Punky Reggae Party

Jamaica may just be a tiny dot on the world map but it has a great contribution to world culture..

A strong will of its people to raise and construct a new identity out of the debris caused by 400 years of enslavements and coloniality came from a sublime creativity. Jamaica is a large exporter of reggae music and culture. Through a diverse infusion and appropriation, reggae has become a symbol of unity and conviviality among world citizens. It has been stipulated as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO since 2018.

The resonance of reggae also reached Indonesia by late 1970s to the early 1980s which was marked by some bands and artists who began to play and record their version of the music like Nola Tilaar, Melky Goeslaw, Black Brothers, Black Company and Asian Roots. As the time passes by, reggae shows good improvement even though the fans only segmented in small communities. By the early 1990s we began to sense a more authenticity in the appropriation and innovation through those artists and bands who specifically and seriously played reggae.

Through this special selection, Kultur sums up the 20th best reggae songs from the yard and abroad starting from the classics to the contemporary ones through the category of its subgenre like roots, dancehall, and lovers rock.

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    1. Toots & The Maytals - “Do The Reggay”

Toots and the Maytals was one of the first generation of Jamaican musicians in the era of ska and rocksteady in the 1960s. The band’s frontman, Toots Hibbert had a soulful and unique vocal that made him one of 100 Greatest Singers by Rolling Stone. Allegedly the word ‘reggae’ came from their single ‘Do the Reggay’ to name the music ever since.  



    2. Johnny Nash - “I Can See Clearly Now”

Johnny Nash was a huge fan of Jamaican music and culture. This made him have to travel back and forth Jamaica-US. He also had a lot of acquaintanceship with Jamaican musicians including Bob Marley. Along with Danny Sims, his manager they helped Marley’s early professional musical career. Nash was even deemed as the king of reggae before Marley.

‘I Can See Clearly’ was released in 1972 and stayed on top of American Billboard charts and gained gold certification. This helped to push reggae popularity among Americans and globally. The single also secured its place on top charts in England, Canada and South Africa. Two decades later in 1993, Jimmy Cliff released the rendition of the song.  


    3. Bob Marley – “One Love”

It’s impossible to talk about reggae and deny Bob Marley’s great contribution to the music. His name is synonymous to reggae. Despites there being numerous great names before him, it was his cooperation with Chris Blackwell from Island Records that made a big breakthrough with “Catch A Fire” in 1973.

There are so many hits that complicate the choice but it is “One Love/People Get Ready” that we think can represent them all equitably. The song addresses love and humanity which can sum up Marley’s struggles and dedication through the music. It can be said that ' ‘One Love/People Get Ready” has become an anthem of many nations and a symbol of unity that can penetrate the barrier between race, religion and class. BBC set the song as “the Song of the Century.” It was also sung when reggae was stipulated as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO in 2018. The song also has been used as a promotion of Jamaica tourism and culture by the Jamaica Tourist Board since 1994.

“One Love/People Get Ready” is a combination of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’ therefore the credit rights would go to both Marley and Mayfield.


    4. Peter Tosh - “Legalize It”

Peter Tosh was one of the three pillars of “The Wailing Wailers” but he decided to pursue a solo career in 1976. He was fed up to become the shadow of Marley who always got much attention from Island Records. His uncompromising rebellious soul and militancy was just too heavy and therefore being rejected by Chris Blackwell, the producer of Island Records. ‘Legalize It’ was Tosh’ first album with CBS Records. It won a gold and platinum solo album which contributed to his success as a world class reggae singer.

‘Legalize It’ became an identical brand for Tosh who vigorously made a campaign of the benefits of Marijuana besides as a sacrament in his Rasta spirituality. The song was banned at first but later it is the song that boosted his popularity worldwide. The song reached 199 in 200 Billboard album charts for two weeks.       


    5. Gregory Isaacs - “Night Nurse”

Gregory Isaacs was a versatile reggae singer in the scene of roots reggae, lovers rock and dancehall. He was part of the signifiers of the transition in reggae from the classic era to the contemporary era of the 1980s. He had released many albums throughout his career in Jamaica, England and America. He also had made many collaborations across subgenres with artists like Lee 'Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby, Sugar Minot, Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown, and Errol Holt.

Night Nurse is a masterpiece that was recorded in Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio in 1982, a year after Marley’s passing. The song popularized Gregory Isaacs’ name after reaching 32 in British hits charts. ‘Night Nurse’ has also been reproduced with Lady Shaw. 



    6. Yellowman - “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng”

Winston Foster was born in 1956. His moniker ‘Yellowman’ is used to refer to himself as an albino. He got so many rejections even from his own parents. He lived in an orphanage “Alpha Boys School,” a home and school which gave birth to many Jamaican great musicians.

Yellowman is dubbed as the king of dancehall. He is one of the epitomes of the contemporary reggae generations. Roger Stefens, a reggae archiver said that after Bob Marley’s death in 1981, the dancehall star like Yellowman made the roots reggae of Marley seem outdated.

‘Zungguzungguguzungguzeng’ is a single from Yellowman’s sophomore album. The song is considered to be absurd since it is meaningless and only parading ‘slackness’ or women’s sexuality. Despite its controversy, the song boosted Yellowman’s popularity. The vocal melody of the song has been resampled by so many hip-hop and reggae artists. Beenie Man reproduced the song in 2020. 


    7. UB40 - “Red Red Wine”

UB 40 is a multiracial band which reflects the place of their origin, Birmingham, a home to many emigrants, especially Jamaican. A melting pot which demonstrates the influence of Jamaican’s music and culture on British urban working-class society. UB 40 is the forefront reggae ambassador of England. They have helped to embrace more and more reggae lovers worldwide more than any other reggae musicians, even Bob Marley himself. 

‘Red Red Wine’ is a song from their first album ‘Labour of Love’ which successfully reached no.1 in British charts for eighteen months. The song ‘Red Red Wine' stayed in British’ top hits charts for two years and became UB 40’s first international hit. It also reached no.1 in America. A signature and accomplishment which is attached to UB 40 in bringing reggae to the world. 


    8. Damian Marley - “Welcome to Jamrock”

Damian ‘Jr.Gong’ Marley, the youngest son of Bob Marley, doesn't want to merely live under the shadow of his father’s popularity. He decided to pave his own way in putting his name in the history of world music. He successfully became the first reggae artist to win Grammy outside reggae category (Best Urban/Alternative performance) through single ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ in 2005. The song also won a Grammy for ‘Best Reggae Album’ the same year. He has rammed the world of music in the last two decades.

    9. Protoje feat. Chronixx - “Who Knows”

Protoje and Chronixx are the epitomes of contemporary reggae with infusion and blend of hip-hop, R&B, soul and rock with roots and dancehall music. ‘Who Knows’ is the single hit of Protoje’s third album ‘Ancient Future’ (2015). An album to signify the birth of a new reggae or a reinvention of reggae as a whole. This album succeeded in penetrating the top charts in U.S Billboard Reggae Album. It is also an international mega hit which successfully mustered more than 157 million viewers for its visuals alone. 



    10. Protoje feat. Koffee - “Switch Up”

‘Switch Up’ is a single from Protoje’s fifth album ‘In Search of Lost Time’ (2020). A collaboration with Kofee a.k.a Mikayla Simpson, the Grammy winner (2019). The visual of the song which was released early this year also presents names like Lila Ike, Sevana, Jaz Elize, Royal Blu, and Jesse Royal. Chronixx also contributed his vocals in the chorus. The collective of artists which represent a unit in redefining the sound of Jamaican music. ‘Switch Up’ is an anthem of a new generation and it gives a glimpse of vast innovation lies in plain sight ahead. It shows how music is always in the position of ‘becoming’, a  never ending process of creativity.



    11. UB 2 - “Nona Manis”

UB 2 was a reggae band back in the early 1990s pioneered by Anci Larici, a singer from Bugis, Makassar, South Sulawesi. He was not a pure reggae singer since he also sang pop and ‘dangdut.’ Lately before his passing in 2017, he was known as a singer to ‘Bugis Malay’ music (traditional music from Bugis). However, UB 2 that he established was known to be a reggae band which gave them popularity. The name UB 2 was inspired by UB 40 which was so contagious during that time. The typical voice of Anci Larici is also similar to Ali Campbell. 

UB 2 recorded two EP albums: ‘Nona Manis’ (1990 and ‘Susi’ (1992) under the name of New UB 2. The single hit of the first album ‘Nona Manis’ became a breakthrough for the group. It sold 600 thousand copies and won BASF Awards in 1991.  


    12. Imanez - “Anak Pantai”

Imanez was a musician who came from ‘gang Potlot’ (Potlot alley), a rendezvous of musicians in South Jakarta which produced some great musicians in Indonesia such as SLANK, Oppie Andarista and BIP. Imanez formed two bands ‘Speedy Beetle’ and ‘Matalover’ before starting his solo career.

Imanez was not a pure reggae artist since he also played rock n roll. As a solo artist he produced two albums: ‘Anak Pantai’ (1994) and ‘Sepontan’ (1996). ‘Anak Pantai’ is a legendary song among Indonesian reggae fans. The light message to chill and relax while enjoying the sunny beach is like Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard. The artwork of the cover album which portrays beach and coconut tree made reggae become identical to holiday and far from a serious militancy of social commentary as echoed by the pioneers of reggae in Jamaica. 


    13. Rastafara - “Rambut Gimbal”

Rastafara can be said to be the first band in Indonesia that purely and consistently plays reggae. Its name has a strong suggestive reggae with an authentic Indonesian blend which is not a mere mimicry of Jamaican sound. The frontman of the band, Tony Q is a militant train master to run the group in producing original works in two albums ‘Rambut Gimbal’ (1996) and ‘Gue Falling in Love’ (1997).

‘Rambut Gimbal’ is a single hit from their first album under Hemagita Records. It became an authentic referral identity of a dreadlock man in Indonesia. A simple and light song yet portrays a brilliant appropriation which underlies their originality and authenticity.   


    14. Steven & Coconuttreez - “Welcome to My Paradise”

Steven & Coconuttreez is the epitome of reggae revival in Indonesia. Their first album ‘The Other Side’ (2005) with its best single ‘Welcome to My Paradise’ was successful in bringing reggae more widely known in the country. It was a breakthrough that led the music into a new promising phase. Previously reggae was only on the periphery but now it can penetrate into the mainstream. The band was influential in that it became the referral direction for many reggae groups in the country. An impact of “Steven centric” power as Kultur would say. 



    15. Tony Q - “Pat Gulipat”

After Rastafara disbanded in 2000, Tony Q decided to make a solo career and even more productive to release more albums and singles. His version of reggae is unique because of the infusion of Indonesian ethnic and traditional elements (Java, Bali, Sunda, and Sumatra) into his repertoires accompanied with heavy social commentary. Hence he got two invitations to perform at the international Legend of Rasta Reggae festival in Houston, Texas.

His single ‘Pat Gulipat’ was included in Putumayo World Music Album Compilation of Reggae Playground in 2006.


    16. Ras Muhamad - “Bambu Keras”

The presence of Ras Muhamad since 2005 has brought a fresh newness into the reggae music scene in Indonesia. He is the forerunner of dancehall in the country with a unique toasting style rich in rhymes addressing personal and social issues elegantly. He is also the only Indonesian reggae musician who has got an international breakthrough. His venture with Oneness Records has brought him to many international stages and collaborations with big names such as Kelisa, Sara Lugo, Kabaka Pyramid and Uwe Kaa. He also has won some awards like Indonesian Cutting-Edge Music Award (ICEMA) through the album ‘Negeri Pelangi’ (2012), Anugerah Music Indonesia (AMI) through album ‘Berjaya’ (2013) for the category of Best Reggae/Ska/Dub Production Work, and album ‘Salam’ (2014) reached no.1 in the Dutch reggae sites, reggae-vibes.com.

‘Bambu Keras’, literally is an euphemism of Jamaican cuss and a witty appropriation to use it positively in Indonesian context. It is a tract in his album of the same title in 2018. The album is about his personal contemplation in the process of transformation which focuses on  self-identity as an Indonesian, Asian, and even as a new person who is full of passion and innovation.     


    17. Marapu - “Politician”

Yanto is the frontman of Marapu, a reggae band from Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara. The band is solid with its roots reggae which is also accompanied by Yanto’s special vocal characteristic addressing socio-cultural issues, humanism, and peace. Marapu was formed in Yogyakarta in 1999 but is now based in Bali. Their consistency has brought them to the forefront of reggae musicians in Indonesia.

‘Politician’ is a single hit from their fourth album ‘Won’t be Fooled’ (2018) which is produced by French based label ‘All Styles Editions.’ In the song, Marapu condemned corrupt politicians who misused their power to trouble the people.   


    18. Conrad Good Vibration - “Santai Saja Esok Masih Ada”

Conrad is one of the significant figures in the Indonesian reggae music scene. A man from Flores island, East Nusa Tenggara was a member of ‘Matahari band’ but decided to make a solo career in 2010. He has produced three albums: ‘Tribute to The Land’ (2010), ‘Wake Up and Live’ (2014) and ‘Island Vibes’ (2016). He has also made some singles and collaborations with various reggae artists in Indonesia.

‘Santai Saja Esok Masih Ada’ is a track from his second album. The song spreads a positive message about hope and faith during the hardest time in life. And that life might not be that easy but we still need to cherish it and give thanks to the All Mighty God.  



    19. Masanies Saichu - “Don’t Run”

Masanies Saichu is an Indonesian reggae veteran who is still active and productive until today. He is the most honored man among Indonesian reggae singers and fans. This is due to his contribution as one of the early pioneers of reggae in Indonesia in the late 1970s. He was a member of Asian Roots, a legendary reggae band in Indonesia. However, he tends to work as an independent person and not to be a member of any group. He has produced two albums: ‘Yang Bagus Akan Datang’ (2003) and ‘Gombale Bolong’ (2012).

‘Don’t Run’ is a single hit from his on-going album. The album is a collaboration with Fred, a young talented producer from Gasa Riddim production. The visual of the single has been released early this year and broadcasted in reggaeville. 


    20. Dave Solution - “Yafandumba (Mi Nuh Cyar)”

Dave is a talented, progressive and innovative reggae musician and producer from Papua, Indonesia. He has produced many works with other local musicians in Papua. Along with his band, ‘Dave Solution,’ he has produced an LP album entitled ‘Reggae Music’ (2015).

‘Ya Fan Dum Ba’ is one of his singles released in 2020. A unique infusion of dancehall, roots and dub to mingle with bold social commentary. Specifically the song is a sarcasm towards discrimination, racism, and alienation which is commonly happened to Papuans in Indonesia. 


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