My love of reggae music is deep. There’s no way for me to fully express it. Reggae music is a part of me the way breathing is natural for most of us.
At it’s best, the genre can be a healing music. It can uplift the downtrodden. It can be used as a tool for education. It can express heartbreak with the same passion as the blues. At its worst, reggae can personify and glamorize stereotypes and conflicts. However, for me, reggae connects me to loved ones lost and still with us.
My love of all music, can be linked to a genre founded on the island my mother was born, as they declared independence and attempted to make space for themselves on the international cultural landscape.
For me, making music has always been a fun hobby. Maybe I have a theme that I want to express as a song. When I was really active, a producer would share an instrumental and ask me to write a song, rap, or poem to it. Throughout my time in high school, I maintained my sanity by writing reggae lyrics. Studying classic rocksteady, ska and the roots of dancehall.
One of my last times in Jamaica, was way back when I was fourteen. I remember my dad, my brothers, my late cousin and late uncle squeezing into a car and driving to Reggae Sunsplash, which was in Portmore that year. Cruising through Spanish Town, hitting the highway, observing all the churches on the route having anti-reggae revivals.
After, a quick nap at a friend in Portmore’s home, the six of us walked down to the stadium. The stadium, was more like a large permanent stage in an enclosed field by the ocean than a traditional stadium. From sunset to sunrise singers from multiple generations shared their music with us, while we sang along. We took this journey to the festival two days in a row. The second, friend’s of my late cousin Daniel joined us three brothers.
That weekend, we visited a dancehall event hosted by the legendary Stone Love Sound System. We spent our days in legendary, long gone record stores like Music Fair. After that visit to Jamaica, what was a seed began to grow. I could see reggae for it’s beauty and it’s flaws. Soon after, my twin brother and I joined a reggae sound system in Bermuda and my informal musical journey began.
My cousin, Daniel Lewis would end up working for Main Street Records, owned by Sean Paul’s brother. Eventually, he would set off on his own as a reggae producer, despite becoming paralyzed in a car accident. My twin also became a record producer, often talking shop via long distant calls to Daniel until my cousin’s untimely death. My big brother went the classical route getting his Masters in Music Composition. But, he also started a dubstep band with his wife. The rebel that I’ve always been, after collaborating with producers on reggae, spoken word, and rap projects in my 20’s and some personal turmoil, I found myself a writer.
I would still have fun with friends. Make the odd rap song. Hit the road for the odd show. But poetry became more work than fun. Reggae disappeared as something I wrote, or listened to. However, after my cousin’s passing I started writing reggae again. I regularly go to concerts now. I’ve never felt so at home writing anything as I do right now with reggae. Every time I write a song about love, or turmoil, or having fun, I’m brought back to a time when my cousin and his father were with us. He wasn’t in a wheelchair. We were just a bunch of kids from Bermuda, Kingston, Portmore. All from different socio-economic backgrounds hanging out together. Trying to get through security. Laughing. Jumping up and down to a music that connected us.