Do not get me wrong; I am all about the angsty lyrics splattered all over chart-toppers, from Morissey to Damien Rice and everything in between. But that does not mean I do not enjoy the occasional feel-good playlist. After months and months of listening to Jack Johnson to the point where I had memorised his different harmonies, I decided it was time to venture into the unknown: the genre of reggae.
Now of course we can all say we have heard of Bob Marley, whose name is forever cemented as one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – representative of reggae. But there is so much more to reggae than “No Woman, No Cry”. Reggae has the surprising ability to lend its jaunty beats and bouncing rhythms to almost any song you can think of – even Adele! In fact, that is how my exploration into the genre of reggae began: after discovering a reggae cover of none other than Adele’s “Hello”. Being someone who frequently swore that I never listened to reggae, it came as a great surprise that when I did begin venturing into the world of reggae classics, I recognised more than just a handful of tracks. This is because reggae – with its easily recognisable chord progressions and rhythms – can easily mould itself to fit some of our old favourites, yet add something extra to make the music a tad more infectious.
If you are still not convinced, allow me to ease you into the world of reggae, one track at a time:
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
You think you do not know this song, but just wait until you get to the chorus and you will find yourself singing along almost automatically. This song can be used as a lazy morning pick-me-up or life motto, and will be stuck in your head forever. You have been warned.
Everything I Own – Ken Boothe
I am a big fan of Bread. Both the carb and the band. This track is a clever little twist on the band’s beloved classic.
54-46 Was My Number – Toots & The Maytals
A little rougher than the other reggae number, this song takes a little more getting used to. When I first heard this track I was tempted to skip through it after the first verse, but then got lured back in with the “interactive grunting” in the chorus. Toots & The Maytals are right up there with Bob Marley, and this track is a great example of why.
Hello (Adele cover) – Conkarah
For me, this is the track that started it all. It is a wonderful contradiction of upbeat rhythms and somber lyrics that just WORKS.
Why Can’t We Be Friends? – WAR
Although WAR is a funk band, they were known for fusing different elements of music together, and there are obvious reggae influences in this track. The lyrics do get a little repetitive, but the song also sticks to the core of elements of reggae by being straightforward with its message. A+ listening.
Get Up, Stand Up – Peter Tosh
Of course this list would not be complete without a little Peter Tosh, one of the first and most celebrated expressers of Rasta doctrine. Much of reggae is about the defence of equality after all, and this song is the epitome of the movement that inspired the genre.
Happy listening and happy head bobbing!