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Tear raving reggae

Europe has had its own reggae scene with steaming club nights and discs.


[music trend] Join us back at last year's Roskilde Festival. Lead-heavy reggae rhythms emerge from the second-largest stage, where Copenhagen's own Bikstok Smoke system fills the tent with twice as many spectators as the "world's most important rock band", Sonic Youth. The crowd rejoices as the tunes from the hit "Cigar" rattle, and Blow B spouts its absurd rhymes:

I gave you a watch and a fun ride

But you said bumbiddi-bye-bye

Now I live in a Hong Kong Chinese hotel

And I live off the lard of a seal

- Roskilde was completely wild, and there was a lot of hype around us at that time. Now we will make new music, so that people do not get tired of us, says Blæs B, alias Lasse Bavngaard.

He was a rapper in the influential hip-hop group Malk De Koijn before announcing the transition to dancehall and reggae.

Germany is leading

Blow B, Pharfar and Eaggerman in the Bikstok Smoke System are by far the most successful Danish growth on the growing European reggae tree. The debut album Over cane and stone has passed 25.000 sold, and in most European countries similar groups are emerging as missionaries for reggae and dancehall in the form of steamy club nights and their own records.

At the tamp of 2005, German Germaican gave

Records out Rodeo Europe, a compilation featuring 20 European artists from 20 different

countries – reggae superpowers such as France and England side by side with mini-putters such as Finland, Serbia, Estonia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria – and Jørgen «Jørg-1» Nordeng from Ørnes in Nordland. Through Tungtvann and the DJ duo Raggabalder Riddim Rebels, he is one of the most eager reggae missionaries in Norway, and he also knows the development well elsewhere in Europe.

- Traditionally, reggae has been strongest in England, with its large Jamaican population, but now France and Germany are following suit.

In France, reggae stands strong among the country's many Caribbean immigrants, while in Germany it may seem that the scene has sprung from the punk and sham environments.

- In contrast to France and England, there is a clear predominance of white players in Germany.

Gentleman, the world's largest white reggae

Artist, of course, is from Germany and is also the foreign artist who has done the most in Jamaica. There are also musical differences: the British are most fond of "digital roots", heavy dub and the like, while the Germans are more fond of dancehall, says Jørg-1.

The proud reggae story of the Swedes

In Scandinavia, the Swedes lead the way, with several albums from artists such as Jogi, Chilly & Leafy and the Swedish Academy. Everyone sings in Swedish.

- Sweden is a very strong music country.

They believe in their music, are better at making international music and have a richer history to spew. People are slower in Denmark, and it was a long time before reggae was accepted here, says Blæs B.

Where Sweden can refer to the pioneer Peps Persson, who published several in the mid-1970s

reggae plates, Denmark and Norway have one

less colorful story. Here it has been more about Bob Marley cover bands and rock bands on reggae flirting, although the Bodø band Irie Darlings released the album Xaymaca in 1995. It is not until the 2000s that bands and so-called "sounds" – looser groupings of DJ -s, singers and rappers – have gained a foothold. Bikstok Røgsystem is such a "sound", and started as a DJ

weekly reggae clubs in Copenhagen in 2002, says Blæs B.

- It developed gradually. After a time as DJs, we wanted to try to make something in Danish. Then the demand increased via our website, while more and more people wanted to hear our songs when we played outside. Finally, the record companies started fighting for us, and now there are more and more "sounds" that make reggae in Danish.

Dancehall and hip hop

The European reggae wave is strongly influenced by the digital revolution in Jamaica's music industry. Since the mid-1980s, melodic 1970s reggae has been overshadowed by more minimalist, energetic and danceable dancehall – named after the Kingston discos. The global success of dancehall star Sean Paul has also paved the way, to a far greater extent than 1990s dancehall star Shabba Ranks.

Blow B says it's hard to say why Sean Paul has hit so well.

- Maybe because he sings more understandably than other artists, who use thick patois? On the other hand, Shaggy dancehall entered the pop charts in the 1990s, but never started a reggae wave, he says.

Another contributing cause is the explosion of hip-hop interest in Europe. Dancehall has strong parallels to hip hop, and in Scandinavia artists such as Equicez, Tungtvann, Malk de Koijn and Timbuktu show strong interest in reggae. Timbuktu recently released a reggae record with rapper Chords and the band Held Off.

- Hip hop today goes more towards attitude and gait values, while in reggae I find the wildness that was originally so interesting and inspiring in hip hop, says Blæs B.

Equally, it was a big step to start making Danish reggae. In the beginning, the Bikstok guys also had a bad conscience.

- I think it is natural that things develop so that you now dare to do reggae in your own language. We first felt that we took something from Jamaica, that we stole their music and made it Danish. But music is free, otherwise it will not be exciting. Then you just have to make sure to remember and respect what you are inspired by.

PS! Ready for a dose of real Jamaica reggae?

Buju Banton plays at Rockefeller July 13, while Luciano comes July 29.

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