Reggae music; the love child of ska and rocksteady.
Born from the struggles and oppression of the people of one small Caribbean island, Jamaica.
What started out as an expression of social criticism and a channel that gave a voice to the voiceless within Jamaica, has now become an iconic genre listened to by millions across the globe. Musical legends such as Toots & the Maytals and Bob Marley have all served as ambassadors for this music genre and have helped to give the small island of Jamaica a noticeable presence in the global community.
This seemingly little blip of an island is certainly one of the most recognized and influential countries within the musical world.
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Reggae Music in Jamaica
Growing up as a Jamaican child it’s inevitable to hear reggae music since it is widely played across local radio stations and heard in everyday life. This musical presence was magnified for me since I grew up in a family with a strong musical background. Music was the staple of my household as my father was the DJ of a sound system and a radio DJ for one of Jamaica’s local stations RJR.
One of my earliest memories from my childhood is of me sitting with my father among his thousands of vinyl records that he had collected from his early youth. His music room was a shrine to all his musical tastes but of course his largest collection was of reggae. Nights upon end I’d listen to him play his vinyls and sit in awe of all his musical knowledge. Little did I know that I too was gaining the love and wealth of knowledge of this wonderful music genre.
Related Article: The Bob Marley Museum: Kingston’s Ode to the King of Reggae
Plan Your Trip to Jamaica
Reggae Music Revival
As I grew older I found myself exploring different international musical genres, pushing Reggae music to the backseat.
It wasn’t until I hit my early twenties that this musical genre began making its way back into my life. Live concerts and Jamaica’s seemingly new revival of the genre sparked my interest. Upcoming artists like Protoje, Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid and Jesse Royal began giving new life to a music genre I once considered as one for my father’s generation. I was drawn to the creative, youthful culture of the new Jamaican Reggae scene, to say the least.
Scenes such as Dub Club, Dubwise and Jamnesia help to harvest and nurture the renewed energy and interest arising from the Jamaican Reggae scene. Despite recognizing the significant role Reggae music played in my life and that of my fellow Jamaicans, I was never quite aware of how powerful the impact of Reggae music was in the international scene.
Reggae Music in Switzerland
Reggae has an enormous and increasing presence in Europe. Festivals like Summerjam in Cologne Germany and Rototom Sunsplash in Spain (which boasts to be the biggest European Reggae festival with over 200k patrons yearly) are testament to the dominant presence of this Jamaican genre in Europe.
In Switzerland, this proves to be no different. Not long after the birth of Reggae music in the 1960’s it was already making its way into the hearts and ears of the Swiss people. Reggae’s presence was so influential that in the 1970’s a popular Swiss band named Rumpelstilz created a song with a distinct reggae influence named “Kiosk”.
Today the scene is larger than ever, especially in cities like Zurich.
My first encounter with Reggae outside of my home island of Jamaica came in 2016 when I moved to Switzerland. I was introduced to this niche scene by my boyfriend, who plays as a Reggae/Dancehall DJ in St. Gallen Switzerland.
What an eye opener this move truly was.
The music I once considered a genre for my father suddenly transformed into one that was relatable and “hip”.
There are quite a few Swiss artists who have also adopted the reggae culture. Even more interesting is the fact that they put their own special twist on the music genre by using their own local dialect, Swiss German. Artists such as Dodo and Jo Elle all sing a type of Reggae music that the Swiss people can relate to.
Swiss Reception of Jamaican Reggae Artistes
Although Switzerland has its own reggae artists it is without question that the artists who get the most fame are the authentic Jamaican reggae artists themselves.
Clubs such as the Rote Fabrik in Zurich play a key role in hosting concerts that feature Jamaican reggae artistes. These venues are almost always jam-packed with reggae music lovers eager to see authentic Jamaican reggae artistes.
I’ve been to concerts featuring young reggae artists such as Kabaka Pyramid, Sevana, Jah’Mila and concerts too with veterans in the Jamaican musical industry such as Damian Marley and Ken Boothe. The reception is always the same; the Swiss people absolutely love it!
It’s always a proud moment to watch my fellow Jamaicans receive such acclaim for spreading the musical culture of our small island.
Wi Likkle but Wi Tallawah
Even though Jamaica is but ¼ th the size of Switzerland, it is undeniable the reach of Jamaica’s musical culture extends far beyond its physical parameters. As my fellow Jamaicans would say “Wi likkle but we tallawah”; A saying expressing the great magnitude of our presence despite our small geographical size.
Are you a fan of reggae music? How is reggae music received in your country?
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