With February being Reggae Month, this is the second in an eight-part series looking at reggae's global influence. The music originated in Jamaica, but it has been embraced by people in many countries. Today, we feature Raz Bin Sam from Israel.
BORN in Jerusalem and raised in Tel Aviv, singer Raz Bin Sam says his Jewish heritage and love for reggae music have helped shape his world view.
Living in Australia for the past 13 years, Raz Bin Sam told Splash recently that there is a spiritual bond with Israel and reggae.
"Reggae itself is massive in Israel, there's a strong Kingston-Tel Aviv connection between artistes/producers/promoters... I think it has a lot to do with the Judaism-Rastafarian link, King David, Lion Of Judah, Jerusalem, etc," he said. "Also, the huge Ethiopian community in Israel adds to the vibe, for sure."
Raz Bin Sam says his songs cover serious issues such as the Middle East conflict. In 2010, he released an album, Own This Life, which was produced in Australia and Israel.
His latest album, Children Of Israel, was released in January.
"It's an acoustic album with an Israeli band, recorded and produced in Israel. It has a relaxed vibe and a positive message I'm sure people will appreciate," he said.
Several Jamaican artistes including Yellowman, Israel Vibration and Ziggy Marley have toured Israel in the last decade, making it an emerging market for reggae in the Middle East.
Raz Bin Sam says he was inspired by 'foundation' roots acts like Burning Spear and The Gladiators in his youth, but counts Sizzla as his favourite contemporary reggae entertainer.
"When I discovered Sizzla, that was it! I wouldn't listen to anything else for about six years, I just listened to only Sizzla. Then I discovered 'Midnite' from St Croix, they blew my mind!"
As for Australia, Raz Bin Sam says the reggae scene Down Under has grown in major centres like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, thanks to events such as the Byron Bay Reggaefest and Raggamuffin Festival which attract some of the biggest names in dancehall/reggae.
Raz Bin Sam is yet to play Jamaica. This, he hopes, will happen in 2013. He has performed in New Zealand and Vanuatu (Pacific Islands).
"My babymother is from Brown's Town, St Ann and we're planning on going over this year to reconnect. I also have friends there and mainly, I got to go to the dancehall!" he said.
Recently, he signed with Jamaican label DasVibes Productions, which has worked with artistes such as Daddy Rings, Gentleman and Elijah Prophet.