A New Generation Turns to Reggae
By Kayla K.
Reggae music is undergoing a transformation, from the Hawaiian Islands to the East Coast; young bands have been spreading their good vibes in a unique way. This genre of music is now more than ever expanding across the country. Bands such as Iration, Rebelution, Tribal Seeds and Through the Roots just to name a few, have taken their personal love for reggae and put a twist on it to make their sound distinctive. In an industry where pop and rap dominate, the individualism and drive of these artists proves to be crucial in their success. Members of a few of the bands, some of which were touring took a minute to reflect on their work and delve into why they chose reggae.
All of these bands seemingly have a common purpose; they started out purely because they enjoyed playing the music that they love. “The foundation for Iration's style comes from our love of reggae music,” commented Adam Taylor, the bassist for Iration. “Early on and even in our current set list we'd cover songs by artists like Black Uhuru, Bob Marley, and Steel Pulse. These days we're trying to blend those rhythms with a more modern approach with heavier guitars and synthesizers. “
Growing up in Hawaii has also given a few of the bands motivation to spread the messages that are so influential in the islands. Brady O’Rear, the keyboardist for Through the Roots explained, “growing up in Hawaii everything played on the radio is reggae; everywhere you go you hear it. Its more then just a genre its part of the lifestyle out there so I have been around it my entire life and I can say that reggae music is a huge part of my life.”
While Reggae has strong roots in Hawaii, the feel-good messages portrayed through the music can be heard everywhere. This new surf-rock reggae hybrid has proven to fit in quite nicely in Southern California, where island beats and positive vibes are always welcome. Although there is a niche for this type of music in Southern California, the popularity of reggae is yet to reach its full potential. When asked if he thought that the music industry fully embraces reggae, Taylor expressed, “not yet but were getting there. It’s going to be a long road for traditional reggae music but it’s the hybrid genres that will break out of the mold.” He continued to compare bands like Pepper, Dirty Heads, and Slightly Stoopid while noting that their success has been driven by their use of old-school reggae rhythms paired with current lyrics that draw younger listeners.
With the new popularity of this reggae hybrid, an increasing number of young bands are trying to make it by spreading their version of these blended reggae styles. Tribal Seeds lead vocalist and guitarist, Steve Jacobo gives these words of wisdom, “follow your dreams and believe in yourself. If you make music that you really love then other people will love it too.” This advice should weigh heavily as he and his fellow band members were able to do just that, and now they have toured throughout the United Sates as well as South America. “New bands starting out need to work super hard, and it can be such a grind,” reflected Evan Hawkins the lead singer for Through the Roots. “But you need to be willing to take a hit and have a struggle because in the end what you get to do is just awesome.”
With all of these bands both new and old touring and making a name for themselves, the question arises as to when their music will become mainstream. When the idea of the Surf Roots Tour becoming the new Warped Tour was posed, everyone was very enthusiastic and hopeful. “I think it is an interesting concept. For bands that are new or that have a good first disc but haven’t put up any touring numbers, its great,” said Taylor.“ It gives them a chance to pool their numbers collectively and draw bigger crowds rather than going out on their own.” Hawkins agreed that it is a great idea and that traveling with the other bands would create a good variety. He believes that with an array of bands they would be able to target places that generally don’t listen to this style of music. This would allow them to perform something fresh, and change the way that reggae is perceived as a genre.
Whether they are touring across the country, or playing local gigs in Southern California, these guys truly love making music. Members of Tribal Seeds, Through the Roots, and Iration all agreed that performing and making a connection with their fans is what really keeps them going. Being able to travel around with their best friends while putting on great shows, and spreading positive messages, is what makes their feel-good tunes so captivating.