Tilt Republic. Johannesburg. New York. Cape Town. London.

Reggae, a little debate

Chilling at the acoustic Tuesdays session at Armchair last night, while a reggae performer mounted the stage, I discerned a certain aversion amongst the room and especially from my long time musical fiend of a friend, Dave. I could tell he was a little upset by the way he got up and said, “for fucks sake, I’m going to bar.” I wasn’t sure if it was the actual performer or the fact that he was clearly going to do a reggae set.

 

As mentioned before I feel the religious component of Reggae a little unnecessary, mentioning Jah, Irie and Selassi consistently seems too much like an infringement of my secular rights. I’ve never once went to a live music venue in the hope for better understanding of a religious viewpoint, if anything, I go for the exact opposite reason.

 

There will always be people willing to defend something to the hilt, arguments become violently subjective and, like anything related to popular culture, easily justified. Absolutes don’t strike me as a real component when discussing ideas related to music, but they certainly do feature. Part of that reason is the complete identification that occurs when you become a reggae enthusiast, everyone wears the same three colours, haircut and pretty much say the same things. I get that, it certainly alleviates the inconvenience of having to actually form your own identity.

 

I pulled Stefan Kruger aside, amazing producer who was Sum 41’s technical road manager for 2010/11, he said;

The problem I have with reggae is that it has been done over and over again, there’s very little that’s unique about this kind of music”

 

Reggae has a built in limitation, the genre is prescriptive- it feels like the same elementary sounds are revisited in nearly every song. The accentuated fourth beat in every bar, the vocal trends- sure I see his point.

 

Dave called it, “a tired, rehashed sentiment that swallows individualism wholesale,” before stumbling off with a Dutch transvestite to smoke a spliff.

 

There does, however, seem to be beauteous sentiment that many other genres don’t have. The direct promotion of consciousness and love, a relaxed and groovy feel good undertone.

 

Steven Terblanche, manager and general music nut at the Armchair summed it up wonderfully with,

it might be monotonous, but it feels fucking great.”

I agree with that, it fucking does.

An important distinction is the difference between not liking and not listening to a specific style. I appreciate the Beatles though I don’t listen to them, and I feel the same towards Bob Marley- even though I don’t listen to his music, I’m still keen on it.

 

The reason I don’t listen to Reggae is the same reason I don’t watch reality television or own a cat. All possible benefits have been experienced, there’s nothing new to gain from investing in the experience. Be it cheaters or survivor or idols, the results are all the same variations of same, previously had experience.

 

Like any expressive outburst, be it Gonzo or Dada, they were reactionary and timeous but not durable or meant to be around forever. That’s were Dub’s magic is strongest, adding a refreshing ingredient to the reggae bank, so much so that it doesn’t actually require any new reggae to be made.

I’ll end with a James Vodicka quote, Obz Cafe based producer and all round sound ninja,

 

the important thing to remember is that reggae espouses a system of values, outside of all the religious bullshit, that still remains important. Reggae has always stood up for the underdog, called its listeners to be conscious of the bullshit that drags us down. If only we could modernize it a little, take that sentiment and give it a musical facelift.”

So that’s the prevailing sentiment, meaningful but boring, reggae needs to get a little steam punk.