While Jamaica’s population of just over 2.5 million makes Jamaica roughly the size of Houston, Texas, the influence and creative legacy of classic roots reggae – the most important export. Caribbean Island’s most beloved – on contemporary music, culture and fashion are immeasurable. As of this writing, “Cheerleader” from Omi, a juggernaut of reggae-influenced pop music, is still at the top of the world charts having become one of the most ubiquitous party anthems in the world. summer. In the roughly 30 years since it began to transform into dancehall, reggae has become the soundtrack of civil and human rights uprisings, social and political revolutions, spring rebellions. Arabic, stone-y bro-com movies and, inevitably, TV commercials on Saccharine cruise ships.
My first conscious experience with reggae music was Bob Marley’s âTrenchtown Rockâ at the start of his career. INHABIT! album. I was probably 9 or 10 years old and looking from afar for something that would transport me beyond my picturesque reality of suburban Southern California. Reggae fell like an anvil, at once sweet, dreamy, crucial and dangerous. It was real. As the noise from the crowd fades, Marley’s announcer declares in a deep, confident and cooler-than-life patois: âAnd this, I want to tell you, is a Trenchtown experience. Â»There is the necessary, to roll sla-DAP! drums, a gasping Hammond B-3 organ swivel, and there it isâthis ring. Reggae music in all its vibrant, disconcerting and otherworldly simplicity. “A good thing about music,” Bob sings, “when it hits you don’t feel any pain.”
The 20th century produced more than its share of perfect cultural storms: Paris in the 1920s New York in the 1950s. London in the 1960s. But when it comes to music, few of these historic hot spots have had it. Kingston’s lasting contemporary influence in the 1970s. Rarely have there been so many that burned so hard, in such a small and relatively isolated area, and in such a short time, with 10,000 sunny hours to their credit and a colossal account to settle.