Author, DJ and cultural advocate Dutty Bookman first coined the term Reggae Revival in November 2011. It has since become a widely used phrase for a new wave of reggae artists. This is his first in a series of articles exploring the rise of the Reggae Revival movement.
A creative revolution is underway and its source is not far away. Set sail for the Caribbean, head south between Cuba and Haiti, and arrive at Jamaica, the epicenter of a much talked about upheaval called the Reggae Revival. It is one of the most significant multi-disciplinary arts movements to happen in recent times, and its origins can be traced to the beginning of the decade. You might have some catching up to do, but your crash course is about to begin.
Since I was inspired to coin the name of the movement, I have traveled across the globe sharing my knowledge and perspective as both insider and observer. I have long expected it to spread beyond Jamaica’s borders. In my view, the Reggae Revival is comparable to Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring in the sense that they all consist of rising generation expressing the change they intend to make on this planet. In this instance, the instigators of the uprising are the singers, musicians, poets, writers, photographers, actors, filmmakers and more. In essence: the creatives.The sounds coming out of the Reggae Revival movement pay tribute to the classic roots reggae consciousness of the 1970s while updating them to the contemporary musical tastes of generation now. And because the musical aspect led the Revival’s initial charge, music is where we will begin. The following non-exhaustive list includes some trailblazers who deserve to be on your playlist from here on out.
Protoje: This gifted lyricist and student of music (also pictured above) first emerged in 2009 during a biweekly Kingston event called Jamnesia Sessions. There, the audience immediately felt his boundless devotion to the craft. Whispers abounded concerning the new rural prince on the scene, and he became the worst kept secret in town. As he stormed the gates of the reggae mainstream with indispensable help from his cousin and producer Don Corleon, Diggy urged his audience to listen to other reggae revival artists as well. The rest is history.
Jah9: While a Tec-9 couldn’t lay your demons flat on their backs, the lyrical shots of Jah9 would have tremendous effect. Everyone stops and keenly listens when they hear the devastating jazz-on-dub sound of this sistren who quit a lucrative corporate job to enter the scene. As part of the initial wave alongside Protoje and No-Maddz, Jah9 submerged herself deep in the waters of her chosen path. She tackles the very core of spiritual, moral and socially concerning issues with her divine feminine powers.
No-Maddz: In 2011, athletics apparel giant Puma signed No-Maddz to an endorsement deal ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games. Before that, one could catch members of this band of brothers acting in the critically-acclaimed film Better Mus’ Come; and delivering tantalizing dub poetry at Jamnesia Sessions, where they were truly kings of the village. Since then, No-Maddz have blended a healthy dose of Jamaican folk flavor with a uniquely modern twist.
Raging Fyah: Raging Fyah started out performing with different artists as a backing band. Their decision to write and perform their own music was a crucial turning point, not only for them but also for an eternally grateful community of rebels who were subsequently nourished by their edifying music. This year, Raging Fyah’s Everlasting earned a 2017 Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Album. It’s the first time that the Grammy committee appears to be in touch with the reality of the Reggae Revival movement.
Chronixx: If there is one name from the movement most uttered by the lips of reggae lovers in and out of Jamaica, it is probably Chronixx. His meteoric rise, and his appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, swiftly sent a signal that the Reggae Revival generation was officially unstoppable. Those of us who have followed his artistic growth from his latter teenage years into young adulthood are uniquely proud of this great son of humanity who hails from the colonial Jamaican capital of Spanish Town.
Kabaka Pyramid: By straddling the line between Jamaica’s “first coast” hip-hop scene and the local reggae industry, and melding his Rastafari way of life with an appreciation for Kemetic history, Kabaka Pyramid has revealed himself to be a highly complex and brilliant mind. He is well on his way to a permanent place among the pantheon of people’s champs, in no small part due to his mesmerizing flow of lyrical delivery. His forthcoming and highly anticipated full-length debut is being produced by seasoned musical genius Damian Marley.
Kelissa: Self-described “rebel in disguise” Kelissa is an introverted soul, and a vessel full to the brim from a life lived in places as varied as Jamaica, Africa and North America. Her outlook on life is influenced by her family, including a mother with experience in the hallways of international diplomacy, a world renowned fitness instructor sister, plus her brother and musical colleague, Keznamdi.
Jesse Royal: Jesse Royal is a man of militancy who urgently takes aim at those in power that unfairly benefit from a corrupt system that besets the downtrodden. Yes, we have been acutely aware of these injustices since the days when Bounty Killer told us how fed up poor people were – since ‘bout ’95! With his hard-hitting, very literal punchlines, Jesse Royal reminds the wolves that lambs can still kick their hooves if need be. It’s no wonder why he is also called the Small Axe.
Iba MaHr: Mario (Ma) from Harar (Hr), also known as Iba MaHr, stepped into the spotlight with encouragement from living legend Max Romeo. Iba’s signature voice, as well as his focus on giving back to the rural community of Linstead, Jamaica that raised him, has earned him the loyalty and respect of committed fans, from the ladies that swoon during his performances to the everyday youths treading the streets.
Dre Island: Dre Island is a multi-talented artist with a unique voice and insightful messages. Plus, he’s nice on the keyboards, too. He ascended within the movement during the same wave that brought Chronixx and Kelissa. In fact, all three have toured the world extensively together, leading to give broader exposure for this conscious souljah. Bigger things are surely expected in Dre Island’s future.
Pentateuch: Solo artists may dominate mainstream attention, but players of instruments fueled the live music scene that propelled the Reggae Revival. The more cohesive the band, the nicer the vibes. As a musical unit, Pentateuch (pronounced pen-ta-toosh) gels. Lead singer Kevor “Kev” Williams not only sounds charismatic with his calming vocals, he also displays great humility, so the entire five-man squad is better able to cultivate collective strength. This, of course, translates to a top notch listening experience.
Exile Di Brave: Exile Di Brave is a true braveheart with many talents, and he’s among the most down to Earth people you could come across. His work in promoting a vinyl-focused dance event in Kingston is connected to the vintage style music he makes as a solo artist. Furthermore, Exile is connected to many more worthy artists who tend to shy away from the spotlight associated with the Reggae Revival, but who are nonetheless representatives of the same advancing generation.
Dutty Bookman is a published author and DJ associated with the Reggae Revival movement.