Reggae Pioneers in Puerto Rico
by Junior Bailey
(Charlotte Amelie, St. Thomas, USVI)
During the 1990's artists from the Virgin Islands made Puerto Rico their permanent home, singers and bands like Jomo Pemberton and the Jah Seed Band from St. Kitts and The Zioniers band from St. Croix and St.Lucia were among the notables.
Randy Freeman, a singer/songwriter from Nevis- Tortola formed the first Reggae Gospel band Obedience in the mid 1990's. It was during the 1990's and 2000's that the Roots Reggae scene in Puerto Rico established itself, virtually every Jamaican, British and African Reggae act performed on the island.
A handful of local bands such as Cultura Profetica, Millo Torres y El Tercer Planeta, Filosofia and Gomba Jahbari made a name for themselves and had relevancy in the Virgin Islands, and U.S. cities with high latino rastafarian population such as Orlando,Florida, Santa Cruz,California, Virginia, Washington D.C. etc and Latin America.
Much of this success was due to crucial albums that were released such as Ideas Nuevas from Cultura Profetica, Sonando Realidad from Millo Torres, El Ciego from Los Goyos, Naturalistico from Filosofia and Sentemonos from Gomba Jahbari. In 2002, Roots Natty, backed by The Zioniers band performed in the Monterey bay reggae fest and toured the west coast of the United States, this being the first reggae act from Puerto Rico to do so.
Jamaican reggae and Virgin Island roots reggae has had a huge influence in Puerto Rican reggae. There are however caracteristics that makes it original such as complex horn arrangements and chord progressions. Salsa music and jazz have also influenced their music.
Puerto Rican reggae musicians and producers have long fought for due respect, venues to perform in and especially radio airplay in the island due to resistance from older generations who were not exposed to reggae before.