The Jamaican touch
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Performances by international acts and the inclusion of reggae into the sound of Indian bands is giving the genre the attention it has lacked for years in the country
Until not very long ago, when one talked about reggae music, the average Indian fan would only think of Bob Marley or Apache Indian. The genre, which is said to have its beginnings on the island of Jamaica in the 1960s, became hugely popular around the world in the next decade as Bob Marley and his band, Bob Marley and the Wailers, released one hit single after the other. Not longer after, Marley became the face of reggae music the world over. And as hippies descended on Goa, they brought this relatively new music with them to India.
Yet, until the end of the first decade of 2000, there were precious few Indian DJs playing reggae in clubs and elsewhere in the country, and no reggae bands to speak of at all. In 2009, three Delhi-based musicians — Raghav Dang aka Diggy Dang, Mohammed Abood aka DJ MoCity and Zorawar Shukla aka Mr Herbalist — met at a Bob Marley tribute gig in Delhi. The meeting subsequently led to the formation of India's first reggae soundsystem — Reggae Rajahs.
That it took so long for Indian audiences to warm up to the genre, Dang attributes to the fact that reggae isn't necessarily associated with dancing. "The primary reason is that Indians love to dance and reggae music isn't always equated with dance music," he says. This is not the case abroad and one can see people swaying and bobbing their heads to roots and dub music. "In addition, you have music such as dancehall, which is the closest reggae gets to club music," he adds. But Dang believes that the perception of the genre will change in India too, as it finds the right audience.