Rasta music (or Reggae music as it is more commonly known) began in the small island nation of Jamaica but quickly spread its roots throughout the western world on the rising wave of music culture in the early 1960s and through to the 70s. Born from a rich history of local musical genres including Jamaican folk (mento), ska, calypso, and RnB with a heavy focus on the up-stroke of the rhythm section, Reggae rapidly develop into a style all of its own and became synonymous with the Rastafarian religion.
Reggae music truly came to the masses on the back of its most successful son, Bob Marley, and his band The Wailers. With hits like “No Woman No Cry”, “Redemption Song”, and “Exodus”, no list of the best reggae songs would be complete without at least a mention of Mr. Marley. But with so many other great artists hitting the airwaves at the same time, it truly is a mammoth effort to round up the absolute best songs of the era.
We have included both vintage and current bands, so hopefully, there’s something for everybody – no matter if you are sitting in an NYC office or out in the fields planting those beautiful autoflowering cannabis seeds.
LEGALIZE IT – Peter Tosh
“Legalize it” (1978) is off the first solo album of The Wailers guitarist, Peter Tosh, and boy oh boy did it hit when it was released. Written in direct response to the victimization he and other cannabis activists were receiving at the time from local police and politicians, the reggae anthem quickly solidified itself as one of the all-time great rasta tunes.
54 – 46 (WAS MY NUMBER) – Toots and the Maytals
The Reggae genre was born from this seminal group, and their track “Do the Reggay”. And while that tune will forever be lauded as one of the greats, our favorite from the Jamaican super group is “54-46 (Was My Number)”. Documenting his time locked up for cannabis-related issues (there’s a common theme here), this song will forever be known as one of the first Reggae classics.
IS THIS LOVE – Bob Marley and the Wailers
Stepping away from the social consciousness that Bob had become well known for at this time, the 1978 tune “Is This Love” follows an unusual structure and in some ways redefined what Reggae music could be.
HERE I COME – Barrington Levy
With a slightly faster pace than many of the reggae tunes of the 2 decades previous, “Here I Come” (1985) became an instant dancehall hit, and paved the way for a new wave of reggae in the mid-80s. More recently it was featured in GTA: San Andreas which helped in bringing reggae music to a whole new generation.
COLLIE HERB MAN – Katchafire
“Collie Herb Man” by New Zealand band Katchafire (2013) strays away from the bombastic classics so far listed in terms of era but keeps the Reggae soul well and truly alive with all the right elements on show.
So, what do you think? Does your list of the best rasta songs of all time align with ours? Let us know in the comment section!