Saturday, April 27, 2019

Roots Reggae Revival: Consciousness Awareness and Overstanding

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.... to overstand is to comprehend a concept and why it is the way it is.


Those of you that have been following my blog know that I believe that the golden age of reggae was the 70s and that reggae has always been a vehicle and voice to express injustice and raise consciousness. This is something that is again becoming stronger in the eyes of the new crop of reggae artists. I 'll come to that latter.

Understanding and Overstanding

To raise consciousness is to 'Overstand' What does this mean and how does this relate to reggae? Well, one definition comes from the Rastafari philosophy where everyone is equal under god hence the term 'I n I'.  As such, any concept or idea created by us cannot be superior to us. Therefore, to be aware and correctly comprehend a concept or idea in the right context is to 'overstand' it.

Being able to understand or overstand does not in itself mean that you will be liberated from whatever struggle you are engaged with.

So let's use an example, debt. We have all at some time played the role of debtor i.e. owe someone or some corporation money. We understand that borrowing can help us achieve things quickly and that we will have to pay interest on what we borrowed. We also understand that we can also borrow more.

Now, if we don't have a certain level of overstanding we are going to have issues. For example, we need to overstand that we have given a certain level of power to the lender over our destiny if we do not abide by their terms and conditions and that lending to us was not an act of charity but an un-emotional business enterprise to make a profit that will drive their behaviour. So to overstand is to comprehend a concept and why it is the way it is.

So back to music. Something that roots reggae or conscious reggae has been doing since reggae music began is expressing the trials and tribulations of life and also raising awareness of why life is more difficult than it should be, overstanding. This was the driving force of the golden age of reggae in the 70s and the reasons for wanting to spread those messages still exist today. However, reggae is now a genre with multiple sub-genres some more popular than others.

Roots Reggae Revivalists

Reggae having many sub-genres a testament to the versatility and creativity of the music and the artists. The dominant force over the last couple of decades has been Dancehall which generally has a completely different vibe and message to roots reggae. But in a world where people are crying out for change in the way things are done and music that epitomises this message, it is conscious reggae music that can satisfy this demand.

The last few years have seen the rise of young Jamaican artists referred to as 'Roots Reggae Revivalists'.

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consciousness raising, reggae revivalist, Jah9, new roots,
consciousness raising, reggae revivalist, new roots,
Jesse Royal

The shining light of this movement is Chronixx but it includes Jah9, Protoje, Dre Island, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal and others. These 'revivalists' play consciousness raising reggae increasing awareness and overstanding to an ever-increasing audience.

The reggae foundation artists and legends who have always continued to express conscious messages in their music will doubtless disagree that roots reggae ever went away or needing reviving. But like most changes and trends in the world, they are led by the young generation and it seems that uplifting and spiritual lyrics are what many seek.

The young revivalists have taken the core roots reggae vibe and added their own modern twists. This mix of conscious lyrics and progressive roots reggae riddims seems to be taking them to international stardom. This can only be good for reggae music, having rising talents writing great music and spreading uplifting and positive messages across the world.

The more overstanding there is the more change there will be.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Buju Banton a Long Walk to Freedom

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Buju Banton

'every genre needs an icon or icons that can drive the music forward on an international level, a symbol that transcends the music.' 

The return of Buju Banton to Jamaica and the success of the 'Long Walk to Freedom' tour has shown that reggae still loves an icon. Someone who represents the core struggle that created reggae music. At the moment, I believe there is a global vacuum but for how much longer.

Buju Bantan

Mark Anthony Myrie later to become Buju Banton, was born in 1973 in the Kingston, Jamaica. His music career started when he was 13 performing on sound systems.  He was destined for success and eventually released his first single 'The ruler'.

Coming from a social background that was typical of a hungry musician and which underpinned the original message of reggae music, Buju had forthright views that he was not afraid to express in his music. This led to controversy after the release of some of his works like 'Love Me Browning' which touched the controversial topic of skin hue and 'Boom Bye Bye' which contained homophobic lyrics. The latter attracting worldwide attention and causing considerable damage to his international career. However, this did not halt his progress.

Buju transformed himself from dancehall king to embrace the teachings of Rastafari in the 1990s. However, such was his talent that his success increased even more. One of his hit singles "Murderer," sung over a Mafia and Fluxy built riddim, was inspired by the murder of his friend Panhead which reflected the violence in Jamaica at the time. He went on to win Grammys for the best reggae album in 2009 for 'Rasta Got Soul' and 2011 for 'Before the Dawn'.

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Buju in Concert

Everything came to an abrupt halt in 2011 when Buju was convicted in the US and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. This could easily have been the end of his career not just because of the time away from the music scene but had Buju lost that magic touch? Well, the Long Walk to Freedom tour has put that notion to bed. His performances have had critical acclaim, Buju is Back!

Reggae Icons

Reggae has gone global but in this new wave of reggae popularity, it is driven by local preferences. Each reggae market has its own flag bearer, artists or bands that deliver the local brand of reggae music their followers want. This is great for the diversity of sound and creativity of reggae but, every genre needs an icon or icons that can drive the music forward on an international level, a symbol that transcends the music.

This is no mean feat. Reggae was blessed by the presence of the likes of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Even now if you travel to the outer reaches of the world it is likely that their image or name will be instantly recognisable. These are the heights that the current reggae stars must try to attain.

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There are some great new reggae artists who may one day turn out to be global icons Chronixx comes to mind. But is the mantle of global reggae icon something that Buju Banton can attain. He has a huge following and there is a lot of international attention at the moment. 

Maybe this is his time we will have to wait and see. But one thing is for sure, whoever it is, they will have the support of all lovers of reggae music.

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