Tuesday | March 3, 2015

Reggae searches for new greats - international charts still dominated by veterans

Published:Sunday | October 7, 2012
Gentleman performing during the recently staged Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium. - File
Bob Marley
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Jordane Delahaye | Gleaner Writer

Pop Quiz: What is the most successful reggae song in 2012? Who won the 2012 Grammy for best reggae album?

Too many Jamaicans are not able to answer those questions correctly. Reggae music has come a long way since its inception in the 1960s but the evolution seems to be greeted with waning interest.

It is unfortunate that the
birthplace of one of the most unique and transcending music genres seems
to have forgotten about it.

Local radio stations
would sooner play dancehall or bubblegum pop songs than they would
reggae music. This is not to say that they're to blame - they are only
catering to the needs of the vast majority of their listeners. So who is
the culprit here?

Veteran reggae producer, Gussie
Clarke, told The Sunday Gleaner that while it might
seem that way, he does not believe reggae is a dying
genre.

Clarke believes that reggae music is well
represented in Jamaica, even though he named German reggae sensation,
Gentleman, as today's biggest reggae act.

Since the
'70s, Gussie Clarke has been one of Jamaica's top reggae producers,
having worked with some of the bigger names in the genre - Dennis Brown,
Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor just to name a
few.

While acknowledging that there is much
uncertainty surrounding the future of reggae, Clarke said what was
needed was more musicians, producers and great engineers, instead of
just people building "riddims".

He added that artistes
need more professional managers if they were going to go
far.

The reggae aficionado believes that it was these
aides that helped to elevate Bob Marley's career to the level that it
got to.

According to Clarke, Bob Marley made the
impact he did because he made great music, worked with great musicians
and had a proper management team and record company who had a vision for
him and the necessary resources to exact that
vision.

Jamaica only has a handful of reggae acts
while the dancehall market is over-saturated, even though, on the
international market, reggae is more popular and marketable than the
locally lauded dancehall genre.

Although not all
dancehall songs are lewd and bloodthirsty, there is a fast-growing niche
especially in the younger generation, which seems to gravitate towards
this brand. The violent, sexually charged lyrics and hard-hitting beats
seem to be very much appreciated, but mostly
locally.

The dancehall artistes that really explode on
the global scene are the ones whose lyrics are less explicit - cue Sean
Paul, Shaggy and the self-proclaimed king, Beanie
Man.

Another veteran in the reggae genre, Ken Boothe,
has realised dancehall's reign on the airwaves and has decided to
capitalise on this.

On his latest album,
Journey, Boothe journey's into the realm of
dancehall. The Everything I Own crooner has not
forsaken reggae, however, and believes that reggae will have a bright
future as long as reggae artistes try to produce great
music.

Boothe, who was awarded the Order of
Distinction in 2003 for his contribution to Jamaican music, says there
are Jamaican musicians who, like himself, are putting out great music
that is being well received.

The reggae musician has
just returned from France where he says his music and reggae music on a
whole is embraced and loved. Boothe noted that reggae music is changing
but says that he hopes it is for the best.

There are
veterans/legends in every field of endeavour and it is no different in
music. In most cases, however, the evolution of the music and
replenishing of generations usually breeds new
stars.

Though most will say that these newcomers are
not and will never be as good as the originals, they usually become
legends in their own right, breaking records and surpassing their
predecessors in many respects.

So did Bob Marley hit
the peak of global reggae achievement or is there uncharted success for
reggae musicians that is yet to be discovered?

Only
time will tell, but there are artistes like Romain Virgo, Jah Cure,
damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, groups like Raging Fyah and No-Maddz who intend
on providing an answer.