Jamaican Music Music Interviews

Reggae Interview Series: Reggae Music In Colombia

This Month our series “Reggae Around the World” focuses on Reggae Music In Colombia. We interview Colombian Reggae Promoter/DJ Bonilla Silva

Question: How active is the reggae scene in Colombia?

A: Well, to be honest, reggae music is not so popular as the way it should
be. However, it is growing step by step and you can see now a lot of
people especially the youths dem that are getting involved with Reggae and
Dancehall. We also have some new bands and some places where to stay and listen the music.

Question: What first drew your attention to reggae?

A: Music and lyrics! Well, back to the early 80’s when I was very young,
we had annually in town (Cartagena de Indias) a great and missed event
called Festival de Musica del Caribe (it lasted 20 years). It was all
about four musical nights featuring a mix of different Caribbean sounds,
of course it included Reggae music.

By that time Reggae music has been starting making its global impact, so we had artists like Freddie McGregor (he is the one who has come first here and more times to our country, so he is very popular among veterans reggae lovers), also we had Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Chalice, Culture, and many others.

To complete the question now it was the powerful sound of Reggae beat what took my attention first, At that time I couldn’t overstand the lyrics, but
later I learnt to manage basic English, so then it was the conscious
message of unite and one love of reggae, so it was love at first sight
with reggae music!

Question: What was the first reggae song you ever heard?

A: It takes a little bit of memories, A Couple of songs then, but I could
say it was Bob Marley’s ‘Catch A Fire’, but I can remember also Peter
Tosh’s ‘Legalize It’.

Question: Who and what are your reggae influences?

A: Definitely ‘The Wailers’ (Bunny, Peter and Bob) = Conscious Music.

Question: Do you also listen to reggaeton being that it is in Spanish?

A: No

Question: What style of reggae is played often in your country?(Dancehall, Lovers Rock, Conscious etc.) What style do the majority of
fans seem to prefer?

A: I could say that apart of the successful commercial acts like Shaggy,
Sean Paul and Bob Marley, most of the greatest reggae artist are unknown
here. So people not know much about Sizzla, Gyptian, Fantan Mojah,
Luciano, etc.

We are here trying to change that by playing new music in our sound system and in our weekly reggae radio show (old school & vintage
music up to the newest riddims) to preserve and promote the whole range
of Jamaican music, so letting the people dem know about it.

Anyway, people have good tastes for Roots, Conscious and Dancehall mainly.

Question: Was the fact that Reggae is English and Patois a barrier?

A: Yes, it could affect in some way but it is not a determinant factor.
The music still a universal language.

Question: Is reggae mainstream on radio stations? Do you have reggae concerts?

A: Actually, there are not reggae radio stations in Colombia. The Radio
stations only play eventually major commercial acts like Shaggy, Sean Paul,
UB40, Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley.

We are trying to make reggae music more aired on radio stations and TV Shows. In fact, I have a weekly radio show called ‘Rastafari’ and hopefully very soon I will broadcast Reggae via Internet. However, by now only exists a few weekly reggae shows in the country.

Reggae Concerts. Yes we have!. I have been involved in the Festival Reggae Colombia which is held annually in Bogota. It started back in 2004 with Jamaican Singer I Jah Bones, in 2005 we have Reggae legend Junior Reid and Singer Junior P. Last year’s edition we had: Sugar Minott, Empress, Prince Ranny and Rasta Uprising Band. We also do regular shows in between the festival but smaller gigs.

Question: Which famous Jamaican reggae artist have you met?

A: Well, I could say that I&I feel blessed to be able to meet many of the
reggae artists dem. Attending concerts in my country and overseas as a
press media worker and also as a huge reggae fan. I give JAH thanks for
the people I have already met: among dem: Jah B (Bunny Wailer), The late
Joseph ‘Culture’ Hill, Damian ‘JR. Gong’ Marley, Winston Rodney (a.k.a.
Burning Apear), Sly & Robbie, Leroy Sibbles, Ken Boothe, Junior Kelly,
Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, Junior Reid, Sugar Minott, Alton Ellis, Steel
Pulse, Chris Meredith, Big Youth, Shaggy, Sean Paul, Ninjaman, Freddie
McGregor, Prince Ranny, a whole a heap dem!

Question: How is Reggae influencing Colombian culture?

A: Well, as a matter of fact Jamaica and Colombia are in the same waters!,
So we are very culturally close one and another. It is because of music,
cultural interchanges, commercial trades, etc. It is our hard and committed
work what preserve that legacy and friendship among Colombian people and fellow Jamaican friends through Reggae Music!

Question: If someone traveled to visit your home and wanted to hear reggae music what would they have to do?

A: It depends of the place where to stay. You can find Reggae music and
indigenous folks in the insular area of our Country (San Andres Island and
Providence). But you can also come to the cities like Cartagena de Indias
in the caribbean sea and enjoy reggae music as well. Therefore, you have
inner citires like Bogota, Medellin and Cali as interesting places to visit.

Question: How would you describe your country’s reggae sound and development?

A: Well, there is a growing movement of reggae bands here. Most of them
have turned their eyes from being rockers up to embrace reggae music.
Still dem needing to learn more about the culture and the real meaning of
reggae music. I mean the message and the lyrics.

In terms of music, they need to increase and upgrade their reggae sound and techniques. for the local development, well, not too bad!

Question: What are some of the names of the popular local artist? Who
would be the top 5 artists?

A: I would say that at the moment we can’t make an account of Colombian
top 5 reggae bands. However I can name: Alerta (Bogota), Coffee Makers (Medellin), DBAM (Medellin).

Instead I want turn and to name some leader bands in Latino america. We
have: Cultura Profetica (Puerto Rico), Gondwana (Chile), Los Cafres
(Argentina), Fidel Nadal ( Argentina) and Alerta (Colombia).

Question: Who is your favorite Reggae Artist?

A: Hard to answer! I like mostly roots reggae, however I love the old
school classic and vintages as well. From Ska to reggae and dancehall, the whole ting. If I’m going to name some of them, I’d say: The Wailers (Bob, Bunny and Peter), Heptones, The Skatalites, Culture, Black uhuru, Israel Vibration, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaccs, Toots & The Maytals,The Mighty Diamonds, Freddie McGregor, The Abyssinians, U Roy, Sugar Minott.

From the Dancehall arena: Richie Spice, Luciano, Capleton, Sizzla, Turbulence, Warrior King, Gyptian, Chezidek, I will continue naming dem!

Question: Where do you think Reggae will be in 10 years time? And in

A: Hopefully, at the highest point of popularity and at the best of
diffusion as well. Same way for Colombia.

Question: Do you think there is anything preventing Reggae from flourishing Colombia and your fellow artists there?

A: No really, but in commercially terms we need to increase promotion to
make reggae go to the top.

Question: In some countries you might see people wearing a Jamaican-style hat with fake dreadlocks attached when they attend reggae concerts and other events. Do you see anything that you see in your country?

A: Yes, a fashion ting, but we have people wearing dreadlocks for real.

Question: Have you ever been to Jamaica?

A: Yes my lord. Four times, Jamaica land we love and respect!
First trip in 2005 learning about rastafari and also co-producing the
first reggae album out of JA from a Colombian reggae band.

We worked in Studio with Sly Dunbar, Junior Reid, Big Youth, Sugar, Minott, Christ Meredith, Lisa Danijah and Royalty.

Question: Do you have many/any Jamaican people living in Colombia?

A: A few of them, familiar affair as well.

Question: Do you eat Jamaican food? Like what?

A: Yeah mon. Ackee and salt fish!

Recordings artists that have performed in Colombia:

Freddie McGregor (tour times), Chalice, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, Culture, The Wailers (three times), Augustus Pablo, Carlene Davis, Inner Circle, Sister Carol, UB40 (two times), Shinehead, Mystic Revealers, Pato Banton, Lucky Dube, Shaggy, Sean Paul, The Skatalites, Mutabaruka, Fidel Nadal (Argentina), I Jah Bones, Junior Reid, Junior P, Sugar Minott, Empress, Prince Ranny & Rasta Uprising Band, Born Jamericans, Kafu Banton (Panama), El Roockie (Panama), Mad Lion, Gondwana (Chile), Los Pericos (Argentina)

About the author

Xavier Murphy