What’s Reggae Got to Do with It: Between Nature’s Explosions and Human Implosions

What’s up with all THIS?

I was very disturbed by Amy Winehouse‘s “passing.” Of course it wasn’t as simple as that – she burnt out. I didn’t know her. Heard family and friends did all they could…but did they?

Amy Winehouse at Awards event

Amy Winehouse at an Awards event

She’s so confident in this picture: self assured, and in others (easily Googled, unfortunately), she’s such a mess. What a shame.

I watched her live videos and WOW: what soul! She was channeling for some pretty heavy forces. That’s why people liked her (plus, at her best, she was a gorgeous, universal woman…evidence left).

Sometimes descending to the depths and reaching the highest heights takes you away from the world we know. I’ve done that – a couple of times in my life – and come back from the brink. It’s been worth it.

Back to the case in point. With Amy, there came the usual blame game: fame, drugs – it’s always something else out there. But the human being is very damn complex, and when you get down to it, hard to handle. It’s easy to give up – hard not to give in temptation – succumb to your own, lesser self.

Joel Chin (part of the VP Records‘ royal family of Reggae) succumbed to others’ lesser selves. He was gunned down in front of his own house – how low is that! And leaving behind a newborn daughter(!).

Joel Chin in the studio

VP Records' Joel Chin, in the studio

Why is it that so many Rock (or Pop) stars have killed themselves, while the Reggae & Hip Hop community are happy to take down their own? I’m sure his attackers were known to him, maybe disgruntled artists. Do we really know…so much hearsay out there. Who to believe?

So many hypocrites and back stabbers. As if life weren’t hard enough without naysayers nipping at your heals and trying to take you down. People you trust double cross you, make promises they don’t keep, and the big bad world just keeps on coming at you. No pity.

And then there’s an Earthquake. Hurricanes follow. And vicious doubters are trying to take down one of the wisest Presidents the U.S. has boasted in years.

Obama, thinking

President Barack Obama, contemplating

Sure Obama‘s connected with the powers that be – he’s one of them (for now) – but he’s trying to do the right thing. Which one of us could do better?

He’s berated for his whiteness, rejected for his blackness, told he’s “not supporting his base,” an “enemy to the nation.” Which way is it, really?

At the end of the day, we all have to face our demons and stand before the Lord in Judgement. Annually (and coming up in a matter of weeks), Hebrews face the new year and the Day of Atonement.

Bob Marley illustration (face left)

Bob Marley - uncompromising meditation (an illustration)

As Bob Marley said: “leave all judgement unto Him.” How many of us truly heed that, or the best words of the Good Book? “Who G*d bless, let no man curse.” Quotes are bandied about as weapons, convenient self-justifications. Where is the “One Love” people preach, but don’t teach(!?).

Wrapped up in their self righteousness, a meaningful portion of Reggae Artists pose as the only true believers. A new Christian movement “Dominionism” stages spiritual warefare against places and whole peoples. Islam is vilified while it provides solace and a direct connection with G*d to millions.

Co-Exist: Islam, Judaism, Christianity

Co-Exist banner: Islam, Judaism, Christianity

Across the Arab world, people yearn to be free like you and me. Yet how many would like to see tiny Israel’s right to exist denied. The bad intentions and misbehavior of the few poison the drinking well of the many.

So where does Reggae fit in?

I wrote an editorial at the start of the year (featured as an earlier Blog) called “What is Rasta?” in which I explored the central theme of what “the Faith” is, or means.

I think any religion serves the primary function of guiding its flock in the right direction.

They all offer a moral compass. Some are more rigid than others. Alas (too often) these various traditions lead us against each other. At their best, and at least internally – to each one’s adherents – religions provide us ways of understanding reality, and interpreting the messages of G*d, which are manifest daily.

Reggae logo (all caps)

Reggae: Spirit in Music

As one of the most oral traditions among modern belief systems (ie. there’s no clergy or specific place of worship for most), Rastafarianism is conveyed primarily to the general public (as it was to me) through the music: Reggae Music to be specific. So what people say in songs, what you hear on your radio or iPod…that’s your gospel. Is it helping you to overstand the situation? Is it providing comfort in the storm? Does the message speak to you?

Even Jamaicans lament where the music’s going, with conscious, cultural lyrics taking a back seat (at least in the public & sales arenas) to slackness. American rock-Reggae bands tower in attendance over traditional Jamaican acts (at least Stateside), why? Could it be that they’re carrying the new torch of meaning in their message? Could it be that the old tried-and-true no longer rings as true for most? Is there a reinvention afoot, a transmutation of the Spirit?

One things’s for sure, regardless of how popular you are, your music has to be relevant. It has to convey Spirit, even apart from the lyrics. That’s one of the great things about  Reggae…the sound itself has value, and few are the people around the world who’d say they’re not drawn to it (even if they’re occasionally turned off by the lyrics: love of Jah, & ganja on the one side; and mysogyny/homophobia on the other).

So why isn’t it bigger than it is?

Why do some say Reggae’s going the route of Blues, and becoming an outmoded music form?

I disagree with them: I think there’s a lot of hope, and a lot of great music coming out daily. My renewed mission is to share it with you, and make sure that what is old is new again, and that what is new remains pertinent: showing the way, elucidating what matters, and providing inspiration in troubled times.

We don’t want Amy Winehouse or Joel Chin to have died in vain. They are the foot soldiers in a struggle that continues: to provide a powerful, transformative sound track to our day to day living.

PS. this Blog/Editorial first appeared in the Global issue KRucial Reggae Newsletter entitled “Signs & Wonders…What’s it All About?” (sent out to over 14,000 people worldwide). Click on the the quoted link above to see it, and Click here to Subscribe to our Newsletters.


About KRucialReggae

KRucial Reggae (aka KRP) is all about Production, Promotion, and Performance! Long time industry pro, founder Kyle Russell has been a fan since 1980 and in the biz since 1990. Russell's worn many hats in the business: PUBLISHER (and creator of Rhythm Music Magazine); PROMOTER (regionally & globally); PRODUCER (of various albums) and PERFORMER (with the award-winning Dub Station band). Russell's been the Executive Director of Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide; Director of Marketing at BigUp Radio; and adviser to many Artists. This Blog's been created as a sort of streaming editorial, different from his other project-specific outreach (including his regional and global Newsletters and website Reggae4i.com, aka KRucialReggae.com). Our goal here is to go from monologue to dialog in developing and sharing our community overstanding (as opposed to standing under), and wise-speak (the opposite of wiz-dumb). Our hope is to provide inspiration, thought provoking encouragement, and invite new folks into the fray of advancing Reggae Music.
This entry was posted in American Reggae Bands, Biblical References, Blues, Bob Marley, Christianity, Countries, God, Islam, Israel, Jamaicans, Judaism, Lord, Music, Muslim, One Love, Peoples/Nationalities, Politics, Pop Music, Rasta, Rastafari, Reggae, Reggae Artists, Reggae Music, Religion, Rock, Roots Reggae, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What’s Reggae Got to Do with It: Between Nature’s Explosions and Human Implosions

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