By Ahmid Sesay (Star)
Reggae University airs Wednesday nights at 9pm ct
What is Reggae? How does Reggae sound? This answer will vary depending on how many people you ask and the era in which they grew up. What is Reggae to me? Reggae is African music. Reggae is spiritual music. Reggae is educational music. How does Reggae sound? A baseline, rhythm guitar, and a one drop beat. It is African music because it resonates with Africans. I was born in Sierra Leone. The majority of my Reggae knowledge comes from being around my late father and my uncles. That is where my inspiration for music was born. The message in the music shows that we share a cultural bond and fight the same struggles universally. Reggae IS a culture.
I focus mostly on Roots Reggae. When I say “roots,” folks quickly associate that with “old school” reggae. Roots is just what most know to be the original style before Dancehall came in and took over. In my opinion, the two are not the same genre. Dancehall is to Reggae what Rap is to R&B. They come from the same people and culture, but they’re extremely different. I dislike the fact that when one is looking for Reggae, Dancehall is often first offered. That bothers me. If I’m hungry and tell you I want Curry, don’t give me jerk. Same culture, different food. Reggae is a style of music. It creates a melodic, yet relaxed vibration. Just because a man chats Patois on a song doesn’t make it Reggae.
That’s why I chose the name “Reggae University” for my show. I aim to teach people about Reggae from ALL eras. Being that I’ve never stepped foot in Jamaica but have a great knowledge of the music, I want to show the POWER of Reggae. Reggae music is a music full of activists. One would like to credit the Rastafarian faith, but it’s not just the Rastas. Jimmy Cliff, Culture, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Peter, and of course Bob are just a few of the “activists” in Reggae. Most people know those names. I want to extend their knowledge to artists like Justin Hinds, The Maytones, and more. I also want to focus on educating people on the newer Roots Reggae artists like Romain Virgo, Lila Ike, Naomi Cowan, Protoje and more. Mi ave nuff fi teach unu (I have a lot to teach you all)!
The message in Reggae, especially in the earlier days, taught the Black race, wherever they may be in the world, to focus on and to cherish Africa. It is our home. It taught us the teachings of Marcus Garvey. It taught about peace and love. The beauty of Reggae is that you can never learn nor have enough. I have crates of records and boxes of cds and still feel like I need to double the amount of what I have. First you start with Bob Marley, then next it may be Gregory Isaacs, then Culture, then Morgan Heritage or Luciano. The music has a deep, rich history that I hope will be revered more as time progresses. So….when you’re chanced, come a mi school and sit dung inna de front row. Its a serious ting mi deh pon…..Reggae University.