Whenever people ask me what my favorite music is, it’s a no brainer for me and I quickly answer, “reggae.” The question that usually follows, if there is going to be a question, is “why?” My short answer to that is because reggae saved me.
I don’t claim to be a religious person. I guess maybe I never have been. I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic school, and attended mass every week, sometimes twice a week. I remember in middle school being forced to go to confession. It’s not that I think confession is a bad thing, but I wasn’t doing any sinning in middle school. So ironically, when I went to confession, I would make up lies about what my sins were in order to follow the rules. Religion was beat in to my head from a really young age and I’m not ungrateful for it. I got in the habit of it. It formed a lot of who I am today, I believe. There was even a point when I felt like God would call me to church because he had something to say to me that I wasn’t hearing elsewhere. I would walk in to church, dab my finger in the holy water, make the sign of the cross and find a seat as close to the back as possible so I could quickly make my escape as soon as the holy procession passed me. When it was over, I felt relief like when you are a non-smoker in a smoke filled room and walk outside and can finally take a deep refreshing breath. And I felt guilty relief because it was over. At some point, church stopped being refreshing or fulfilling at all and when I would go, I would not feel like my cup had been filled and, to me, that was the point of church.
I thought maybe it was just Catholicism, so I visited other churches and other denominations. If I was invited to church with someone, I would go and I probably still would today, but nothing felt like home. And isn’t that what God is supposed to feel like? So I stopped looking and I stopped searching.
And then I met Bob Marley. Not personally, because he had already passed on by this time, but I met his music. I met roots reggae and I was home. I had never felt closer to God than I did in the moments when I was listening to that music. I listened to other artists, but it was Bob who moved me and woke something inside of me. That was when I was in my twenties. So I sought out more and more of it and very quickly I was converted.
The God I met through reggae was not a vengeful one like the bible would have me believe. He didn’t scare me. He was a friend. He wanted me to make my mistakes. He wanted me to figure this life out the way I needed to in order to become the person I am today or the person I am still becoming. And I’m not saying that I have become a Rastafarian, though I do identify with a lot of their ideologies, there are a few that I don’t identify with and never will, but when I find myself in a dark place, reggae is where I turn. And when I’m happy and feeling lovely, reggae is still where I turn. And it’s not just about religion. It’s about love and peace and fighting for what’s right and making a little difference in this big indifferent world.
If you’ve never listened to reggae, I probably cannot explain the transformation that would happen to me when I would seek out reggae shows, live music or just DJ’d parties and the band would start or the music would begin and I would find myself lost in the music. While lost in that music, I found myself. I would listen to the words about Jah (God) and I would feel the music in my soul. I would dance and worship at the altar of the band or the DJ, and when it ended, I would have that feeling that I wanted when I walked out of church. I was renewed. I was changed. I was saved.
There used to be a pretty decent reggae scene in Knoxville back in the day, but it has since fizzled out and reggae itself has changed too. There’s a lot of dancehall, which is still good, but that’s not the music that saved me, though it does still make me shake my groove thang. If I want reggae, I have to travel to get it and I have. And although the music has changed from the original roots, there are still a few contemporary artists that make me feel things when I listen. They still give me that “church” feeling that I seek. So I go to church daily through my headphones and I skip that holy procession on Sunday at the Catholic church or any other church right now for that matter.
Please don’t think that I’m trying to convert anyone, if that’s even possible, but I have to give credit where credit is due. I don’t think I would know Jah if not for music. And I don’t think I would be such a warrior if not for the music. I don’t know if I would be so conscious of what’s going on in the world. I may still be walking around with my eyes closed like a lot of people if it were not for the music. I would not be accused of being perpetually happy if it weren’t for reggae. I wake up with it and I go to sleep with it and I am at peace.
Currently in my playlist is pretty much anything and everything Bob Marley, Kymani Marley (and not just because he’s my soulmate) has a newer album called Maestro that is delicious, Morgan Heritage also just dropped a beautiful new album called Simply Roots, Protoje Seven Year Itch, Chronixx Dread and Terrible, and the last guy is not necessarily reggae, but he’s a mixture and he has a message and I like him, Mark Balet. I know I probably sound like a commercial right now, but if you want to know me, you should get to know them because they are currently a part of me so I would highly recommend clicking on each of their names and listening to a sample and maybe buy one or two of your favorites. It just might change your life.