Let it be known that reggae music in my life was a rite of passage into my spirituality. Reggae was a healer and great teacher of mine, also a catalyst when it comes to the woman and artiste I am today.
REGGAE LOVES ME…
Growing up in Halse Hall, Clarendon, Jamaica, Reggae was a mainstay on our radio stations. Outside of the church and the construct of religion, the rebel in me always knew there was more to be seen than with my two eyes. I am a seeker and feeler of energy. The good energy and food for thought within the lyrics of some of my most influential reggae artistes awakened the critical thinker in me. The forebears for me during those impressionable years of my life growing up in Jamaica were the likes of Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Mutabaruka, Tony Rebel, Bunny Wailer, the ladies of the I Three — Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and Rita Marley — Grace Jones and Burning Spear to name a few. They were in my eyes prophetic. They were storytellers, using reggae as a tool to share our history, our present and the future foretold. These reggae legends spoke of our destiny as individuals, the collective, and humanity on a whole. Through these artistes reggae became like a history book. They helped to influence, teach and assist potential future artistes like myself to remember and learn about who we are as a people. To remember where we have been and what we’ve gone through as humans in general and for me specifically growing up black and female in my village in Clarendon. Through this ‘innerstanding’, reggae moves in ways that inspire and contribute to the betterment of our societies and culture as we navigate through life.
Reggae drives me. It’s the way that this music transcends borders, cultures, times, creeds and colours that motivates me. Reggae is possibly the only genre of music that has been embraced by people from all walks of life. You can find a reggae music scene anywhere around the globe. Why is this so? It is because reggae is so inclusive. Reggae speaks to my soul, our souls, it is sacred. I can see why many people are drawn to it. In my expression of the art form, writing and singing, it is not only so much fun but also cathartic and therapeutic… bonus. I respect all the great teachers, protectors as well as the promoters of reggae music, who work relentlessly, tirelessly and unwaveringly to continue to supply our world with this essential musical experience in all its forms and styles.
REGGAE LOVES ME NOT…
This occurs when self-serving and self-proclaimed gatekeepers mishandle my beloved reggae music with a humongous lack of respect. They hide behind the banners of the music, calling themselves Reggae, but all the while acting differently behind the scenes. They, in this way allow for pillaging and the selling out of this sacred music. Bad mind is the inappropriate intentions and secret agendas.
Now don’t get me wrong, I encourage the collaboration, the fusing and paying homage to the sounds and rhythms of reggae and what it brings and offers when used to amplify other musical genres. My bone of contention however is when reggae is borrowed from to make the mainstream sparkle, to make their product more cool, hip, and urban, and yet the great reggae artistes of any age don’t get to see the light of day. Mainstream plays and promotes this “new music” celebrating the “artistic, innovative, and creative genius” without giving credit where credit is due.
This disregard and disrespect comes even from our own communities. An example is the system of payola (pay to play). So unethical. Working in this industry can sometimes be challenging, a battle and a fight to get through some of these doors to get on certain platforms, stages and shows. Trying to gain access to a wider, broader audience is a continuous fight. Especially, and unfortunately, even more so as a female artiste in reggae. Some of these industry’s pitbulls can be very biased. If you’re not from their circles, crews, and cliques, that struggle to get seen or heard is even greater. They want you to do it their way or no way. This “crab in a bucket” mentality holds us back and perpetuates this separateness, this disunity which of course isn’t what reggae is about.
True reggae music is about unity, consciousness, and collaboration, not competition. Unfortunately, we see that a lot in our industry. In my opinion, a lot of these “gatekeepers” do not practise what they preach ie: the true philosophies of reggae. They should all be fired from these positions of influence. They serve only themselves and their agendas not the unification, healing and betterment of the people, society and the music. The changing of some of these old guards is necessary because it is an injustice to watch the unfairness, the lack of respect, the down right destruction of what the torch bearers of reggae intended.
My intention for reggae music, my reggae music, our reggae music, is to inspire, uplift, heal, empower each other and ourselves. Not the opposite. A lot of us have forgotten those important attributes and gifts in the seeking of popularity, fame, money, glory and notoriety — silver and gold. As we know this is like building a beautiful house on the sand. Reggae music is truly a tool that can heal our nation, our people if a lot more of us had clear unimpeded access to good and great reggae music our world would be a better and safer place. And so, as my daisy play ends …Reggae loves me so I am determined to remain resilient and do my part to continue the movement of making great reggae music.
This article is an excerpt from an Op/Ed piece written by Ammoye for the Jamaica Observer and was published on June 3rd 2021.