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In Defense of Reggae

Long before I had a David Bowie tattoo, I had an "ice gold green" peace sign tattooed on my ass.

Music writer Sophie Saint Thomas throws personal caution (and the possibility of hurting David Bowie's feelings) to the wind in this shocking defense of reggae music. 

Let me open with a excerpt from an interview David Bowie did with Melody Maker Magazine in 1979:

Melody Maker: You've never experimented with reggae, have you?

David Bowie: No, I don't like it very much. I got rather biased against it… I heard an awful lot of it when I was a kid, and I heard even more of it when I was a teenager of the ska and bluebeat variety; and rather unfortunately.


As one reader pointed out via Twitter, I have a David Bowie tattoo, bed spread, and Twitter handle. With that in mind, what I'm about to say may shock you.


My lovely editor, Ms. Kelly McClure, has tweeted against it. Pitchfork has bragged of their "official policy against the genre." The following is a rant defending reggae music against all angsty Anglo-Saxons who bitch and moan about what they don't understand.

I was raised on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, the origin of my porny pen name. While my parents also exposed me to the typical classics, the Talking Heads, the Stones, the soundtrack enveloping life was reggae. Long before I had a David Bowie tattoo, I had an "ice gold green" peace sign tattooed on my ass. Years after I said good bye to the Virgin Islands as my home, the music continues to hold a special place in my soul.

One summer during college I interned with a production company in New York City and the casting director said to me, "I think Bob Marley has done more harm than good. All his music's done is turn kids across America into stoners!"

This statement sums up the egocentric view many "state-siders" hold. Rather than see the music from it's Jamaican origin and it's cultural importance, it is (understandably) viewed from the eyes of suburban America. One cannot grasp the beauty of a down beat filling the air of an island market place when it's


96 degreees….. in the shayade

when their earliest reggae memory is sitting uncomfortably stoned in their neighbor's basement in New Jersey.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If I saw an article titled "In Defense of Country Music" I would surely roll my eyes and close out the browser. All I ask is that before anyone is snaps to judgments they attempt to step out of their own egoic experience and give the music a shot it its own right. Reggae is one of the most globally appreciated genres of music. You might very well learn something. The ironic twist in the plot is that reggae is a crucial influence in music hailed by those who criticize. You think we'd have Santigold if it weren't for reggae?

Get out of the city. Hop a flight to St. John with friends and rent a cheap house for a month. Hitchhike into town and pick up a bartending job to pay the rent. Immerse yourself in local culture and discover the dark side of island living. See the AIDS stricken homeless and read the paper's nonchalant reports of the daily rape and murder. Ask yourself why the super markets have to carry shitty imported fruit when there's a banana tree in your backyard. Have a love affair with a local. Get used to stopping to let donkeys cross the road. Buy a bottle of rum for $6 and drink it at Cinnamon Bay lying on your back while the hot sun dries the sea water off your skin. Bring a boom box (yes, a fucking boom box) and and then tell me Toots & the Maytals don't make you wanna wind your waist.