Setlist: Reggae Hour on BTR

“Reggae”—I don’t even know where to begin.

Maybe that is because I don’t know enough about it (or as much as I should anyhow). Or maybe it is because Reggae has become the most unjustly pigeonholed, and ignorantly misrepresented genre of music known throughout the world. DJ Drew’s Reggae Hour sets out to disprove that myth.

Bob Marley: Picture taken from Wikipedia

A common question debated amongst music fans is: “Who is the most famous person, living or dead, non-political, non-religious, in the whole universe?”

The most popular and best-argued answers: Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. I swear; you could walk into a small village in northern Laos right now, and chances are the bus-driver, the family-restaurant, or the local cigarette kiosk would have either a Bob Marley flag, a Bob Marley poster, or at minimum, some Bob Marley music kicking around on tape or CD.

Bob Marley did so much for Reggae. His music assisted in the entire international community recognizing and familiarizing themselves with his home island-nation of Jamaica. Marley’s worldwide success also contributed to the spread and philosophical learning of Rastafarianism. Through music, Bob Marley was able to give a voice to thousands of oppressed African-Caribbean’s, and share his Island-style music with millions of Africans, Americans, Europeans, and Australasians, helping create and provided a new way of thinking and hoping to several enslaved minority cultures across the Earth. There is nothing negative to be taken away from that. Nothing! So I won’t.

King Tubby (the creator of dub)

However, Reggae stops there for a lot of (can I say “most”?) people. There in that lies shame. It is not the music’s fault, but perhaps the listeners (or lack thereof). When speaking with BreakThru Radio’s own DJ Drew, he expressed the same sentiments, articulating the “shame” of Reggae’s misappropriation in a much clearer way: “To many Americans, Reggae is seen as a novelty music.  Every time I see another Reggae Christmas album or cover attempt, I’m reminded of this sentiment. But to myself, and to an ever-growing community of serious Reggae fans, it is so much more.”

It is the “so much more” that DJ Drew reaches out with to listeners on his BTR Thursday programmed “Reggae Hour.” Placing a special emphasis on the “Dub technique,” Drew extends a perception of Reggae that may convert listeners previously expected to hear the limiting traditional Reggae sounds of a funky bass line, some steel drums, and finger-playing djembes, into discovering the soul and Reggae-rhythms of timpani, brass, and hip-hop styled lyrics, all of which are an integral part of the growing genre.

Augustus Pablo (melodica king of reggae)

DJ Drew explains the foundation and root principles of the Dub style: “Dub is a technique, first created by Reggae producers and engineers in Jamaica during the 70’s, to remix a Reggae track they had just produced. Dub represents a pure love of the roots of Reggae, aka the ‘drum and bass,’ by stripping down a rhythm allowing for the emphasis of those individual parts, and then including effects that warp the space and time of the track.”

I have always said that the best music is always timeless. You know that sensation you get when you hear a band or song for the first time, and you think to yourself, “wait a second. What is this? Do I know this? Have I heard this before? I feel like I should know who this is, but I don’t. Is this new? When is this from?” In my opinion, that is one of the finest definitions of when music is exceptionally great. The songs DJ Drew plays as part of this Reggae Hour program share that quality. Just listen to “Tui Dub” or “African Landing” as prime examples of this method—songs that are timeless and refreshing all the same.

“When I do anything Reggae related, I always have Dub in mind. Whether it’s programming my show or playing in my band, I try to find a unique way to relate Reggae and Dub to my listening audience without watering down the Dub I want to play. So, within the sixty minutes of my show you might find some easy-to-swallow upbeat riddims [sic] mixed in with the darkest Dub you’ll ever hear.”

The bottom line is, for all those who think Reggae is just Bob Marley and Shaggy—you need to start expanding your mind to the genres many different styles and techniques. DJ Drew is a great place to start. For all of you who think Reggae is UB40—you need to smack yourself across the face with a frying pan. Reggae has spread well beyond the Jamaican shores, as Drew proves: “I find international artists to showcase on my show, to prove the point: Reggae and Dub is worldwide, and not just in Jamaica and America.”
Be sure to catch DJ Drew’s latest edition of the “Reggae Hour” here on BreakThru Radio! And tune in for future episodes every Thursday on BTR.

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– Kory French


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