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Celebrating reggae, dancehall and afrobeats

This playlist is a collection of some of the greatest reggae, dancehall and afrobeats artists across a time frame of around 60 years. From Roots reggae artists Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and Black Uhuru to contemporary dancehall artists such as Vybz Kartel and Popcaan. Along with the upbeat sounds of afrobeats coming out of Nigeria, the UK and Ghana with artists like Burna Boy and Mr.Eazi.

As well as providing food for thought, this playlist is perfect for lifting your spirits and dancing in the sunshine. Whether it be in your garden, bedroom or balcony. Listen to the sounds of reggae dancehall and afrobeats, zone out and forget about the current circumstances.

Linton Kwesi Johnson- Inglan is a bitch.

Linton Kwesi Johnson is a respected Jamaican dub poet living in London. In 1963 (shortly after Jamaican independence) he moved to Brixton, south London with his father to join the rest of his family who had already made the journey from Chapel Town, Jamaica. He pioneered the genre dub poetry with his album Dread Beat an’ Blood released in 1978. Introducing Johnson as one of the leading voices of the Windrush generation. His music was revolutionary for his time and led to some accusing him of leading a generation of rioters.

The natural flow of Johnsons lyrics demonstrate his talent as a poet. Many people of the Windrush era trying to find work here in the UK would have related to the lyrics in ‘Inglan is a bitch’. People from the Caribbean found employment in nursing, care work and public transport amongst other areas.

Johnson’s soothing deep vocals fit perfectly on top of the hazy dub beats. The happy tone of the song contrasts to the struggles which Johnson discusses through- out the song, making the song stand out to the audience.

Vybz Kartel- Poor People Land/Push it in.

Vybz Kartel is a famous and controversial reggae and dancehall artist from Portmore, Jamaica. These two songs; Poor People Land and Push it in indicate Kartel’s flexibility as an artist and his great skill as a lyricist. He is a versatile and passionate song writer with an ability to enthusiastically explore a variety of subjects in his music from poverty to sex and everything in between. He is recognised world- wide as further popularizing dancehall, bringing international and mainstream attention to the genre. Kartel has worked with artists such as Nicki Minaj and Jay Z. In addition, Drake claims that Vybz Kartel is one of his greatest influences.

However, the praise of Kartel has often been criticised due to his reputation. He is currently serving a life sentence for murder in Jamaica. Despite being incarcerated since 2011, Kartel continues to produce music from his cell. In 2016 alone, he released over 50 new songs. Furthermore, many of his songs have been criticized over the years for promoting misogynistic values as well as promoting skin bleaching, which he refers to as ‘cake soap’.

Poor People Land is a moving reggae song. Much like many other reggae songs, the lyrics discuss the peoples struggle living in their community, fighting against the many injustices they face every day. Using powerful melodies, Kartel calls out ‘Mr.Babylon’ for mistreating poor people and displacing them from their homes in Jamaica. The word Babylon is heard frequently throughout reggae and dancehall music. It is an important term in Rastafarianism referring to governments and institutions who oppress the poor. The uplifting tune and sweet sound of the guitar coupled with powerful political vocals evokes emotion in the listener. The song also provides a voice for the unheard, poorer communities in Jamaica. Making Kartel a popular and well- loved figure amongst many.

On the other hand, Push it in from the Kingston story (Deluxe edition) 2011 album exhibits Kartel’s unashamedly sexual side. Dancehall provides some of the most raunchy and outrageous lyrics in music. This dancehall track does not fail to disappoint in that regard. Push it in is more electronically modified than Poor people land, illustrating many reggae and dancehall artist’s stylistic shift to a more modern sound, particularly in comparison to roots reggae.

Koffee- Throne

Koffee is a Jamaican singer song writer. At the age of 20, she is the first woman and youngest person ever to be awarded a Grammy for best reggae album for her 2019 EP, Rapture. Inspired by new wave reggae artist’s Protoje and Chronixx, Koffee picked up a guitar at the age of twelve and began writing songs. Much like many reggae artists, Koffee uses her platform to sing about subjects close to her heart such as the social problems she witnessed growing up in Spanish Town, Jamaica.

Throne is a great example of the sound of a new generation of reggae artists, influenced by a variety of genres world- wide such as hip hop, trap and grime. Koffee also pays homage to UK grime artist Giggs for influencing her style. Thanks to the internet and social media, artists can explore and connect with musicians from an array of different genres, incorporating new sounds into their own. Throne combines the classic sounds of reggae wind instruments and beats with more hip- hop influenced, electronically modified sounds. All tied together with her fierce and youthful vocals.

Burna Boy- Gbona

Burna Boy is a Nigerian afrobeats- singer/songwriter. Growing up in Port Harcourt Nigeria, Burna Boy’s music is strongly influenced by his home and surroundings. Afrobeats is a contemporary pop genre stemming from West African countries and the diaspora such as Nigeria, Ghana and the UK. The fusion of West African sound, which is often recognised by its tuneful guitar and drum beat rhythms, combined with sounds like UK house music, hip hop and dancehall, mainly came out of Lagos, London and Accra in the 2000’s-2010.

Burna Boy’s African Giant, won album of the year 2019 at the All Africa music awards and was nominated for a Grammy for best world music album in the same year. African Giant was in part influenced by Burna Boys experience living in London, much like his ability to absorb the sounds of Nigeria which is illustrated in his music. Gbona is a great example of this talent, bringing the cool smooth sounds of Lagos, making you want to move your body in the sunshine.

African Giant features UK artist Jorja Smith as well as other respected artists such as Damien Marley. Bringing together a variety of musicians from different genres to create an impressive and unique album. A sure sign that afrobeats is taking a seat at an international platform, thanks to its boundary breaking artists such as Burna Boy.

Steel Pulse-Ku Klux Klan

Steel Pulse are a roots reggae band from Birmingham formed in 1975. They were the first non- Jamaican act to win a Grammy for their album Babylon the bandit in the best reggae album category, 1986. Birmingham has a large Afro-Carribean and Asian community. Many people migrated to the UK during the Windrush era which started in 1948. Birmingham and London were two of the most popular locations for settlers. Thanks to the influx of different nationalities making their homes in Birmingham, the city became a melting pot for all different types of music.

Roots reggae became most popular in the latter half of the 1970’s with artists such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. It is a very spiritual genre paying great homage to the Rastafarian god, Jah. Roots reggae is identified with and speaks for the sufferers and the poor. Artists associated with the genre can often be heard discussing topics of poverty, racial oppression and black pride and liberation in their music. The genre has profoundly influenced reggae artists of following generations. For example, Popcaans ‘Firm and strong’ and Vybz Kartel’s ‘Thank you Jah’ indicate the emphasis placed on spirituality through- out reggae music.

Ku Klux Klan released in 1978, highlights the importance of discussing racism and black struggle in roots reggae music. Ku Klux Klan is not a song to make the audience feel happy or comfortable, for what change ever came from feeling comfortable? It is a song drawing attention to the despicable acts of hate that the black community faced in this time and often still face today. Ku Klux Klan is an example of the politically and spiritually charged nature of roots reggae, in fighting for black liberation and showcasing black pride.

Yellowman- Lost Mi Love.

Yellowman is a reggae and dancehall veteran. Becoming prominent in the 1980’s, he is loved and respected by reggae and dancehall fans of all ages. After becoming famous in Jamaica, in 1981 Yellowman was the first dancehall musician to be signed to a leading American record label, Columbia records. His second album release in 1983 Zungguzungguguzungguzeng was instantly successful. Much like Vybz Kartel, Yellowman has also received criticism over the years for his sexually explicit lyrics.

Lost mi love is a beautiful, gentle and sexy song. The simple harmonies contribute to the story telling narrative of the song.

You can listen to the whole playlist on our Spotify down below:

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