Echoes Magazine - September 2020
Tarrus Riley is this month's cover star after having released the definite reggae lockdown album Healing, produced with Shane "Juke Boxx" Brown and Dean Fraser. The other major interview is with Protoje, who talks about his latest album In Search Of Lost Time - his first to be released in conjunction with RCA Records.
Kabaka Pyramid, Koffee, Squash, Pressure Buss Pipe and the Wailing Souls head the singles reviews, whilst the album pages are given over to Mungo's Hi-Fi, Dennis Brown and the Wailers, whose comeback album for Sony Latin was produced by serial Grammy winner Emilio Estefan.
Finally, our monthly Vibes column discusses reaction to David Rodigan being awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government and also the petition intended to discredit him, started here in the UK. To our national shame, a celebratory moment for UK reggae was blighted by racism. I've included an extract from it here. The full-length version can be read in Echoes Magazine, in either the print or digital versions.
"It's a treatise that drips with arrogance, an inflated sense of superiority and unspoken racism, and it's been written by someone who's not even Jamaican judging by the final paragraph, which rails against the ruling that you must be a Jamaican citizen before petitioning about something happening in that country.
Little over a thousand people had signed it the last time I looked, which is nothing when you consider reggae music's huge global reach but then it's more of a mealy-mouthed personal missive than anything resembling a crusade. Sadly, such defenders of racial and cultural purity have previous form when it comes to Rodigan and people of different nationalities. Like Brexiteers, they feel threatened at having to share something they regard as belonging to them with outsiders, but with one important difference. Reggae music is the creation of people whose descendants were sold into slavery and stripped of everything they had - their name, language, family, culture, hopes and dreams... Every remnant of their identities was torn from them, and even their very humanity. For several centuries black people in the US and Caribbean were enslaved and brutalised, and whilst the physical shackles were removed almost two hundred years ago, they've continued to struggle against discrimination in so many areas of their lives, including housing, jobs, healthcare and education.
Somehow out of all that hurt and loss, the Jamaican people fashioned something so compelling and so uplifting that people of all nationalities were drawn to it in their millions. Reggae music of the seventies not only shed light on society's ills and their causes, but also spoke of racial harmony, positive vibrations, equal rights and justice... Such ideals were championed again and again by artists like Marley, Tosh, Spear and last month's cover star, Toots Hibbert. Their generation worked tirelessly in spreading the reggae gospel "to the four corners of the earth," as the Wailers' Aston "Family Man" Barrett is fond of saying, and they succeeded. By listening to their music and what they said in interviews, outsiders like myself were taught about black history, and at the same time how unity is strength. That's a message legions of reggae fans took to heart, until "one love" became the universal prayer we all share.
The question now is, "where do we go from here?" There's no going back to a time when there were very few white or Asian people involved with reggae music, although Brexit and Trump's America have shown us that there's still many among us who prefer to build walls, rather than bridges, and to deny others the same freedoms they insist upon for themselves.
I applaud the Jamaican government's decision to recognise reggae music's global appeal, and the influence that David Rodigan has had in promoting it. It gives me hope that the genre can finally attain the status it deserves, and shine more light into dark corners that only serve to diminish it. My message to those having supported that petition against Rodigan is this. Why not use your time and energies to do something educational or uplifting instead? Rather than focussing on self-importance and claiming that you've been robbed of something that was never just yours in the first place, why not share your knowledge, and put your writing and Internet skills to better use? Ditch the bitterness and ignorance, the false pride and racism and join all those millions of reggae fans who see it as a gift to humanity from the Jamaican people, and the unifying force that the music's founding fathers always wanted it to be."