Reggae music is a genre that many associate with unpleasant stereotypes. But far from the misconceptions, according to reggae artiste, Jah Bon D, there is more to reggae than just dreadlocks and marijuana.
Jah Bon says the way Rastafarians are perceived by the public depicts reggae music in a bad light.
“According to some people, we are filthy, we smoke marijuana –there are many bad acts tied to us which kills our appeal as artistes.Even when we hold concerts they say “It is those people!” because it was branded music for the hoodlums,” the artiste says.
He is quick to add that reggae is about love and unity.
“Reggae promotes love; it doesn’t promote gay relationships, alcohol and it doesn’t have clips of skimpily clad dancers. We are soldiers without guns but with words sharp like razors,” says Jah Bon.
Jah Bon says the Ministry of Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) should promote reggae when it organises events like KigaliUp, KwitaIzina and the now defunct FESPAD.
“When they include reggae they make it more appealing because we sing for Africa,”Jah Bon says.
According to Jah Bon, the genre is strengthening with bands like the Strong Voice Band and Kwanda Band who do contemporary reggae.
Reggae themed events have taken place in Kigali, mostly celebrating foreign reggae icons like Bob Marley. And now, fans of the genre await the upcoming Haile Selassie Day slated for November 11 at Mulindi Japan One Love.
However, Jah Bon explains that reggae is reggae – regardless of the origin of the singer as some people only look to internationally acclaimed stars. Therefore, people should have the same enthusiasm for local reggae.
The singer is working on his fifth album which will be out by September next year. He recently released a single Let Them Talk.
“It’s our right to build our nation, nobody should undermine that,” he says.
“We like freedom; we don’t want music that manipulates people. Videos these days only ‘inspire’ the youth to have big cars and hot girls. It calls for girls to have super-hot bodies and plastic surgery if necessary. We are against that. The person who strips you of your dignity is worse than the one who beheads you,” he says.
The 50-year-old, real name Darius Rurangirwa, had his music breakthrough in 1995, during a concert at Stade Amahoro. Like many artistes, he used to merge genres including Gakondo, zouk, and afro-beat and would experiment with reggae.
However that all changed when he left for Sweden in 1998.
“When I went overseas, I appreciated Africa more. When I saw the western view on Africa it wasn’t good and when I listened to reggae, singers like Bob Marley had praises for Africa. We had a common interest. Much as they were Jamaicans, they celebrated Africa,” he says.