Reggae music has grown and expanded since the days of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. Protoje is one of the genre’s modern mainstays. He and his band the Indiggnation provide the soundtrack to today’s conscious, political, philosophical reggae scene in Jamaica.
I had the privilege of seeing Protoje at a special live show in Kingston a few months ago. The venue, the lush Hope Gardens Shell Bandstand, provided an earthy oasis that felt like an escape from the hectic city surrounding it. The full moon cast a rejuvenating energy over the cool night.
The fans present were decidedly relaxed, many toting lawn chairs and blankets to lounge on while Yaadcore warmed up the atmosphere with his dub riddims. Latecomers drifted in during Sevana’s opening act, bringing in the dank scent of ganja smoke and patchouli oil.
As Protoje and the Indiggnation bounded on stage, the Ethiopian flags soared high and the spliffs lit up. Braap braap braap! Mi haffi buss a blank fi di ras revivalist.
His most recent release is a B-side of his upcoming album, Royalty Free. The single “Blood Money” has been transmitting through radio stations island wide. I first heard it at Protoje’s show in February; a chilling mood washed over the crowd when he sang lyrics like, “So, police cancel operation/
Cause no real badman a go station” and “Now the system failing, the gap a get wider/
A matter of time before a total divide yah.”
Protoje sings plainly of the social problems and corruption that affect Jamaica. By calling out the issues, he urges his fellow citizens not just to demand change, but to create it themselves.
The show ended on an odd note. Protoje invited many incredible, new young artists to share his stage and their work. Each artist brought fantastic energy and talent, but they were essentially too much of a good thing; Protoje ran out of time to finish his set before the midnight noise ordinance kicked in. Babylon waan shut it dong (“Babylon,” the system, wanted to shut it down). There aren’t a lot of safe venues where local artists can perform, and the high cost and logistical challenges of putting on a show in Jamaica prevent many Jamaican artists from sharing music with their people. Babylon ting dis.
Please enjoy this week’s Music Monday, “Blood Money.”