In the United States, reggae and the rasta lifestyle have become trendy. White teenagers grow fat dreads, wear Bob Marley tie-dyed shirts and jam on their hand drums. Yet, if asked, most teenagers that worship Marley would find it difficult to name many other reggae greats.
The new compilation Reggae Over Africa is perfect for such reggae enthusiasts that would like to find out more about the diverse genre. The compilation includes well-known artists such as Lucky Dube, Baaba Mal, Ernest Ranglin, and Toure Kunde as well as lesser-known acts such as Dr. Victor and System Enemy. Overall, this compilation includes more poppy and light reggae than dark, heavy dub sounds. The album fuses afro-pop, reggae, gospel and ska to create an eclectic mix of music.
Lucky Dube kicks things off with “The Way It Is.” Dube, one of South Africa’s best-selling artists, performs roots reggae. He began as a Zulu Mbaganga artist and evolved into a reggae musician after hearing the influential sounds of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Dube keeps with the spirit of reggae by singing about political and spiritual struggles. Ernest Ranglin, a guitar virtuoso, offers up “D’Accord Dakar.” Ranglin toured with Jimmy Cliff and helped give birth to ska, which is evident in this instrumental work. In addition, O’Yaba, a group influenced by Lucky Dube, are featured in “Fly Away,” a Zulu gospel and reggae song.
Women are also featured, including Sally Nyold, a former member of Zap Mama. In her song, “Reggae in Japan,” she combines traditional African elements with Jamaican rhythms.
Toure Kunde, which was formed by Amadou Tilo Toure in Senegal, became famous in France in the 1970s for performing djabadong ceremonies. The group’s song, “Bounane,” is one of the more traditional tracks on the album, with a choir singing and a heavy bass beat thumping. Baaba Maal performs with Luciano to create another traditional track, complete with a gospel choir in “Africans Unite.” A surprise hit is the Slaves song “Fly Dem Dreads.” The lively horns play along to complex drums to create a sound close to ska.
This album is probably not for those who have a large reggae collection. This is a beginner’s album. It’s a compilation you buy to sample part of the large array of African reggae that exists.