"SOME NOTES ON LOVING REGGAE MUSIC"
BY LAURA JANE FAULDS
FEATURING AN ILLUSTRATION BY JEN MAY
Eight years ago I loved the Clash and my nails were painted sparkly turquoise. I flew to New York City to sit around in rooms and bars and talk about the Clash with my Clash-friends. It was around Hallowe’en-time, and it snowed in October and on the news they named the snowfall “Snow-tober” and my friend Charlie said “It would have made a lot more sense if they named it Oct-snow-ber” and we all agreed that Yes, it would have.
On the day it Oct-snow-bered, which might have been actual Hallowe’en, we went to a Hallowe’en party, and I half-assedly and insincerely dressed up as George Harrison. I wore a black & peach floor-length sari I’d cut into a jagged-hemmed minidress, black stockings, and Beatle boots. It was clearly not an outfit that George Harrison would have worn, under any circumstances, ever. I ignored the sign on the front door asking me to take off my boots and when the host called me on it, “They’re part of my costume,” I explained, and she said “Fine. We’ll make an exception if your shoes are part of your costume,” and I thought, “You’re silly,” which is what I thought Joe Strummer would have thought.
I have had no interest in dressing up for Hallowe’en for the entirety of my adult life. The thought of deriving pleasure from engaging with that custom is so unfathomable to me that I cannot help but come across as judgmental of those who do. Because I am.
“All your favourite Clash songs are the ones that sound most like reggae,” said Charlie, and I said, “Yeah, you know, that’s true.” He said, “Maybe you should start listening to reggae,” and I said, “Yeah, you know, I should.”
It was before iPhones then, I just had a little aqua Shuffle that clipped onto my jacket collar, and I deleted every song already on it and filled it up with Trojan Ska & Rocksteady compilations from Charlie and Nadine’s computer--
It was a nothing moment, meant to mean nothing, which ended up changing everything.
Music, for me, is a companion: a beloved puppy, trotting alongside me, perking things up during life’s dullest moments. Reggae has been the most faithful of pets since I first found it, but I never want talk about it, because when I do, people either want to talk about it or not talk about it, and both outcomes are equally annoying. “Vibes are all there is,” I like to say, and reggae’s are the best. And I worry that if I take them outside of myself, they will be either diluted or dismissed.
I have been hoarding these precious vibes in my heart for eight years. I am not so brazen to think that these words could match them; I hold myself to a much lower standard than that.
All I want to do here is explain it.