The article sought to compare today’s Reggae music with that of Reggae’s golden era, and was presented as the first of a three part series which will supposedly document Reggae’s downfall (part II - “What Went Wrong”) and hopefully present solutions to revive Reggae’s apparent lackluster performance (part III- “The Way Forward’) . Suffice to say, with little effort, the article completely discredited the works and creative talent of the young musicians currently continuing Reggae’s legacy. Probably what was even more disheartening was the fact that most of the comments under the article joined in this lamentation. There was only one comment, at the very end, that defended Reggae’s current stature.
This news of Reggae’s limping gait does not bode well for the troupe of performers who go by the name No-Maddz. Their 2015 self-titled compilation, presented by the legendary rhythm twins Sly and Robbie, offers a little more than just your average Reggae score perhaps, but at its core the album is no doubt a Reggae masterpiece.
And a brilliant one at that.
What No-Maddz has demonstrated with this their latest masterwork is that there is no lack of talent or creativity in the genre. The album’s soundscape traverses a realm where the line between the present and the past is blurred distinctively, and the delivery is impeccable.
“Better Must Come” balances a smooth, bass-heavy groove on a one-drop rhythm and carries a flavour of familiarity that rejuvenates a sense of appreciation for Reggae’s yesteryear - its derivative. “Shotta” also features a one-drop beat and there are similar tracks on the album which carry that old school vibe that Reggae enthusiasts have come to love.
The compilation never sounds “old school” however and merely presents modern reinterpretations of a classic sound. In a way, the album is exactly what you would expect from the veteran musicians, Sly and Robbie, who produced it. There is a bit of dub in the mix, a pinch of dancehall, some ska and other various Reggae interpretations. The album plays like a “Best of” compilation which builds on some of Jamaica’s timeless musical heritage with some modern elements and lyricism.
You also get a taste of bongo music - a style which No-Maddz has adopted as their own - on the track “Puku Poo”, which features a flurry of upbeat percussions. Overall the album does not take too many creative liberties and presents very little challenge to the average listener. Yet acts as a distinctive body of work redefining the language of today’s Reggae music.
Throughout the album the group sings, raps and toasts. No-Maddz is a band of charismatic brothers (related through their music) who all share a love for the performing arts, and so each song is delivered with a theatrical undertone that is refreshingly entertaining. Their exposure to dub poetry is evident on some tracks and their lyrics, though sometimes mundane, are appreciable overall.
It is clear that Reggae music has lost nothing in its substance. In fact, it can be said to have gained a lot throughout its evolution over the years, especially in its diversity. Reggae’s veteran luminaries might still dominate some charts but this is not indicative of any fault with contemporary Reggae music or the musicians. Today's Reggae musicians, like No-Maddz, have enjoyed successful tours all over the world, especially in Europe. The Reggae/Dancehall culture in places like Japan is growing more and more each year and even Jamaica’s soundclash culture has been immortalised in Red Bull’s Culture Clash event.
Still, the figures don’t lie. Reggae music sales have plummeted and this is definitely something to lament. However, there were many elements that contributed to Reggae’s mainstream success in the past (not just the music; not just Bob Marley) and so much has change since then.
Even with all that change, it is reassuring to know that musicians like No-Maddz are still able to preserve some of Reggae’s roots and present it with a fresh perspective for a new generation. Hopefully the band, and other contemporary trailblazing Reggae acts, will soon get the support they deserve, both locally and around the globe.