Rastafarians have long associated with Reggae, using it as an artistic as a measure of expression of their beliefs and on the daily ills of society, with great success. Since Bob Marley established himself as a musical phenomenon within the 1970s and 80s, many Rastafarians have ventured within the musical framework to promote messages of peace, unity and righteousness, carrying on the vaunted legacy of the ‘Tuff Gong.’
With today being the birthday of Haile Selassie, it’s only fitting to honor some of those Reggae musicians who continue to honor his spirit and messages with their lyrical prowess promoting positive vibrations while rebuking negative strongholds. Here a list of 10 current artistes who embody such sentiments.
10. I-Wayne – Rarely does an artiste come into the music industry a pure man and stay pure despite the temptations and evils that the industry and life in general presents. However, I-Wayne hails as one such artiste who’s stood the test of time.
Since releasing Can’t Satisfy Her in 2004, it became clear that I-Wayne was a true warrior for righteousness while painting vivid pictures of life’s various obstacles. Classics such as Lava Ground, Book of Life, Life Seeds and Living in Love have made him a Reggae icon as well as a role model for fellow Rastafarians and artistes to emulate. In 2012, that vibe hasn’t changed as his most recent album, Life Teachings sparks necessary reasoning amongst the people, warning against the many dangers society poses.
Additionally, I-Wayne’s open questioning of the music industry’s direction proves his legitimacy as a fighter for freedom, not just physically but mentally also.
9. Queen Ifrica – If I-Wayne can be considered a warrior for love and livity on the male side, Queen Ifrica continues to prove that for the females. Becoming a lioness for the cause, Queen Ifrica has generated a reputation amongst music lovers for speaking out against topics and trends that lead people astray or wreak havoc in society. An evident example of this is the classic track, Daddy, a graphic, yet straightforward outlining of the child molestation epidemic that continues to plague Jamaica and the world in general.
Additionally, Queen Ifrica has spoken out repeatedly against the controversial bleaching trend that’s become increasingly popular (or notorious) within Jamaican culture, particularly in Mi Nah Rub. Times Like These, Hard and Far Away have long offered an authentic and unique sound from Queen Ifrica, making her one of the most respected artistes in Reggae music.
8. Jah Cure – Internationally acclaimed Reggae superstar, Jah Cure is the ultimate symbol of overcoming adversity.
Following a rape charge and subsequent jail time that seriously threatened to derail his once promising career, Jah Cure has completely transformed his persona as a musician and a man; releasing sensual, conscious music that warmed hearts and soothed souls. Songs like Reflections, Unconditional Love, You’ll Never Find and Call on Me, Jah Cure has become a symbol of love for the ladies while relating to the struggles that people go through on a regular basis.
Arguably, one of Reggae music’s most scintillating talents of the last decade, Jah Cure has become overtly synonymous with success and following his marriage to media starlet, Kamila McDonald and the birth of their first child together, it’s evident that this singer has matured in ways many of his detractors couldn’t have imagined.
7. Burning Spear: One of a handful of Jamaican artistes to nab two Grammy awards, Burning Spear has etched his name in history with his wailing, soulful vocals and seemingly effortless ability to translate reality lyrically for wandering imaginations to gather steam. Always singing for his beliefs and people, Burning Spear has never failed to leave an impression through his words; making his presence felt more emotionally than physically. With a career spanning six different decades, Burning Spear remains a universal Reggae legend thanks to songs like Jah No Dead, Marcus Garvey and Man in the Hills; credited for introducing roots Reggae on a wider scale in the 1970s while maintaining relevancy in today’s era, picking up his second Best Reggae Album Grammy just three years ago.
6. Tony Rebel: His last name perhaps does him some injustice as Tony Rebel has never been perceived as a revolutionary through most of his lyrical content. But it depends on the context that you look on when considering the word ‘Rebel.’
In a way, Tony Rebel has lived up to that billing as a revolutionary for love and unity with epic efforts such as Fresh Vegetable and Sweet Jamaica while also delving into the religious world with his most memorable hit, If Jah, which not only made him an iconic musician but a true fighter and face for the Rastafarian cause. The veteran artiste has never been shy to speak out on political issues nor the often discussed state of the genre he helped strengthen during the 1990s. He’s also never been hesitant to give back to the Jamaican people, particularly through his Rebel Salute stage show, which often provides an atmosphere of unity while allowing fans to cherish the true essence of music and its various messages.
5. Capleton – Fire men are usually called in to extinguish but for Capleton, he’s a ‘Fire Man’ who’s always managed to add more to the blaze, in a lyrical sense anyway.
Never short of energy and passion, Capleton has always been burning with a desire to speak out against society’s ills with classics such as Jah Jah City and That Day Will Come. Songs such as In Her Heart and Some Day have also made King Shango a legend within the music industry.
However, Capleton’s willingness to give back also proves that this artiste hails as a socially conscious individual; annually hosting his St. Mary Mi Come From stage show in his home town in which proceeds from the show are given to charities across the island while it also sees a slew of Rastafarian artistes come together in a show of peace and unity that only enhances the long-standing reputation of Reggae music.
4. Luciano – A second generation singer and poet, Luciano had only one mission in his pursuit for musical glory: To spread the word of God, hence, the nickname, Jah Messenger.
The list of classics for Luciano is endless, including It’s Me Again Jah, Who Could It Be, Over The Hills and Sweep Over My Soul to name a few. A devout man of faith, Luciano has never failed to parlay his messages of purity and cleanliness; defying the stereotypes and temptations associated with Dancehall and Reggae music, even criticizing fellow Rastafarian artistes for recording slack material.
Luciano’s vast contributions to the Jamaican music industry resulted in an Order of Distinction in 2007 and he continues to perform strictly to spread the Word of Jah.
3. Sizzla – If there’s an artiste that personifies hard work and dedication, Sizzla Kalonji hails as such. Sizzla became an instant his since the release of his classic album, Black Woman & Child in 1997 and he hasn’t looked back since.
With 68 albums to his name, Sizzla’s fire never stops burning as he’s always recorded with the intention of moving Jamaican people, particularly youth in the right direction. His lyrics consistently preach black consciousness, livity and unity, as evidenced in Praise Ye Jah, Solid as a Rock, Simplicity, Clean Up Your Heart and hundreds of others that remain lodged in the minds and hearts of his fans and fellow entertainers who idolize this fighter for freedom.
His recovery from a near-fatal road accident in 2010 perhaps proves that Sizzla is one of the chosen few to spread positive messages across the world, in spite of detractors that may try to dissuade such encouragement.
2. Buju Banton – Arguably one of the most beloved artistes since Bob Marley, Buju Banton has garnered support from every depth of the world imaginable.
After initially starting with a rough-edged sound in the early 1990s, which garnered him the most number one singles for a Jamaican artiste in one year (1992), Buju Banton’s tone and purpose quickly changed following the deaths of several friends, including Pan Head and Reggae legend, Garnett Silk.
From then, Buju’s mission has catered towards uniting more than igniting, offering hope to his people with songs like Destiny and Wanna Be Loved while connecting with the inner cities through Untold Stories, Murderer and several other tracks. Over the course of three separate decades, Buju’s unique voice and unfiltered imagination translated into love and understanding amongst those he performed to and befriended as his words sparked action, building his legend as an artiste as well as a social leader.
Currently incarcerated on drug charges, Buju Banton’s absence leave a huge void within Reggae music but as the man himself said, ‘It’s not an easy road, many see the glamour and the glitter and think it’s a bed a rose.’ Thus, his hope for a better society leaves his fans hopeful that he will one day return to the airwaves to preach to said society.
1. The Marleys: Though Bob Marley passed over 30 years ago, his spirit has never died; not only due to the fact his songs remain prevalent throughout the world, but that his sons have helped carry on the legacy in their own ways while extending the messages their beloved father spread so fluently for so long.
From Ziggy Marley to Damian Marley to Stephen Marley, each of these musicians have only enhanced music’s framework by singing pure lyrics signifying elements of love, harmony and righteousness. Grammy Awards and endless accolades aside, each generation of the Marleys have done their father’s reputation justice by being conduits of justice and peace by singing songs, not to please the flesh but the soul and heart.
Their catalogues are almost too long to list out but it’s guaranteed that when one of these men puts out a song, it’s surely a hit and will definitely advocate for causes that would make fellow Rastafarians, Africa and their father proud.
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