Tosh’s message resonates with particular power as we come to the close of yet another, Black History Month, which happens to have also coincided with Reggae Month, a worldwide celebration of Jamaican music. While the month of February was chosen because the birthdays of reggae legends Dennis Emmanuel Brown (Feb. 1st) and Robert Nesta Marley (Feb. 6th) both take place during the first week, it’s more than fitting that these two commemorations should take place simultaneously.
If you think reggae is all about ganja, shottas, and doing the “dutty wine,” think again. Dancehall may be known as the world’s greatest party music, but ever since the inception of classical reggae music in the late 1960s, the message has been one of unity, upliftment, and Black empowerment.
February 1 of this year, Studio 17: The Lost Reggae Tapes, marked the debut of a film I produced about the birth of Jamaica’s music industry. It had its worldwide premiere on Tidal and Qwest.TV, a video platform founded by Quincy Jones. Studio 17 tells the story of one of Jamaica’s most important creative spaces. Tosh made his albums Equal Rights and Legalize It at Studio 17, and also worked as the in-house studio musician there. He and Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer recorded many of the Wailers’ most timeless classics in that space, along with the great producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. To lovers of reggae culture, the smoky upstairs room at 17 North Parade in downtown Kingston was sacred ground.