COOL ROCK // Why Roots Reggae Will Never Go Out of Style

Roots reggae is the heart and soul of reggae music. While its mainstream popularity may fluctuate over the years, and it is often subject to trends and social movements, it still remains a staple of Jamaican culture, and an eternal asset to the genre of reggae music because its central tenets will never change. Roots reggae will never go out of style because by nature, it is rooted in messages of reality, Black/African pride, themes of spirituality, honouring God, and the preservation of social consciousness. It is an underground movement that continues to grow, indefinitely.

Distinguished by its minor key melodies, strong vocals, smooth and soulful basslines, and "militant rockers rhythms," roots reggae is clearly defined by messages of politics, observation of the people, and a keen awareness of Jamaica's colonial past and global appeal.

After the 1966 visit of Haile Selassie to Jamaica, political unrest became a common feature of roots reggae music, along with an increased spiritual awakening in themes and lyrics. Complimenting the drums, bass, guitar, organs, and percussion, were the truthful words of every day life and the thoughts and aspirations of the every day Jamaican.

It was in the 1960s that Jamaicans began to dramatically increase their presence in the U.K., the U.S., and Canada, as well as parts of Europe due to changes in immigration law, and this is naturally when the reach of Jamaican culture and reggae music also began to take flight internationally. It can be said that the zenith of roots reggae music, thus far, was significantly reached in the late 70s as a result.

Not only did Jamaican legends Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, and Peter Tosh and countless talented others cement themselves into roots reggae history around this time, but it was also a time of international resistance, where reggae served as a fitting soundtrack to passionate movements of culture, spirituality, and love.

Around this time, reggae music took over the hearts of every race, continent, and lifestyle with commonalities rooted in human nature and justice. Large festivals in Jamaica emerged, encouraging the mass appreciation of the music and the attendance of international fans, but it was also a time of celebrations in Europe, northern California and other locales as these powerful messages inspired music lovers of all origins.

Now, there are reggae music festivals in every corner of the globe. From the Jamaican traditions of Sunsplash and Rebel Salute, to the Ottawa Reggae Festival in Canada, Reggae on the River and the Kaya Fest in California, to reggae festivals in Springfield, Montana, Australia, New Zealand, Brazile, India, Korea's "Rise Again" festival, concerts in the Philippines, Croatia, and Sri Lanka, with reggae fan bases in France, "Reggae Jam" in Germany, and the popular "Rototom Sunsplash" event in Spain.

No other music inspires such unity and consistent dedication to the truth as roots reggae music does. Along with lover's rock, and other sub-genres of reggae music, roots reggae is an accessible form of the music that international audiences are most receptive to, and appreciative of. It is a music that benefits the well-being of mankind.

The 80s ushered in an era of dancehall music that has yet to simmer down. A change in the times, a new kind of global awareness, and a more aggressive and faster paced momentum made dancehall the new dominant sound in reggae music. While roots reggae still existed, it was the dancehall artists that were making new waves and hitting international music charts.

While the dancehall scene was gaining steam, two Jamaican artists were coming of age on the island. Now in their 30s, trends and charts didn't keep roots reggae DJ Yaadcore and roots reggae recording artist Iba MaHr away from the essence of the genre.

He was the first to play Kabaka Pyramid and Chronixx on Jamaican radio, and now tours as the official DJ for recording artist Protoje in addition to developing his international roots reggae musical brand Dubwise. Yaadcore (aka Rory Cha) integrated the influence of his selector father's Mandeville-based sound Love People International, and developed a career in the industry based on the energy of the music.

"Roots reggae...goes along with the positive word sounds to uplift the people," Yaadcore told "Music is for healing, not misleading...I was always conscious of this even when I used to play all types of music. This is when I realized if I wanted to protect my son from these type of lyrics, I would also want to do the same for other youths and the people in general."

Yaadcore's signature event Dubwise began as as weekly event on Wednesday nights in Kingston, and has developed into a travelling brand with roots in Miami, Washington, D.C., Trinidad, and NYC with contributions from international reggae DJs like Corey Chase, Dutty Bookman, Lion Twins, and DJ Gringo to name a few.

Yaadcore's goal: to reintroduce authentic roots dub reggae to spaces that are accessible by mainstream audiences. For this reason, he no longer DJs other genres of reggae, and has stopped accepting bookings in any other genre.

One of the spaces he will be permeating is Toronto nightclub Nest, where Yaadcore will be a part of the COOL ROCK event, hosted by Chris Dubbs. A Jamaican-Canadian producer and reggae radio personality, Chris Dubbs (the host of The Vibe Drive on Toronto's urban alternative radio station VIBE 105.5fm) is also dedicated to keeping the legacy of roots reggae flourishing in his hometown of Toronto, Canada as a whole, and over the airwaves.

"I love reggae music, and I want to ensure that the generations of Canadians that come after my generation continue to love and support reggae music in its purest form," said Dubbs. "All around the world there are thriving reggae music scenes, festivals, and ambassadors of all nationalities...I want to use my radio program, and my events to contribute to the presence of reggae music. I don't ever want to see it lose its natural vibration."

Yaadcore will be headlining COOL ROCK, Dubbs' roots reggae-specific event on May 11, 2018. Dubbs plans to have COOL ROCK remain a staple in the Canadian reggae music scene in the spirit of unity and positive vibrations. Also performing live at Nest Toronto for COOL ROCK will be Toronto-based DJs Black Reaction, Lindo P, Chris Dubbs, and DJ Tyrone, along with a special appearance for the first time in Canada, Jamaican recording artist Iba MaHr.

"Roots reggae gives you a feeling that speaks directly to your spirit," said Dubbs, who has been DJing reggae music in Toronto since his teen years in the 90s. "This is the original form of reggae music, and we owe it to our predecessors and the reggae music industry as a whole to make sure that this feeling continues to be transferred around the world. This is the feeling that makes so many people globally love and respect Jamaican people and the messages we represent in music and actions."

This is a sentiment that all lovers of roots reggae express: the focus on unity, one love, and cultural awareness...without the jokes or playful insults found in dancehall or soundclash culture. While the overall origin remains the same, it is the specific intention that drives roots reggae connoisseurs to stay true to themes of progress.

"I take pleasure in doing love songs," said Jamaican recording artist Iba MaHr, who will also be featured at the May 11 COOL ROCK event in Toronto. "Essentially, I am inspired to sing about real life occurrences, but in reality as artistes, we create melodies then connect words to them to craft stories that reflect other people's live."

Mario Greaves adopted the name Iba MaHr, as it represents humility and calm, as well as an homage to the Ethiopian province of Harar (hence, MaHR = Mario of Harar). Writing songs since high school, he began to perform after being his encouraged by his peers at the University of Technology where he studied towards a B.A. in Computing and Management.

Breaking into the musical scene with a 2008 song "Had It, Lost It" on a compilation album, he then went on to have a hit song on the VP Record's 2012 Reggae Gold Album ("Will I Wait") followed by tours of Europe and various festivals, before touring in the U.S. with Kabaka Pyramid in 2015.

Iba MaHr's debut album "Diamond Sox" debuted on the Billboard reggae charts at #7, and the iTunes reggae charts at #4 in 2015. The following year, he toured Europe, and also became a brand ambassador for the Bob Marley corporation and products.

Inspired by Rastafari, Iba MaHr--as accurately named--remains humble and calm, and continues to communicate messages of spirituality and love into the universe.

From the originators of the genre, to the latest musicians to promote Jamaica's national treasure, roots reggae music has stood the test of time, and has a permanent staying power precisely because it comes from good, and it promotes good.

According to Iba MaHr: "People need redemption songs, especially in these times of division and world crisis. I can only say that reggae music is a medium through which we connect and touch people in any situation, so I work to preserve its legacy."

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales."


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