Living the inspired lifestyle of reggae
By Gabe Ball
What is music? Music has been felt, lived, and admired by people since the beginning of its time. Why is it that any individual can pick out the name of their favorite song, artist, and genre, and tell another there is none greater? Music, like other few things in this world, can literally change a human’s outlook on life. Whether long term or just in that precise moment, a single song can truly change an individual, congregation, society, or even the world. With its roots embedded and built upon “true love”, reggae empowers its listeners with concepts of acceptance, peace, and unity.
In the late 1960’s Reggae was introduced to the Jamaican culture as a way of expressing their every day lives through music. One of the world’s most famous artists Bob Marley, the Third World’s first superstar, with his musical gospel of love and global unity set the way by living, and leading through example. With his talent and religious belief being his only weapons, the Jamaican recording artist applied himself with unstinting perseverance to spreading his prophetic musical message; he only departed this planet when he felt his vision of One World, One Love, which was inspired by his belief in Rastafarianism, was beginning in some quarters to be heard and felt. For example, in 1980, the European tour of Bob Marley and the Wailers played to the largest audiences a musical act had ever experienced there (Salewicz, 2009). In today’s society it seems more and more people are out of their luck, down in the dumps, depressed, or are just having a harder time in their normal day to day lives. In a recent interview with Reed Spampinato, a fellow reggae listener and close friend, he stated “Besides the fact that reggae music is different and less popular in which I like, there is no other music that hits me with more positive vibes and energy than does reggae. Whenever I am feeling down and out, having negative thoughts, my drug is reggae music. Nothing else, I should say “legally,” can turn my negative thoughts into positive. It has a healing power that enables you to enjoy the moment you are in, and not caring for what is to come”.
Reggae music has not only influenced people like Reed and myself, but millions of listeners around the world. If possible to interview them all, the most common shared feeling would come down to having peace in ones life. This only being a factor because, the legends that set the tone and the vibes the way they are meant to be intended. Legends such as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Steel Pulse, Alpha Blondy, UB40, and Groundation all have a shared value of love and peace.
Reggae tries to teach the listener to look beyond bad circumstances that they might find themselves in and enlighten their life with a more positive and optimistic outlook on their circumstance. Reggae has done and accomplished this task in many places of the world with their good rhythms, beats, and lyrics to inspire people of happiness. To let individuals know and recognize that good can be seen in all bad. Bethany Walters, sister of the Author, quoted, “ I have a family with five kids, all under the age of eight years old, the stress and heartache I feel at times can almost be unbearable. As Gabe being my younger brother, Reggae music has rubbed off on me and can take me to levels I can’t explain. Whether I’m trying to clean, cook, get the kids ready, or even myself, having reggae music playing in the background has never failed to keep me at ease”. Examples of Hawaii, Jamaica, the Polynesian Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Bahamas and many other beautiful remote places of the world, share their lifestyles, vibes, and harmony through a common solid ground, the roots of reggae.
Many common and familiar Reggae artists share an actual, not just spiritual belief known as Rastafarianism. In this particular belief members will participate in a ritual of sharing ganja or marijuana with one another, a sacrament for Rastafarians. This is a belief that brings a person closer to God and makes the mind more open to receiving His testimony. Therefore, cannabis (referred to as "ganja" in Jamaican slang) often features prominently in reggae lyrics. Unfortunately, a few decades of American teenagers have misinterpreted this sacred ritual and use it as an excuse to partake. Many people around the world will think of people who listen to reggae music as “stoners, pot heads, or just lazy” all due to a few generations of poor discision making of younger people. There are even artists that have tweeked the way reggae is intended and only speak through lyrics of getting high, stoned, and having a good time feeling “irie” (Romer, 2012) .
In a song called “So High” by Rebelution, their lyrics state, “ Who’s got the erb when im dry, I want to get so high, Who’s got everything I need, im a feen for the green, sticky leaves, man im getting so high, who’s got the cronic that I like, right between the lows and the highs, im feeling alright...”. Songs like these will and do give reggae a bad name for itself. They take the simple fact that legends of old used to smoke and twist it for there own entertainment. Though some artists choose to make their music for a certain audience, one cannot judge or look down on a whole Genre because a select few decide to portray that image. Though some great reggae musicians have and still do smoke marijuana does not change what their lyrics are trying to portray to the world. For example Ray Charles, looking at his past he delt with hard and severe drugs, had alchol problems, strugled with his marriage, living and having sexual relations with other women. Many in our society would frown upon his actions and think lesser of the man if they knew about his past. Putting his past behind and understanding what he acomplished, seeing his success, the way he helped move citizens away from racism in a time that it was so prominent. Looking at all the good, it is very hard to judge him of the bad. This same concept applies to reggae. You do not have to agree with their lifestyle and what they choose to do, but if you look at the good that this style of music represents, the good will always out way the bad.
Coming from poverty, segregation, racism, and tough times, Bob Marley was inspired of what was to come. Reggae music has been inspired through the legendary Bob Marley. Bob’s thoughts and way of life was to see peace and happiness. With a desire to change the outlook of the world and society Bob knew the only way to see his dream come through would be to accept people for who they are (RexRuff, 2012). With that in mind Reggae music teaches through lyrics, rhythms, and beats that though people are different, we are all still one. Skin color, beliefs, political views, anything that separates individuals can be reunited through reggae.
Though many Reggae artists are Rastafarian, they except and love every individual that may believe differently than them. Whether your “God” is translated to the Christianity form, or to the Atheist, a hobby that makes he or she happiest. Reggae unites the listener in accepting the fact that whatever your belief is, if it makes you a better person, gives you happiness, and aspires you to share that love with others, then to continue, and not fall in the trap of stress, disappointment, perhaps even hatred, but to continue living your life in a carefree, pleasant, and loving manner.
So the next time you find yourself down and out, remember, music can be felt from within, it can change you, perhaps your favorite song may be the only thing to get ones self in a better place. So what about Reggae? Can it change you?