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Has Reggae Been Abandoned in Africa?

Bob Marley

Jamaicans are the custodians of Reggae.

Since its inception in the Jamaican music scene during the 1960s, reggae music has become an international genre with a broad, pan-diasporic appeal. Reggae became popular in Africa from the 1970s to the 1980s.

The likes of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff toured Africa several times and connected with their fanbase. It is important to note that reggae was widespread throughout Africa for its beautiful rhythm with a sound, language, and feeling unique from all others. It is music that moves people in body and spirit in a powerful way that is special to itself. It is impossible not to notice that reggae finds a powerful resonance among Africans and throughout Africa.

By the 1990’s the popularity of reggae could be credited to well-known reggae artists like Majek Fashek, Andy Shurman, and Lucky Dube. Over the years the genre produced several talents from West Africa such as Alpha Blondy from Côte d’Ivoire, Rocky Dawuni, Blakk Rasta, Scoobi Selah and Shasha Marley from Ghana, Orits Wiliki, Evi Edna Ogholi from Nigeria. 

During the late 2000s, a more upbeat form of the genre called Dancehall emerged on the scene. If reggae seemed to be energetic, dancehall was twice that. Dancehall’s evolution and impact sort of diluted the dominance of reggae in Africa. All the upcoming artists that had a reggae background shifted to making dancehall tunes. The likes of Stonebwoy, Burna boy, General Pype, and Shatta Wale all gained popularity through dancehall.

Stonebwoy
Stonebwoy

Over time, Afrobeats has generally dominated the music scene in West Africa. Very little spotlight is being given to reggae acts. It is now very rare to find any musician who identifies solely as a Reggae musician. The absence of reggae music has influenced various industry actions as well.

The Ghana Music Awards which previously had a category solely for Reggae has been altered to the reggae/dancehall category. It is true reggae music doesn’t belong to Africans- Afrobeats does. But the variety of music in an industry creates diversity which is necessary for growth. It would be sad to completely lose touch with such a spiritual genre of pan- African music.

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