Buju Banton powerfully depicts both sides of a story on his hit single “Police and Thieves.” Additionally, in “Murderer” he questions gun violence – an early sign of reggae’s expanding social responsibility.
Jamaican bands that combine reggae with religious lyrics include Third World ensemble and African singers like Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly.
Steel Pulse were one of Britain’s most beloved reggae bands during their peak years, both artistically and commercially. While initially offering traditional roots music, they gradually progressed into more progressive crossover music with 1978’s Handsworth Revolution album serving as an influential statement that helped garner wide praise.
The band was established in Birmingham, England in 1975 by schoolmates David Hinds (vocals/rhythm guitar), Basil Gabbidon (guitar) and Ronnie McQueen (bass). Soon thereafter they added drummer Steve “Grizzly” Nisbett and keyboardist Selwyn “Bumbo” Brown as members, creating a theatrical stage show that combined social commentary with humorous anecdotes.
Steel Pulse’s mix of styles and messages connected with audiences worldwide. Their sound found an easy kinship with new wave and punk bands of their day; opening for Clash, Stranglers and other Brit bands as opening acts; they even recorded Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing soundtrack! By late ’80s Steel Pulse had won a Grammy award while working full-fledged crossover territory; ultimately disbanding in 1986.
Koffee is an exceptional young Jamaican artist. In just a few years she’s become one of the youngest recipients of Grammy’s Best Reggae Album award and collaborated with Gunna and John Legend; additionally she will open this year’s Latin American leg of Harry Styles’ world tour.
Born Mikayla Victoria Simpson but more commonly referred to by her nickname of Koffee, Koffee began her singing career after posting an Instagram video dedicated to Usain Bolt that went viral after Bolt reposted it himself. Soon thereafter she made her live debut at Jamaica’s Rebel Salute music festival with Cocoa Tea interrupting his set to introduce Koffee before an enthusiastic crowd of over 10,000 spectators.
Koffee won over her audience immediately with her energetic patois and realistic storytelling, earning acclaim as an exciting new force in reggae music but not blind to hardship and poverty in her native Jamaica. On her rousing track ‘Defend,’ she addressed crime, inflation and community concerns directly without trying to hide or ignore what she saw or experienced first-hand.
Even as she tackles these topics, she retains an assured sense of herself and an abundance of gratitude. Her songs don’t venture into sexual or violent topics, although romance and light suggestions do appear occasionally.
Koffee’s voice is powerful and assured, while her songwriting demonstrates an impressive maturity well beyond her years. Her clear soaring tone suits well the upbeat melodies found within this genre while her productions feature intricate arrangements and orchestration techniques for maximum impact.
Koffee showcases her wide array of styles and sounds across Gifted, from crossover party anthem ‘Pull Up’ (featuring frequent J Hus collaborator Jae5) to sweet harmony-laden lovers rock of Lonely. Additionally, her versatility was highlighted on provocative tracks like ‘Defend,’ which combined R&B with reggae to deliver powerful political activism commentary (“Emergency state we can’t escape it/ Inflation crazy for the old lady”). Gifted showcases an artist whose time has finally arrived.
Reggae music has long been an integral part of Jamaican culture, drawing its influences from both tradition and modernism. Dancehall or roots versions can carry messages promoting love, peace and compassion that remain timeless today. Reggae has also become an international phenomenon; bands such as UB40 have sold millions of albums while artists such as Ziggy Marley continue to bring joy across cultures worldwide while becoming popular within America and Europe as well.
Drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare founded vocal trio Black Uhuru in the late Seventies, creating a sound that blended classic reggae with the rock bands they toured with. Michael Rose provided passionate lead, Puma Jones celestial harmonies and Ducky Simpson provided majestic lower range support – while Sly and Robbie’s forceful productions set an edgy tone later heard on songs by Damian Marley (Welcome to Jamrock) and Protoje (“Kingston Be Wise”).
Damian “Junior Gong” Marley was first discovered as a child performer with The Shepherds band. Comprised of many well-known reggae musicians such as Third World’s Cat Coore and Yashema Beth McGregor – among many others – Junior Gong soon graduated to deejaying, Jamaican musical equivalent to rapping; after The Shepherds broke up he began deejaying Welcome to Jamrock (in 2005) which quickly became an urban hit; street level mixtapes began featuring his performance, radio stations played it over and remixes were produced as soon as radio stations did radio stations did radio stations played it.
Reggae not only features the traditional snare-bass-snare rhythm but also boasts its signature one drop rhythm played on a closed high hat with a closed snare drum; this beat falls on beats two and four rather than on one and three; reggae drummers are widely recognized for mastering this beat.
Tarrus Riley is a Jamaican reggae singer who has quickly gained prominence in the music industry. Born to veteran vocal trio The Uniques and Techniques member Jimmy Riley, Tarrus Riley is making waves in contemporary reggae and dancehall music with elements of modern Jamaican culture and Rastafarianism incorporated. His debut album Challenges proved immensely popular and helped launch his career into stardom; Riley is widely considered one of the premier conscious reggae artists of his generation.
His second album, Parables, proved even more successful and cemented his position as an accomplished artist. The record boasted some great singles including Barber Chair, She’s Royal and Can’t Sleep which became hits both locally and globally. Since then he has become part of Roots Radics band while continuing to produce quality music.
In 2011, Riley released his third album, Love Situation, to rave reviews from media outlets across both North America and the Caribbean. This release featured guest appearances by some of Jamaica’s best known deejays such as U Roy, Big Youth and Konshens.
Riley has earned numerous accolades throughout his career. He was featured at several major reggae festivals in Europe as the headliner, as well as touring across North America with his shows.
Reggae music has changed considerably over time, yet still maintains the message set forth by Bob Marley. Reggae remains an international musical movement filled with love and hope, welcoming all cultures and religions across the globe to join together and enjoy its rhythms. It remains the one genre capable of uniting diverse communities through shared musical experience.
Peter Tosh first sang of Reggae Mylitis in 1981 to describe an epidemic ravaging Jamaica’s music for 28 years. Now is an appropriate time to find someone new who will lead it and Tarrus Riley would make an ideal candidate to fill this role.