The New Face of Reggae In The USA
09/22/2021 by Lloyd Stanbury
REGGAE MUSIC ORIGINATED IN JAMAICA, BUT TODAY REGGAE BELONGS TO THE WORLD!
On Saturday September 18, 2021, I attended the Good Vibes Summer Tour concert at the Sunset Cove Amphitheatre in Boca Raton, Florida. This tour is presented by California band Rebelution, with special guests Kabaka Pyramid and Keznamdi from Jamaica. The 6,000 capacity Sunset Cove Amphitheatre was sold out, as was the 5,000 capacity St. Augustine Amphitheatre further north in Florida the night before. I did not see any of the traditional reggae fans from the South Florida Caribbean community at the Sunset Cove Amphitheatre, and none of my Jamaican friends in South Florida were aware of the event.
What I witnessed at the Sunset Cove Amphitheatre was an audience of young adults and middle aged Americans singing and dancing to sweet reggae music. The audience was clearly attracted to the venue by Rebelution. While Kabaka Pyramid was rocking the house on stage, persons in the audience were asking me - what is the name of the band playing. What I experienced in Florida is an example of what is taking place throughout the USA. On August 21 and 22 Rebelution were once again the headline act at the scenic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre for the Reggae On The Rocks festival. They closed the show on both nights, following performances by Inner Circle, Third World, Mykal Rose and Keznamdi.
Rebelution is only one of several USA based reggae bands that not only dominate the reggae music charts in America, but also pull the largest crowds on the live reggae music circuit. The power of the new breed of American roots reggae bands has also resulted in two of the fastest growing music festivals in the USA - California Roots Music and Arts Festival in Monterey, California, and Reggae Rise Up Florida Music Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida. Some of the more well known reggae bands based in the USA include Sublime, SOJA, Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Common Kings, J Boog, Iration, The Green, Stick Figure and Cultura Profética from Puerto Rico.
The face of reggae in America has changed over the past 20 years. The original reggae audience of older fans, including many with Caribbean connections, is being replaced by a younger audience made up primarily of American college graduates and students who are locked into the digital music world where events and recorded music are promoted and distributed with the help of social media platforms and other Internet tools.
The USA reggae landscape has changed, and the old guards and traditional approaches taken by the early supporters of reggae need updating. The good news is the USA reggae market is growing, and some of the leaders of the movement have created new opportunities for exposure in the USA for reggae artists from Jamaica.
In a recent interview and article in the Jamaica Gleaner [August 22, 2021], Eric Rachmany, Rebelution’s front man said “My hope is that festivals that use the word reggae in it actually bring in Jamaican acts. The reggae-inspired music many American musicians make cannot solely represent the genre as a whole. Reggae is way too deep rooted in other aspects that need to be showcased.” Clearly, this is not mere talk, but Rachmany and Rebelution Music puts their money where their mouth is, as is exemplified in their annual Good Vibes Summer Tour of the USA.
Lloyd Stanbury is a Jamaican entertainment attorney and music business consultant, and a partner in Majesty Media. The article was first published at Majesty Media
Watch below two clips from the show @ Sunset Cove Amphitheatre in Boca Raton, Florida 9/18/2021: