10 Contemporary Jamaican Artists Promoting Black Consciousness
Sizzla, born Miguel Orlando Collins in 1977, is one of the most commercially and critically successful contemporary reggae artists and is noted for his high number of releases. As of 2011, he had released more than 70 solo albums.
Sizzla, along with reggae recording artists such as Capleton, Buju Banton and Anthony B, are credited with leading a movement to record material that is concerned primarily with spirituality and social consciousness.
Sample songs: Black Woman and Child, Like Mountains, No White God
Mutabaruka, born Allan Hope in 1952, has established himself as both a literary and musical giant, both in Jamaica and abroad.
His poems have given voice to a nation and helped forge an new genre of music, dub/rhythm poetry. Revolutionary, fiery, scathing and stinging, Mutabaruka’s words are as potent on paper as on CD, and so the literary community needed to create a new term just for his works–meta-dub.
Sample Songs: Any Which Way..Freedom, Melanin Man, Columbus Ghost
Tarrus Riley, born in Bronx, New York in 1979 and raised in Jamaica, is one of the most promising of the second generation of Jamaica roots reggae singers. He is the son of Jimmy Riley, who has had a long career as a solo artist as well as a former member of the Uniques and the Techniques.
Sample songs: She’s Royal, Marcus Garvey, Shaka Zulu Pickney
Damian Marley, also known as Jr. Gong and Gong Zill born in 1978, is the youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley and was only two years old when his father died.
Marley has described his music as “dancehall and reggae. I’ve noticed … people trying to separate the two of them,” he continues. “It’s Jamaican culture in general. I don’t try to classify or separate.”
Sample songs: African Must Wake Up, We’re Gonna Make It, Land of Promise
Capleton, born Clifton George Bailey III in 1967, spearheaded dancehall’s return to reggae tradition, tackling Rastafarian spiritual themes and using classic roots reggae as a musical foundation.
When Capleton first arrived on the scene in the late 1980s, songs about sex and violence dominated the dancehalls. Prior to converting to the Rastafari movement, Capleton had a string of hit songs from “Bumbo Red” to “Number One on the Look Good Chart” and “No Lotion Man.” By 1993, he began shifting to more conscious-minded lyrics on songs like “Prophet” and “Cold Blooded Murderer”.
He is also referred to as King David, The Fireman and The Prophet. He now prefers “King Shango,” given its roots in the Yoruba language.
Sample songs: Steep Mountain, That Day Will Come, Global War
Queen Ifrica, born Ventrice Morgan in 1975, is the daughter of ska music legend Derrick Morgan, but was raised by her mother and stepfather.
Queen Ifrica, also known as Fyah Muma, Queen Ifrica’s stagecraft, her repertoire, her total artistic style has bloomed over the years, ultimately making her a staple in cultural reggae events around the world.
Sample songs: Genocide, Child Slavery, Lioness on the Rise
Anthony B born Keith Blair born in 1976, grew up in a deeply religious family that help lay the foundation for his spirituality. As a teenager, Anthony B was heavily influenced by reggae legends Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. He later adopted Rastafari movement to the disapproval of his family.
In 1993 when Anthony B debuted his first single, “The Living is Hard,” the reggae industry glorified singing “slack” songs about women. Anthony B did not believe in degrading women and chose to pen politically slanted songs instead.
Sample songs: Honour to Marcus, Freedom Fighter, Fire Pon Rome
Etana, born Shauna McKenzie in 1983, left her native Jamaica at 9 to the United States. She went on to attend college but soon dropped out and returned to Jamaica to pursue her music career.
Etana returned to her Kingston birthplace and focused on making music that reflected her acknowledgement of Rastafarian principles, which include a royal representation of women, adhering to a natural lifestyle and an acknowledgment of the teachings of Marcus Garvey and Emperor Haile Selassie I.
Sample songs: I Am Not Afraid, Better Tomorrow, Warrior Love
Buju Banton, born Mark Anthony Myrie, 1973, is one of the most important voices to come out of Jamaica since Bob Marley.
Til Shiloh (1995), his fourth album at the time, was a very influential album, using a studio band instead of synthesized music, and marking a slight shift away from dancehall toward roots reggae for Banton. A year before the album’s release Banton joined the Rastafari movement and his album reflected these new beliefs. Til Shiloh successfully blended conscious lyrics with a hard-hitting dancehall vibe. This album had a large impact on dancehall music and proved that dancehall audiences had not forgotten the message that Roots Reggae espoused with the use of “conscious lyrics.” Dancehall music did not move away from slack and violent lyrics, but the album did pave the way for a greater spirituality within the music and transformed other popular artists at the time like Capleton.
Sample songs: Til Shiloh, Til I’m Laid to Rest, Hills and Valleys
I Wayne, who was born Cliffroy Taylor in 1980, has emerged from obscurity in November 2004 to become one of Jamaican music’s hottest commodities and has been praised for returning to reggae’s “essential roots” in contrast to popular reggae artists who induce listeners to dance and groove to their carefree music.
I Wayne’s debut album Lava Ground and its lead single “Can’t Satisfy Her” has assisted in the revival of live one-drop (traditional reggae) riddims and constructive, Rastafari-influenced verse on the Jamaican charts.
Sample songs: Lava Ground, Living in Love, Words of Liberation