REGGAE MONTH // Canadian Reggae DJs Unite Music Lovers through Twitch TV

Every year since the Jamaican government's declaration in 2008, Reggae Month has officially honoured the genre's impact, and is highlighted through events and activities orchestrated by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Ministry of Tourism, and other presenting partners on the island. February was selected to also commemorate the birthdays of two reggae music legends: Dennis Brown who was born on February 1, and Bob Marley, born on February 6.

This year, we'd like to celebrate Reggae Month by recognizing the innovative contributions made to reggae music in Canada, specifically during the past twenty-three months that the world has been in the midst of this seemingly neverending pandemic.

Despite quarantine restrictions, travel complexities, and an overall global apprehension to gather, there have been music practitioners around the world dedicating their time and energy to creatively sustaining reggae music...by any means necessary.

The reggae music industry in Canada has existed almost as long as reggae music itself has, with its impact establishing itself with the emergence of Jamaican artists touring the country in the mid-1960s, and naturally with the increase of Jamaicans relocating north with the implementation of the Canadian Immigration Act of 1967. 

Reggae has been an international force since the 1970s, and is a genre that has transcended borders, races, and decades, inspiring multiple sub-genres and performers based on its aesthetic, rhythms, instrumentation, themes, and messaging. 

The Canadian reggae DJs play a unique role in sustaining and developing reggae music culture in the country (and internationally, through reaching the diverse ethnicities of Canadians, and music lovers worldwide). Visitors to Canada's metropolitan areas will quickly see how reggae music has permeated the culture and influenced vernacular, dance, and style. Now, because of the accessibility of the Twitch app, many around the globe are intimately experiencing the Canadian DJs live performances for the first time.

Canadian DJs adopted the Twitch platform early in the pandemic, their presence was heard loudly online. From reggae to other musical genres, the DJs implemented the platform into their routines mid-2020, before reggae practitioners from the US, UK, and Jamaica embraced it with the same enthusiasm.

Here is a list of some Canadian DJs currently streaming on Twitch that predominantly play reggae music; the links will connect you directly to their streaming channels:

BlackReactionSound | BlaxzDunDaPlace | DiamondStoneLove | DJBobbyPayne | DJKitron | DJQueenBri | DJScarpion | DJTyrone | DrJeckellDiMadRas | DJKamalFyah | FreshCutDeMayor | iAmChrisDubbs | JKDtheDJ | JoshuaXLucas | KidKut | KingBChosen1 | KingTurboSound | MegawaveSound | MistaBlackzReaction | SelectaJinx | Selecta Galis | Spex Da Boss *If we've missed or mis-classified anyone...please let us know and we'll add them up!

That is not to take away from the dozens of other Canadian DJs who play reggae in addition to other genres of music like soca, Afrobeats, hip hop, R&B, and house--reggae knowledge is practically a prerequisite for being able to please the diverse and musically astute metropolitan Canadian masses. Let the record show: most Canadians DJs in major cities can play reggae music.

Having a diverse appreciation for music is a must, particularly as the lines between genres become blurred at times.

Just like we must adapt to changing iterations of our favourite sounds and the evolution of music, collectively, we have been able to easily adapt, transition, and progress through social media platforms as well. 

While some have chosen to pause and get comfy in a social media platform of choice (like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter users, for example), there are countless others who continue to ride the technological wave and flow wherever the energy and activity is: SnapChat. WhatsApp. TikTok. YouTube. About 57% of the global population (4.5 billion) regularly use some form of social media. It has simply become a way of life.

Naturally, as time continues, the options become greater--there are enough apps, games, systems, and routines to meet everyone exactly where they are in their consumption of digital media. Algorithms personalize the experiences, and within weeks of experimentation, new habits are solidified.

Fortunately, whether it's through live transmission, through cassette, or through a downloaded app, music has a way of reaching the people who really want (and need) to live in it. Throughout history, the beat always goes on. Even within the last decade, heavy music consumers have had to transition from purchasing music in tangible form, to streaming through sources like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, or Amazon Music. 

And then came Twitch.

Emmett Shear, Michael Seibel, Kyle Vogt, Kevin Lin, and Justin Kan launched Twitch.tv (previously Justin.tv) in 2005, as a platform for e-sports, creative content, video streaming, and video game communities. A highlight of the platform for music providers in particular: the monetization structure. Amazon purchased the Twitch service in 2014, and needless to say, it's international influence is enormous. There are approximately 15 million daily active users on Twitch--for comparison sake, IG has 500 million, and Twitter has 206 million users each day.

Reggae music has never had an issue crossing international waters and reaching music lovers and souls exactly where they are. It's universal messaging makes it a genre that has a very clear and very deliberate brand and people. Race, ethnicity, and age are not even limiting factors...they never have been.

That's the power of music.

During the pandemic in particular, DJs continued to find ways to share their music virtually with live mixing, interactivity, and soul-soothing entertainment during the darkest times this generation has experienced. From the household names like DJ Jazzy Jeff to community-based DJs, there were increasingly more choices to suit every music lover. 

New York DJ D-Nice, originally from the Boogie Down Productions, was the first DJ to make headlines providing music to those who were scared, unsure, and quarantining at home. D-Nice demonstrated the unifying power of music early in the pandemic, providing live sets and dance-at-home vibes on Instagram. He reached 100,000 viewers on IG live on March 22, 2020, a record high.

The phenomenon spread widely into the DJ population naturally, as each individual was able to go live and play music for their long-time fans and supporters on the Instagram platform...while stuck at home. Unfortunately, copyright rules and technical difficulties didn't make this method convenient, preferable, or sustainable for all. Even high-profile Instagram events (like the Verzuz battle) had their fair share of glitches.

DJs soon discovered that the Twitch platform was more DJ-friendly, and music could play freely without time restraints or the fear of suddenly getting cut off. Twitch allowed for a different experience, an accessible chat room, new emojis, and it broadened the impact of the app for many. Suddenly Twitch was for more than just video games.

Many DJs playing from home made the "switch to Twitch," while many (including D-Nice, Firistic Steenie, or Tony Matterhorn for example) remained on Instagram as their streaming platform of choice.

Not all Canadian DJs/sounds have chosen to venture over to (or stay long on) the Twitch platform. Many are quite comfortable and profitable as they were, in venues, on Instagram, or playing private events. Many use Twitch to consume music, but not to perform. Some keep it simple, and others keep it creative with graphics, concepts, and community-building activities.

Fortunately, there are enough options available for every style of music provider, and for every music aficionado with particular tastes. To be able to sit at home and with a click of the app (on your phone, tablet, or laptop, or cast to your television) and witness live mixing and MC-ing from across Canada, the US, Caribbean, and UK has been an epidemic that many didn't realize they needed...and somehow now can't live without.

Spending a week navigating the various Twitch "rooms" or "chats," you'll soon become familiar with the talk. The subscriptions, gifting subscriptions, and real-money donations made to the DJs through virtual "bits"...all of which represent very real, and very important funds. This allows listeners to not only participate in, endorse, and support the experience and practitioner, but also to tip their favourite DJs and celebrate songs along the way.

Subscribing to a DJ's channel gives you access to their individual menus of channel points (with creative ways to collect and use them within the stream), and also personalized emojis/emotes that visually represent the DJs music, vibe, and aesthetic. From dancing Flintstones, to red-gold-and-green Clarks, catch phrases, flames, shaking speakers, and the faces of favourites artists and logos, the emotes (regular phone emojis are also accepted) animate the screen, and invigorate the chat.

For the DJs themselves, there are incentives to reach various status levels of participation as well. A calculated combination of streaming hours, viewers, and other metrics can take a Streamer from an Affiliate to a Partner (similar to being verified on IG or Twitter).

The interactive chat room is an essential part of the experience, as participants around the world can show support, connect with one another, or communicate directly with the DJ. Time zones, locations, and other check-ins become regular features as music plays around the clock on the app.

The community is spearheaded by the DJ themselves (their skill, personality, and brand...depending on what you're there for) in addition to their selected moderators. The "mods" help to welcome guests into the room, chat, and keep the feed active, thank participants for their subscriptions and donations, and also to look out for spam, unwelcome contributions (occasional pests), and to help send raids and organize other functions of the program while the DJ is busy selecting. On Twitch, the mods themselves tend to develop their own followings with special appreciation and status for the hard work they put into keeping the experience enjoyable. More often than not, the stronger the team (moderators, VIP guests, and regular supporters)...the stronger the channel, overall. Everyone has a role to play.

Friendships, relationships, and business partnerships have had the opportunity to form and develop across continents, making the international music lovers community increase in intimacy.

Big spenders (giving out donations of five or ten gifted subscriptions at a time), lurkers (visitors who listen, but don't participate in the chat), dancing (via emote), money pull ups (usually about 100 bits)...it's all there. With the music loud enough, and your own at-home libations, the experience is an appreciated presence. Somehow "real" life transfers to the Twitch metaverse, perceptions and choices are normalized, and the lines between cyberspace and reality are blurred, if not non-existent.

A few other original concepts that emerged with Twitch DJs, is the way in which each individual selector can support their peers. For example, at the end of their stream, the DJ is able to "raid" and transfer the listeners they have accumulated that session, and deliver them into the room of another DJ who is streaming live. This can literally go all day, and the love is shared from creator to creator. Raids are sometimes a surprise, sometimes a show of support, sometimes based on allegiance, or perhaps a calculated business move.

When the transfer of listeners is scheduled and planned, an official "raid" takes place with flyers, promotions, and specific time slots for each participating DJ. With a set time, one DJ starts the raid, and each streamer is responsible for continuing the vibes throughout their designated time period.

Raids are special events. Each DJ has their own schedule of activities each week, and the landscape follows an anticipated program grid. From morning shows, to mid-day vibes, evening specials, and late-night sessions, there is a constant flow of energy. Some time slots have clear front-runners, while others (like Friday or Saturday nights) you can find numerous DJs online...often from the same genre or location even, that overlap programming. There's a time for strategy, and then there are times when musicians just want to play their music!

Thanks to the international usage of the app, the scheduled raids often span time zones, countries and sometimes even genres. There are reggae raids, and old school raids. Caribbean raids, or special event birthday raids. There have even been virtual editions of previously established events (like Toronto's Redemption reggae event, presented by D'Bandit and Mista Presto, for example) that temporarily transferred to Twitch when necessary.

Here are a few reggae-focused raids that you can look out for on Twitch, scheduled weekly, monthly, or for special occasions (a Twitch search will bring you there):

MARLEY MONDAYS | PRESS GAS TUESDAYS | WORL-A-REGGAE | WAH GWAAN WEDNESDAYS | UNRULY THURSDAY | MORNING IN THE TROPICS | ROCKAWAY SUNDAYS | ZION TRAIN | ISLAND TO ISLAND RAID PON RAID

With the implementation of special raids, DJs, promoters, and patrons adapted quickly during the quarantine months, falling into their traditional roles and regular routines. When outside "opened up," and restrictions allowed Canadians (in particular) to gather freely again, the Twitch landscape became slightly less populated. Scheduling changed, and availability decreased across the board. 

Would most of us rather be in an entertainment venue, or enjoying an outdoor musical experience? Of course! But in the meanwhile, during Reggae Month 2022 in particular, a lot of the music enjoyment and creativity for Canadians in particular will be taking place online again, due to government health restrictions for venues, gathering, and organized activities.

It's a unique phenomenon, and perhaps even a moment in time that will come and go. But because it means so much to so many people, and because it has served as a distraction, a source of joy and entertainment, and consistent good vibes around during the past two years of the pandemic...what first seemed like a novel idea and strange way to spend an evening, has now become almost as enjoyable and anticipated as going "out" to hear the music itself. Twitch has allowed for the experience to be transferred in a way that is still fulfilling, and a welcome distraction from a lot of the other madness available for digital consumption.

What's next? Do we ever know? Social media outlets have a way of sneaking up on you and becoming a part of your routine and lifestyle without asking. If you have a strong passion that is available online (like music, fashion, dance, or otherwise) you'll find a way to connect with your peers, to consume your art, and to contribute to its growth and longevity.

This, and other emerging platforms, are the future. We need to pay attention and take advantage. Music corporations like Amazon have even recently used Twitch for live programming (i.e., the recent Free Larry Hoover concert that joined Drake and Kanye on stage in December 2021).

What does this mean for Canadian DJs who specialize in reggae music? If you've made it this far into the article (many thanks), that means you too have a vested interest in the progress, development, and legacy of the music, the people, and the culture. Twitch can (and should) be used as a catalyst for global exposure, promotion, and community-building...naturally. It can also be used as a platform to demonstrate Canada's contributions to the international force that is reggae music.

Our hopes for the future of reggae music in Canada? Annual reggae festivals with top-tier artists, and opportunities for local artists to join the lineup. Increased opportunities for recording artists to receive exposure, touring opportunities, and equal placement with Canadian music support/funding. Increased recognition for veterans and those who built the foundation of reggae music in Canada. Professional communications, media exposure, and attention to events and activities in the reggae music community. Lucrative opportunities for reggae music practitioners. A stronger commercial radio presence and broadcast opportunities for reggae music. Dedicated venues for reggae music performance, development, and appreciation.

It's been over 50 years since reggae music first touched Canadian soil, and those who love and endorse reggae music need to be more deliberate in their support and advancement of the culture. The music is as much a part of our history as it is our future.

With everything that is currently restricted, blocked, unavailable, or disappearing in Canada's social landscape...music is one thing that will never (and can never) lose its impact, for those who require it enough. Thanks to outlets like Twitch, reggae music has provided a daily reminder about all that is good, positive, creative, and wonderful. Once again, despite resistance (controllable or otherwise), reggae music has found a way to keep its fire burning.


DJ Delano Turns Up the Volume on Twitch | Stephanie Lyew | Jamaica Gleaner, 09/2021

Is Reggae Ready for the Return of Live Music | Duane McDonald | Jamaica Observer, 11/2021

Can DJs on Twitch Replace Clubs | Will Caiger-Smith | Vice News, 04/2021



Do you have a reggae music/cultural project, vision, or idea to build? We're here to help, and always down to strengthen our community and culture. Contact us at info@kyapublishing.com if you want to chat.

Kya Publishing's Writing & Communication Services

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Written by SM Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Reflection and Reason" blog.

Follow @KyaPublishing and @JamaicanCanadianZone on Instagram.

Link with Kya Publishing on Twitch @KyaP_Stacey!

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