There is one genre of music that fills your heart with sunshine.
It can be political yet joyous and there is something about the beat, the lyrics and the message that touches your soul. It might even make you drink some rum … Yes, you got it –reggae.
Originating from Jamaica and made popular by legendary artists such as Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and Dawn Penn, the reggae torch continues to be carried by Tarrus Riley, Etana, Morgan Heritage and Chronixx.
Over the years the sound has evolved and its influence has spread globally. Here in the UK reggae has inspired a new generation of artists, of which I am one. Being a saxophonist, my development has always been informed by jazz but my roots are reggae and you can hear this delicious fusion of influences in my music.
There are other British acts like me who have found their own space, fusing reggae with rock, soul and other genres while still paying homage to the traditional reggae inflections we know and love.
Something these artists all have in common – apart from amazing music – is that they are independent, constantly on tour, selling out venues, headlining festivals and selling merchandise like hot cakes. Their audiences love them and support them. Reggae is a movement.
I would like to celebrate some of these British reggae acts. If you didn’t know them before then you can thank me later.
I absolutely love The Skints – one of the hardest-working bands I know. The quartet were born out of the underground London punk scene. Their last album, the critically acclaimed FM, was released four years ago and went to No5 on the Billboard reggae albums chart, since when they have toured extensively at home and abroad.
Mungo’s Hi Fi
Following the old Jamaican sound-system tradition, but with a Glasgow vibe, Mungo’s Hi Fi have taken their love of dancehall to clubs and festivals around the world over the past 15 years. They are truly independent and the success of their record label Scotch Bonnet is testament to this. Mungo’s Hi Fi fly the flag for Scotland and fly it well.
If you haven’t heard Randy Valentine live, get your hands on a gig ticket and find out why he is one of the most exciting acts in British reggae. He was featured on Major Lazer’s Peace Is the Mission EP, which went to No1 on the Billboard dance/electronic chart. His recent project Havana Meets Kingston toured successfully in Australia and played a headline concert at the BBC Proms live from the Royal Albert Hall.
When your parents are Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and former Culture Club backing singer Jeni Cook and your godfather is Boy George, music must be in your DNA. Well, Hollie Cook is an artist in her own right, mapping out her own journey, with her own sound. On her third album, 2018’s Vessel of Love, her soothing vocals flow over sweet melodies and bass lines to die for.
Gentleman’s Dub Club
The best dressed reggae band anywhere! Gentleman’s Dub Club met at university in Leeds; 13 years later the reggae, dub and bass crew are loved around the world for their high-octane performances and beautifully crafted albums. Their latest release, Lost in Space, is another smash.
Natty is a mind-blowing artist, armed with a guitar, socially conscious lyrics and flowing dreadlocks. He was born in San Francisco but moved to London at the tender age of one. His debut album, Man Like I, made the top 20 of the UK album chart in 2008. Last year he brought out a reworked version,
Man Like I and I, on his Vibes and Pressure label to mark the original’s 10th anniversary.
It is amazing to see this second wave of the British reggae movement following in the wake of acts such as UB40, Aswad, Maxi Priest, Janet Kay, Carol Thompson and more. We celebrate the new school as they tell their own stories … British reggae rocks!
YolanDa Brown is a musician and broadcaster. @YolanDaBrownUK