Jazz, calypso, rhythm and blues and more combine to create reggae, a sound that’s a little offbeat in the best possible way.
WORDS JENNY RUDD / PHOTO GARTH BADGER
Reggae music is distinctive. Slow and lilting, you can hear the bass and drums in its offbeat rhythm, and it conjures up a strong mental picture: warm sun, the smell of coconut andrum, and a schedule on island time. Jamaica has always been seen as the birthplace of this musical genre, but now Polynesian reggae is becoming bigger globally and adding another flavour to the scene.
Jamaican reggae is characterised by the likes of Bob Marley (obviously!), Sean Paul, Steel Pulse, Black Slate and Shaggy. Polynesian reggae, on the other hand, has its roots in the Pacific. It’s been growing in popularity for the past decade, and among other names like J Boog and Kolohe Kai, one of its most well-known artists is George ‘Fiji’ Veikoso. Born in Fiji but raised in Hawaii, he’s given credit for this sound travelling across the oceans and building a loyal following.
One Love is one of the biggest reggae festivals in the world, and regularly hosts Polynesian artists. This year, among its headlining acts is Aotearoa’s Katchafire, who have been put forward for consideration for a Grammy nomination, a breakthrough for a Polynesian reggae band.
Promoter Pato Alvarez (pictured above) built the One Love Festival from scratch. “The atmosphere at One Love is like no other, and that’s all down to the culture of reggae,” he says. “It’s a show of unity and joy. There are so many clips on YouTube where people have shared special moments between the artists and the crowd.”
One of our favourite stars on the Polynesian reggae scene is General Fiyah. The 12-year-old Aucklander, known off stage as Lotima Pome’e, sings with his dad and uncles in their group Three Houses Down. He might be a pre-teen, but this kid already has all the swagger of a lead singer. Check out the music video for their song Love & Affection – his voice is like honey (with a handful of grit thrown in for a verse or two of rap) and as he sings to the girl who caught his eye, his crisp white tee and Hawaiian shirt echo the sunshine in his lyrics.