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Reggae is alive and well, but evolving

Sunday, February 21, 2021

WHEN you hear the drums and the sweet baseline, your hips start to sway, your knees start to bend, your legs begin to shuffle. The rhythm takes over your body and mentally you go to a place of empowerment. For me, reggae becomes a state of mind.

For over 10 years I have worked with many influential musicians and vessels for reggae music. I've had the pleasure of being a part of the creative process and have witnessed the impact of reggae as the artistes deliver the music to their fans on various world stages as well. Seeing men and women in the audience tilt their heads back and sing up to the heavens with a level of conviction and triumph at the same time is a visual I can't say exists in many other genres.

Yet, for the past five years I've heard the phrase 'The State of Reggae', and that phrase comes with a list of thoughts and questions: What is missing in reggae now? What was reggae like, what does reggae lack, and who is taking reggae away from us?

I want to say reggae is alive and well. Reggae is also evolving as the world continues to nurture, embrace and love our musical stars, our sound, our culture – and we should too.

The phrase “the state of reggae” diminishes the work that is being done by artistes who came after what is perceived as the “golden era” of this music. We continuously compare and reflect on an era that was fresh to the ears of many and flourished as reggae became a potent way of dealing with mirgration and the feeling of alienation. As we may recall during the 1960s and 70s, reggae dominated in United States, Britain, and Africa due to an increase in emigration from Jamaica, and was a potent means to remain connected to home as well as deal with an uprising and the political challenges in Jamaica and around the world. We saw the emergence of artistes like Daddy U-Roy and Big Youth with their toasting style, which would later be infused with the popular American urban elements to give birth to hip hop culture, another fresh sound.

This would evolve into a moment of shared culture. Today the channels which we use to speak or see our loved ones abroad have all changed. This change has also shifted our attention span and the way in which we consume music. For many, music is no longer consumed on radio, instead it's via Facebook, YouTube or a snippet on Instagram. Therefore, are we giving the artistes who continue to sing, write, create reggae any real justice when we are basically being fed what is in our algorithm?

In a recent interview shared by World A Reggae, reggae icon Jimmy Cliff stated “Once a music form has become known and accepted, it doesn't die. It may diminish, but it doesn't die, or it might diminish for a while and then rise up again.” Reggae is alive. As lovers of the genre let's embrace those who we see, hear and know are doing great reggae music. Applaud those who are telling the story of the voiceless or producing the sound which makes our hips sway and our knees bend. Applaud and embrace those artistes who share the message that empowers and shifts our state of mind. Support the radio DJ who chooses to play reggae music and takes a stance that this is what he or she will play. Support the promoters who put on the great concerts and reggae festivals; and support the women who say they will sing reggae and choose not to sing about their body or taking another woman's man.

As reggae music evolves, the message remains – the spiritual component and liberating feeling remain the same. It is for those of us who continue to compare yesterday's reggae to the sound of today to stop. We now need to shift our state of mind. Stop seeking that exact sound and the artistes of 40 and 50 years ago. We will never get back there. Where we are today is a place where artistes are doing great and still captivating the world stage while resonating with a younger generation through a similar message.

“Whenever the world is in turmoil and people are looking for comfort, they go back to the spiritual form of reggae music,” says Cadenza aka Oliver Rodigan.

I look forward to the discussion on the success of reggae. There is a tremendous number of accolades to be shared within our genre of reggae which will help propel and embrace the players and vessels of the music, as well as show the world stage how we are united.

Ronnie Tomlinson is the CEO of Destine Media, a Caribbean artiste public relations and management company.

Her successful transition into the entertainment market started in 2008 after the economic crisis. Being laid off from Goldman Sachs solidified her decision to become an entrepreneur and to never be dependent on a corporation for financial stability.

She manages the narrative for artistes such as Mavado, Ghetto Youths Intl, Konshens, Shaggy, Kabaka Pyramid, Hood Celebrityy, Tarrus Riley, Malica, Buju Banton and recently added Sean Paul. Living in New York City, Ronnie spends her time serving as a mentor for new artistes looking to gain exposure in the early stages of their career by teaching them strategies and techniques on how to create, build and expand their personal brand.

Destine Media is also the official PR firm for reggae artiste Buju Banton and handled all publicity after his highly anticipated return and his Long Walk to Freedom Tour 2019.

“Being an independent and small boutique firm has given Destine Media the exposure to appeal to artistes such as Buju who's looking for individual attention, balance between representing someone in a personal and protective way and still building bridges between brands and entertainment,” Tomlinson stated.