Reggae revival

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  May 21, 2009

"I've been at that one place for 12 years — I've lasted so long because I move with the times," says Rodigan, who contends that, with some exceptions, reggae has more problems with disappearing spots than any other genre beside hip-hop. "There's an adjustment period every time a club closes down or stops doing reggae, and then comes a new place. But still — you have to wonder what would happen if [reliable] places like the Middle East, Club Lido, and the Roxy [all] closed down — where would we all go?"

According to everyone the Phoenix spoke with — from artists and promoters to old guardians reflecting on the evolution of Boston's reggae renaissance — the key for continued sustenance while competing with the region's ever-dominant indie-rock scene is integration. Whereas guys like Herzog and Russell were in the melanin minority, these days reggae shows bustle with the young and old, and the dreaded and bald-headed. "You can no longer pinpoint who your typical reggae fan is," says Rodigan. "It could be an ex-hippie, or it could be a girl with tattoos all over her and Ed Hardy gear. You can't pigeonhole reggae in Boston anymore."

It's not a peachy time for music in general, and Boston reggae has lost several homes, as well as all but one music store, Taurus Records in Mattapan. Still — to use another Marley cliché — it seems to be subsiding on a sincere one-love ethos, which brings kaleidoscopic hordes to packed shows across New England. Take DJs Uppercut and Voyager 01's "Makka Mondays" at the Phoenix Landing, which reliably fills early, causing lines in Central Square — or the anticipated return of contemporary savants like Toussaint, who opens for Collie Buddz at House of Blues this June. No locale could feasibly compare to Jamaica when it comes to reggae, and New York and California have larger scenes due to sheer volume. But Boston has always been and continues to be — fuck it, we'll say it — Kingston North for Caribbean artists.

"I've been on the road a lot lately — touring with Mavado, Shaggy, and Serani," says Mighty Mystic, who is waiting until the college crowd returns next September to release his new project. "The way young suburban kids here are at the same shows as Haitians and Jamaicans — it's not like that everywhere. It proves that we're doing something positive — and it proves that this is only getting bigger."

Chris Faraone can be reached at cfaraone@phx.com.

Editor's Note: In a previous edition of this article Generoso Fierro was incorrectly identified as Generosa. The correction has been made above.

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