Australian reggae singerNatttali Rize seen hereperforming at the BlueMountain Music Festival in2015. (Photos: Michael Gordon)

Reggae and dancehall music are making inroads in the Australian market, and radio personality and music insider DJ Ragz is tapping into that growth.

Born in London to Jamaicans parents, Ragz moved to Australia six years ago and has been working to introduce Jamaican music and culture to his audience 'Down Under'. Among his activities to spread the word is the creation of a music chart dedicated to the reggae and dancehall genres.

“Growing up in a Jamaican household music was always playing. My formative years were spent in London in the UK, where sounds like Saxon, Cavalry Kartel, Java Nuclear, and radio stations like Unique, Vibes and Time were some of the leaders at the time in community radio. I grew up listening to Gregory Isaacs, Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Martel Robinson, U-Roy, Yellow Man, and Frankie Paul through to Ninja Man, Shabba Ranks and Super Cat. With notable UK artistes Top Cat, Tubby T, Tafari Tiggy, Sweetie Irie, and General Levy making a massive impact on my musical growth as a young man,” he said.

Having moved to Australia, he wanted to highlight the global impact this music form out of Jamaica has been having for decades, but found that the existing infrastructure did nothing to promote this music.

“It came about 18 months ago after a discussion with DJ Wade from I was producing a chart for my radio show, Dancehall and Ting in Adelaide, Australia. We discussed the bigger picture and vision of a regional chart covering Australia and New Zealand which puts this global genre on the footing it deserves in a professional manner. Australia is a multicultural society and becoming more integrated through mediums like music. There are currently commercial music charts across Australia that pool our genre into the world music or general roots classifications,” he explained.

“We are the only ones with a comprehensive, interactive music chart dedicated to reggae dancehall, because our genre deserves that space and attention. We know the Australian people want more because of the response we are getting from the masses when we tell them what we're doing. The likes of Sean Paul, Shabba Ranks and Shaggy have proved that international commercial markets love our genre of music and we want to give the Australian music industry as well as the general public a forum that is connected and representative,” he continued.

For DJ Ragz, the Jamaican music scene is in its infancy in Australia in terms of stable events, festivals, promotion, radio coverage, and credible and professional promoters, but things are improving with the likes of the Jamaican Music and Food Festival in Melbourne, Fisherman's Style in Fremantle, and Reggae on Sunday in Adelaide. In addition, there is a steadily increasing roster of local reggae and dancehall acts.

He named artistes such as King Ru aka King RuCL, who he explained was born in Australia to an Australian father and Jamaican mother. Others include SK Simeon, Mista Savona and a slate of whom he referred to as “some very powerful female artistes” — Nattali Rize, Lisa Viola and Elesia Iimura.

“Australia is the land of the 'big live band' with the likes of Ras Jahknow, Kingfisha, One Planet, and T-Rhythm. From New Zealand Katchafire, House of Shem, Sons of Zion flying the reggae flag on this side of the globe. In conjunction with radio and DJ music platforms, we are working to provide a professional platform through news media and the likes of Dancehall Reggae Australia. In addition, we have the backing of Formation Agency who are committed to working with the Australian music industry and media to more deeply connect our genre to the masses here. This is what Australia has needed for a long time, and now we are doing it,” he noted.

In creating this chart, DJ Ragz hopes to highlight and combine the best of Jamaican-produced reggae and dancehall, and the best of Australian- and New Zealand-produced bands and artistes in the genre.

“We want to include all elements from the reggae dancehall diaspora and play our part in what is a global genre, thus featuring acts from Europe, Japan, Africa and the Americas. Even though Australia is probably the furthest from a huge diaspora centre, it still has flavour. Our aim is to connect our genre of music with the Australian people and the Australian music industry, for it to be more easily and readily accessible for people to hear and enjoy. We see greater things for the future of our music in Australia and we'd like to see more of it penetrating the Australian commercial market. We want to show the world that reggae dancehall can be a viable genre promoted and packaged in an authentic and professional manner so that people living in this side of the world can get a real flavour of Brand Jamaica mixed with multicultural Australia through the music.”

DJ Ragz
BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

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