I may sound biased, but I don’t think I am. Reggae music is the best. Now, there are different eras of reggae – call them styles if you like — that may have different degrees of bestness, but I am talking about the era of the classic Bob Marleys, Dennis Browns and Beres Hammonds. Some fine Jamaican singers. Incredible lyrics. Among the best, not just on the Rock, but in the world.
So, here I am on a Friday evening, listening to an online station from Jamaica. As I write, Chronixx just came on. Carrying on the legacy of the guys I mentioned before. “Smile for me Jamaica.” And I am in seventh heaven. Perhaps my state of euphoria has been heightened by the Appleton I am sipping. But, not a bad combination, for Appleton, just like reggae, is tops. Or, perhaps it is the Bose noise-canceling headset I am wearing that is helping to create this feeling. Filtering out everything outside of my mind, causing me to hear every beat, every note of every instrument of the songs, with the voices of the artists coming through with amazing clarity. Oh, they’ve now switched to Neo and Shaggy. I have to pause to listen. Wikid! Oh, oh, Junior Gong now! “The bulla price a rise and it no dearer than the pear.” Never knew before that is what he was saying. This headset even makes the lyrics clear! I am hearing words I never managed to decipher before. Bounty Killa is now adding his piece to the Junior Gong track. And I hear someone like Eek-a-Mouse in the background, but am not sure it is him. Nice collab overall.
So, what makes reggae music so special for me? Most importantly, perhaps, it is a happy music. Very upbeat. You cannot hear it and not move to it. Puts you in a jiggy or calm, pensive, yet special mood. Even when it is haunting or nostalgic like an Alton Ellis. Plus it is unique. To me, all the other styles of popular music are cut from the same cloth. But reggae music is different. It stands in a class of its own. And then there are the lyrics. Whether about love, strife, hunger, crime, progress, or hope, it appears they are giving Shakespeare a run. I am singing my head off now, and my wife just poked her head through the door to ask me what was wrong with me. It dawned on me that she couldn’t hear the music I was listening to. Just my off-beat singing floating, or rather, thudding down the stairs. Also reminded me that I am an atrocious singer. While attending university at home in Jamaica, I was part of a group rehearsing songs for a Christmas concert. I thought I was doing well until a guy came up to me and said, “Bredrin, you can rehearse all you want, but on the night of the concert, do, just mime the songs, please.” Nuff said. And he was one of my best friends! I guess honesty is the best policy.
Dexta Daps is now rolling through, extolling his love for a girl who must be a tap-a- naaris. “For all when you have ten man mi haffi be eleven.” She must be super special! “Cause all when dem say six man go deh, guess who mek seven?” The answer is clear. Him! He does! She makes him feel like he is in heaven. Wikid lyrics! Raunchy, but delivered in a clean manner. That is how skillful a lyricist he is, though I know there is a version of the x-rated kind. And don’t let me start about the rhythm. Magical syncopation! Through the headset I am able to concentrate on each instrument when I want to, and I try to identify them. Then I relax and let them all combine to give me the most wonderful sensation of the power of the music. The power of reggae. Pure niceness!
“Our father, who art in Zion, hallowed be thy name.” And Buju is here! Shifting from love lyrics to lyrics of adulation for the almighty, whomever you conceive him to be. That is the beauty of reggae. No topic is off limit. It is a conduit for the expression of thoughts and of ideas. To say what is on your mind. What is on the artists’ minds. Lyrics could be about personal sentiments or could give air to what the populace is feeling. Sheer artistry in the metaphors that convey the messages. Crafty symbolism.
Actually, soca is not too bad. The station has now switched to Trini music, and it is sounding real good, as my friends from there would say. Now I am wondering if I was right in my earlier statement about reggae being the best. Well, I am now biased, as opposed to my statement up above, as I am still going to say it is the best. But, listening to the soca, maybe it is not right to classify and rank music genres. Each is special, with its own rhythm, and its own inclination towards certain topics. Soca is a happy music too, with loads of lyrics generated towards win’ing and gyrating and carnivalism and having a good time! OK, guess what? It has just hit me. Caribbean music is the bomb! We are a special people, and we love fun. Music is one way of having fun and sharing fun! Have you ever listened to the cadence of Kompas from Haiti? Or zouk from Martinique? How about Cuba and the DR? My goodness, we in the Caribbean are rich! At least when it comes on to music.
And would you believe, they are now playing a soca piece, sung by a Trini — not sure of the name — but with a Jamaican DJ, Mr Vegas, popping in. Good combination. No better way of showing we in the Caribbean are one! Love me some Caribbean!