Marley Williams // Paul Piazza
By Paul Piazza
At the end of Rebelution’s last song at Thunder Valley Casino’s Pano Hall, vocalist/guitarist Eric Rachmany deftly flicked a pick in my direction. I was standing against a wall that was at least 50 feet away and when I looked down, there it was at my feet. That’s an amazing reach for such a light object.
That effort to go the distance—OK, sort of—symbolizes the reach of emerging non-Jamaican reggae acts in the new millennium. Acts like Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Iration and others have filled a void left by a slow down in the predominance of Jamaican musical exports in the genre.
Though Jamaicans pioneered the popular brand of island music known as reggae, there was a period about 15 years ago when emerging Jamaican artists strayed away from the true form. These new artists strove— and struggled— to blend hip-hop and other sounds with violent Kingston images. This opened the door for transformation. And these state-side artists stepped in, taking advantage by rocking steady with songs full of love and positivity that have been widely embraced by a new generation of vaping reggae fans.
In fact, the only place they haven’t been embraced yet is the Grammys, where four out five of this year’s reggae nominees were Jamaican. The other was from Ghana.
These new reggae artists have capitalized on creating a veritable, flower-power meets gamer vibe that has appealed to both millenials and older heads. With traditional Jamaican values and mild Rasta overtones, the sound is blowing up in today’s weary-world. Indeed, this was a relatively small gig for Rebelution, which has headlined Berkeley’s Greek Theater and other larger venues in the past.
Rebelution songs like “De-Stress,” “Comfort Zone” and “Count Me In” appeal to a broad audience and, sure enough, the Thunder Valley crowd went nuts.
Eric Rachmany // Paul Piazza