Being born and raised in St. Thomas, everything from steel pan music, calypso, soca, dancehall, and reggae were part of my everyday melodies. I grew up making up dance routines to my favorite jams with my friends. I grew up trying my very best to record dancehall mixes from the radio station on a cassette tape that would not include any radio commercials.
It has been said that music is a universal language and I agree wholeheartedly. Even if the lyrics aren’t in our mother tongue, the sentiment, the rhythm, the beats, stir up something in all of us no matter where we are in the world. I discovered that reggae is deeply loved well beyond the Caribbean and African diaspora. Although I have yet to make it to Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae, I feel connected my West Indian family there thanks to the similarities in culture, food, and of course music. One love.
Debbie D. Harris, a fellow member of a Facebook travel group said “I’m from Jamaica, reggae (all forms of it: ska, dub, roots and culture, dancehall) is in my DNA. That’s the first music I heard. In JA you wake up to reggae and you fall asleep to it, except on Sundays ‘cause grandma wasn’t having it” she jokes. Harris declared “Reggae is Jamaica’s gift to the world.”
I’m sure you agree with Debbie too! “World” should not be taken lightly. For example, when I traveled to Malaysia, there were bars, restaurants, and hostels all in the name of reggae. I’m proud to say that a reggae hostel was my 1st ever hostel experience.
Another unexpected moment was when I traveled to Turkey, I found a whole-in-the wall dancehall club as if I were in DC partying it up at the former Patty Boom Boom or somewhere in the Caribbean. It was such a surprise because here I am “dutty winin’” in what most would consider a very “conservative” country.
When I lived in the DC metro area, I took full advantage of the Caribbean culture there. It was easy to see Beenie Man perform live at a local nightclub or see Beres Hammond – whose velvety voice is a pantry dropper, perform at the Howard Theatre.
Now that I’m here living in California for the 1st time, I am again, pleasantly surprised that a full-blown festival is here to celebrate reggae and all its great vibes. Keisha Fitzpatrick, another travel and reggae lover from Cali said she has been listening to reggae since she was little. In her words, “I love the music, culture and over the last few years I have been getting into the West Indies culture.” She recalled her rastafarian neighbor who played reggae all the time from the likes of “Third World, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Barrington Levy, Sly and Robbie, Eek A mouse and others.”
Never has it been so clear to me that reggae has been a long-time world traveler with plenty of stamps on her passport. I’m excited to experience what she’s evolved to at the 2016 California Roots Festival this Memorial Day weekend. Join me?