Probably the most positive feeling, good vibes, stand up for your rights music genres you will ever find is reggae music. Like the roots of many genres (punk, rock, and hip-hop to name a few), reggae has a history of conscious lyrics, anti-establishment and promoting peace and love for your fellow humans. Personally, I grew up on a variety of sounds from all over and all walks of life. I’m not an expert on any one genre but pride myself on constantly learning. Lately, that journey has been more into reggae. That being said, below are some of my favorite artists with something happening right now in this genre. So give the YouTube videos below a spin and read on!
Dread Mar I
Mariano Javier Castro, better known as Dread Mar I, will be playing Ruido Fest this summer and there is no better way to prepare than to catch up on the 13 years of his career with some downloads and videos on YouTube. Earlier this year Dread Mar released the single En el Seno del Amor, leaving us in anticipation of a new album to come. A native of Argentina, he began his career in 2005 with the group Mensajeros Reggae. He was also once a chorus singer for Los Cafres, taking lead vox on a couple occasions when Los Cafres’ lead singer, Guillermo Bonetto, was unable to perform. Two of Dread Mar’s most popular tracks to date are Tu sin mi and Arbol sin hojas, both reggae style love ballads released on his album Vivi en Do. This style of reggae ballad is popular with much of his music. For a bonus, treat check out: El Pajaro Vio el Cielo y Se Volo, featuring Klub, Los Autenticos Decadentes, and Dread Mar I.
New Kingston comes to us out of Brooklyn but with strong Jamaican roots. Combining their passion for reggae music and the urban sounds of their NY upbringing, this family home-grown band has begun a progressive sound in the reggae scene that has been going strong for over eight years now. Their latest release A Kingston Story: Come From Far is the perfect sample of that New Kingston sound that includes R&B, Hip Hop, Dancehall and traditional reggae. One of their more popular tracks continues to be You Are Mine, featuring Kimie Riner, off their previous release Kingston City. Personal favorites of my own include Agape off of Come From Far and Kingston Fyah off the album by the same title. New Kingston recently visited Chicago’s The Wild Hare on April 28 and find themselves on the road with a tour that will take them throughout the US and into Europe.
Cultura Profectica is another artist that will be playing in Chicago soon. They visited us last year as part of Ruido Fest 2017 but will be playing a more intimate concert at House Blues on May 26. What many might now know is that Cultura actually began their career as a cover band and did not start performing their own original music until about two years later. With a 22 year career behind them, Cultura has five studio albums, two live albums that include a CD/DVD tribute to Bob Marley and a hits release. There have been a couple of singles, Saca Prende y Sorprende and La De Igual, released in recent years and we are waiting for a new full-length album in the near future (I hope!).
One of my favorite artists of all time, and that of many people, is Alicia Dal Monte Campuzano, better known as Alika. Alika has a long history in the reggae scene and is a pioneer in many respects. She also often ventures into genres like hip-hop and cumbia. However, her verse is always conscious and socio-political. Alika is most recognized for tracks like Yo Tengo el Don, Big Up, and Nyabinghy Chant and, although her songs have been remixed into dub, jungle and breakbeats (see Dubyourself) her newest single 528 takes a whole new and unexpected but pretty awesome twist. But the music and style on 528 make so much sense as she preaches the frequency of change and love needed in this world (528hz is said to be the sound at which the sun resonates, the color of chlorophyll in plant life and the rate at which oxygen resonates at the heart of a rainbow). However, whatever your theory, 528 is another favorite in my Alika collection.
Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds
Proclaimed “leaders of the new school” Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds has released a few new singles ahead of their newest album Illuminate, set for release May 25 but available for pre-order on iTunes. The new track Back To You with Sammy Johnson and the previous release Frequency are a combo of reggae and R&B. Born in California, Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds has been categorized as “reggae rock” and perhaps the reason for which it’s members have been seen in other genres. For a while it seemed like TBS might be MIA as founders Moises Juarez and Matthew McEwan worked an alternative rock project titled Life. But, now on their new label Island/Empire Records, Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds are back with the new LP and a promotional tour that brings them to Chicago’s Beat Kitchen on May 18.
Matisyahu will return to Chicago during Ravinia Fest on Thursday, June 7 and in great company too! Just off the heels of his Broken Crowns tour with Common Kings and Orphan, Matisyahu joins Stephen Marley on their Strength to Strength tour running, from now through August. For most of us, Matisyahu needs no introduction and, to this date, his most defining track has to be One Day off the 2009 release Light (a version of which he also recorded with Akon). His latest full-length album Undercurrent was released last year and Matisyahu has been nonstop since then. Another worthwhile release, for a taste of all his past hits, is the 2012 Playlist release. Other interesting, and perhaps unexpected, tracks to check out are Matisyahu’s cover of The Police – Message In a Bottle and The Crystal Method’s Drown In the Now featuring Matisyahu.
Out of Colombia we have the group formed by Pablo Araoz and Javier Fonseca and known as Alerta Kamarada. Alerta Kamarada found their musical beginnings in Ska music but, after heavy experimentation with reggae music, they formally dedicated themselves to that genre. However, those ska influences are still there. Alerta has been involved with artists like Doctor Krapula and prided themselves on promoting a message of peace in both their native Colombia and abroad. With a history of over 20 years in music, they recently released their extended EP “Love is in da House” in February this year. Another mysterious release has popped up on iTunes simply called Alerta Kamarada – EP which features 5 tracks I couldn’t find elsewhere with no news to accompany this work.
If you like collaborations and dancehall then you won’t be disappointed with The Dubplates’ newest album Box Full of Steel. Although released almost a year ago, it is still fresh and tracks of the album are still topping charts. Featuring collabs with artists like King Yellowman, Mixmaster Mike, Derek Mathis, Future Fambo, Daddy Brady and many, many more, this album experiments with hip-hop and reggae; it twists genres and wrings things out of them that you would not have expected. And, with tracks that have an old-school, dj battle feel, of cuts, samples, scratches, and progressions, they’ve won fans of all sorts of genres over to the Dubplates side. You must really listen to it to appreciate it.
When people say Italy you may think pizza, fine wine, cheese and the Leaning Tower. Not often has reggae been on the frontal lobe of people familiar with the country. But Mellow Mood is a strong exception. Hailing from Pordenone, in the northeastern region of Italy, this band led by twins Jacopo and Lorenzo Garzia has gained popularity since their debut in 2005. They have entertained on stages in France, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Italy and even visited us in the states. Their latest album Large is as true to Jamaican reggae as you can imagine, with the title track and Sound of a War growing fast in popularity. My personal favorites on Mellow Mood’s new release are the title track and Ms. Mary, but you honestly can’t go wrong with any of the tracks on Large.
One of the most popular names in dancehall en Español out of Spain, Swan Fyahbwoy drops some slow(er) jams on his new album F.Y.A.H. The track Soy Un Niño, is a tribute to those of us who continue to pursue our dreams with that same childhood spirit and ambition. With a 14 year history in Spain’s reggae scene, this album is a departure from his regular upbeat, hard-hitting, dancehall tracks. It has received some mixed feelings from fans but, overall, is a welcome addition to the genre of reggae en español. Most popular in Europe and Latin America, Swan Fyahbwoy made a jump to the English market in 2016 under Nacional Records, the label which has also released F.Y.A.H. in the states.