage or from the USA with #Rebelution and #Groundation, there seems to be a return to music with a cause. Because of this I believe fans are feeling a stronger connection with the artists and want something more tangible than an mp3 audio file.
Reggae music was born from the need for people to have a vehicle for their voice and it is still a vehicle for the people to be heard. Only now the voice is also on vinyl.