Where is reggae's biggest market?
IT is clear, reggae has reached all corners of the Earth.
The question is often asked, where is the biggest marketplace for the uniquely Jamaican brand of music? Even though France seems to get the nod from reggae watchers, it is safe to say the situation is dynamic to the point where the jury is still out.
According to producer/ engineer Sam Clayton Jr, France is the biggest reggae market outside of Jamaica. "I know France is the biggest reggae country outside of Jamaica. Yes, it's a bigger market than the US, it's a bigger market than England," the son of well-known Rastafari elder Sam Clayton Sr, leader of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, told Splash.
"The USA is of course five times the population of France," he explained, "but in terms of the size of the country and the amount of gigs that you can do there, and the amount of artistes that come there, it is actually the biggest market for reggae music. I think France is where England was 20, 30 years ago. In terms of discovering reggae music, learning about, that's where France is today."
Clayton's view was supported by veteran roots reggae chanter Max Romeo, who declared that "France is the headquarters for reggae."
One of the most toured ambassadors of foundation Jamaican music, Romeo firmly asserted, "Europe is where I am, musically. Europe is where reggae is happening; roots reggae, my type of music. France is the headquarters for reggae, real reggae music, right now. France control reggae, not Jamaica; Jamaica control dancehall, not reggae. And a lot of people don't understand the difference."
But of more recent vintage, CEO of Jamaica Arts Development Foundation Inc and attorney-at-law Lloyd Stanbury recently threw a spanner into the works asserting that Abidjan -- the former capital of Côte d'Ivoire -- is now the reggae capital of the world.
Earlier this year, fresh from a voyage to West Africa, Stanbury reported that Abidjan is actually considered to be the reggae capital of the world, and while there he was able to witness stirring live presentations of home-grown reggae bands.
"The love and respect for reggae music and Jamaica remain strong. This was evident from my experiences during the many days I spent in Ouagadougou, Dakar and Abidjan. Abidjan is actually considered to be one of the reggae capitals of the world, and while there I was able to witness the stirring live presentations of home-grown reggae bands," he explained.
"I have had the privilege of making three visits this year to West African countries Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal and Burkina Faso, to participate in a series of training workshops for individuals and companies involved in the business of music.
"My interaction with the performers, music producers, entertainment media personnel and general music- loving public in West Africa has allowed me to put into proper perspective the circumstances that have contributed to the growth and popularity of reggae music around the world," Stanbury added.
He attributed this development to the musical works and messages of early reggae pioneers such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse, IJahman Levi, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear who are regarded by Africans as the fuel that carried the flames to burn down apartheid and other injustices faced by the poor black people on the wealthiest continent on Earth.
However, as strong as the popularity of reggae in Europe and Africa, one should not rule out Japan. The history of reggae in Japan began around 1980, with Japanese's reggae pioneers, including DJ Nahki, then a sociology student at Hitotsubashi University, and Rankin Taxi, a 30-something year-old architect at Hazama Construction Company.
This interest fed into the creation of Japansplash — a festival modelled after Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica. At its peak in 1997, this festival was bringing 80 Jamaican artistes, ranging stylistically from the Skatalites to Beenie Man, to Japan every summer for a tour of 10 cities climaxing in Tokyo, in front of an audience of 50,000.
Many Japanese reggae fans credit Japansplash as the single biggest driver in increasing the reggae fan base.