Freddie Mcgregor celebrated his 60th birthday this week. He’s had a vibrant career contributing to reggae and dancehall over the course of almost 6 decades. Mcgregor is among the likes of Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Judy Mowatt and others who in time joined the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
Freddie’s popularity soared in the early 80’s with the release of Bobby Bobylon and hits like Big Ship, Push Comes to Shove, Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely (a UK top ten hit) and I Was Born a Winner.
The establishment of the Big Ship Label in 1983 is possibly one of Freddie’s most lasting contributions to the industry. The label has gone on to produce for artists like Papa San, Lieutenant Stitchie, Tiger, Luciano and Mickey Spice. His Son Stephen seriously intends to keep up with his father’s legacy having produced countless contemporary dancehall/reggae hits. This year Stephen contributed to Shakira’s latest album. In 2013 Freddie received a Marcus Garvey Lifetime Achievement Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies.
RastaFaraI and Dancehall
There is no doubt that Rastafarianism has played a major role in defining Jamaica’s identity. Almost everything which makes Jamaica so different from the host of islands that dot the globe is Rastafarianism and reggae music. Many tourists still believe Jamaica’s national colours are red, green and gold. While these colors have been rightly appropriated from the Abyssinian flag to signify the movements imperial sovereignty and direct association with His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari).
The early 90’s saw an upsurge of interest in Rastafarianism. Perhaps it was due to a collective rise in black nationalism that surged after the widely publicized Rodney King incident, Spike Lee movies and Hip Hop music which began to reflect more and more nationalistic content. It appears simultaneously reggae and dancehall saw its own resurgence of nationalism as popular dancehall deejays like Capleton and Buju Banton began growing locks and infusing Africa and Rasta tenets into their tunes.
It seems music coming from Africans in the diaspora may follow common fluctuations of highs and lows in terms of culturally conscious content. Whether its Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Garnett Silk’s Christ in his Kingly Character or Buju’s Til Shiloh, there is a consistent common thread that seems to begin to lean towards something more than the money, love, power and sexual prowess subject matter that experiences popularity spikes throughout music’s ongoing history.