Tony Rebel pleased with roots resurgence
There is a cultural breeze blowing through the dancehall and that's refreshing news for Tony Rebel, the singjay who led a similar revival during the 1990s.
"Mi love it, the youths dem a say positive things an' that's what the music an' the country needs," Rebel told the Jamaica Observer. "It's what we promoting that dem singing."
'We' are organisers of Rebel Salute, the annual roots show first staged by Rebel in 1994. Many of the neo-roots acts creating a stir are on the January 18-19 event to be held at Richmond Estate in St Ann.
Among them are Chronixx, Iba Mahr, Dre Island, Hempress Sativa, Kabaka Pyramid and Protoje, who is the best known. Rebel says the current revival bears a glaring similarity to the movement he was involved.
"Every time the music seems to be going to the ground a cultural segment rises to bring it back. It happens every 10 years," he said.
The previous resurgence, Rebel pointed out, occurred in 2004 with the emergence of artistes such as Fantan Mojah, Turbulence, I Wayne and Queen Ifrica. They came to the fore at a time when controversial deejays Vybz Kartel and Mavado were starting to build rabid fan bases.
Unlike their predecessors, the current batch of Rastafarian artistes have not produced a flood of hit songs. However, they have appeared on numerous live events with Rebel Salute being the biggest, to date, for some.
Rebel believes the lack of mainstream success should not be a concern at this point.
"Once they're good, the hit songs will come," he said.
Along with singer Garnet Silk and dub poet Yasus Afari, Tony Rebel spearheaded a cultural movement in the early 1990s, an awareness not seen in Jamaican popular music since the 1970s when Bob Marley and Rasta were the rage.
Everton Blender, Uton Green, Kulcha Knox, Anthony B, Prezident Brown, Luciano, Mikey General and Capleton were other members of that rebirth which countered the risqué sounds of hardcore deejays like Shabba Ranks and his arch-rival Ninja Man.
Silk was best known of the group, scoring a series of hits such as Moma Africa, Zion In A Vision and It's Growing. He died tragically in a fire at his mother's Manchester home in December, 1994 but Rasta's dancehall influence maintained its fire late into that decade.
Almost 20 years after he first hit reggae charts with Fresh Vegetable and Chatty Mouth, Tony Rebel is enjoying his role as elder for the new wave of Rasta acts.
"Remember a we sing 'bout careful what yuh teach the little children, yuh nuh. Wi still have a lot to teach," he said.