Inna Reggae Rajahs Style
India’s first reggae soundsystem is spreading Jamaican sounds across the nation
Since it first hit the airwaves in Jamaica in the 1960s, reggae music has maintained a stronghold as the best-known cultural export from the Caribbean. Over the decades, strong reggae and dancehall scenes have emerged worldwide, leading to scores of international festivals and soundsystems. However, while the likes of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh have been loved in India for generations, new reggae sounds were rarely heard outside of beach huts in Goa, and the only noteworthy reggae event in India was Shillong’s annual Bob Marley Tribute. Enter Reggae Rajahs, India’s first reggae soundsystem who, since forming in February 2009, have been introducing audiences across the country to their repertoire of new and classic Jamaican music.
Reggae Rajahs came into being almost by chance. In February 2009, on the eve of Bob Marley’s birthday, Delhi’s Mohammed Abood (AKA DJ MoCity) decided to host a reggae event in honour of Marley’s music. That night, he was approached by fellow reggae enthusiasts Raghav Dang (AKA Diggy Dang) and Zorawar Shukla (AKA Mr Herbalist) and the three soon began playing regular events, eventually forming a soundsystem, or collective, which they dubbed Reggae Rajahs. Later that year, they teamed up with their fourth member DJ Jun, a seasoned reggae and dancehall selector from Japan who was based in Chennai at the time. “Jun was one of the founders of the reggae movement in Thailand,” notes Abood. “What he was doing in Thailand a few years ago is similar to what we’re doing in India now.”
Over the past year and a half, the Rajahs have gone from hosting low-key dances in Delhi to playing in major nightclubs across the country. To mark their first anniversary and Bob Marley’s 65th birthday, they staged a three-day reggae festival across multiple venues in Delhi. They began touring this May, playing shows in Mumbai and Pune as part of the Bass Camp Festival, and will continue hitting up India’s major cities throughout the rest of the year, possibly even forming local chapters of Reggae Rajahs to help promote their sounds nationwide. It’s not just in India that the lads are making a name for themselves. Abood, who is from Iraq, notes that Reggae Rajahs are working to step up their presence internationally. “We have a presence in Thailand and Japan where DJ Jun represents the crew, performing as a member of the soundsystem and we’re becoming increasingly popular in Europe. We already have DJs wearing Reggae Rajahs T-shirts in Germany,” says Abood.
In the true spirit of soundsystem culture, the Rajahs have begun playing exclusive dubplates, one-of-a-kind customised recordings from established international artists such as Anthony B and Junior Kelly. They have also released a dubplate of their own with Delhi Sultanate from dnb/dubstep collective BASSFoundation. The MC, who is known for his high-powered freestyle toasting reminiscent of what one might hear back in Jamaica, performs regularly with Reggae Rajahs. Abood is adamant about promoting Delhi Sultanate’s sound through issuing exclusive Reggae Rajahs dubplates to other DJs. “We consider him the third generation of Indian reggae artists and he needs to be heard,” he says.
While Reggae Rajahs are undoubtedly focused on promoting reggae music and culture across India and abroad, they are equally determined to use their position as artists to spread socially conscious messages. “If you’re playing reggae music, you’ve got to educate people about what’s going on in the world. Don’t overlook what’s going on around you. Try to stop corruption, make peace.” It’s clear that Abood sees music as a prime means through which to educate people about the realities of the world today. “I try to spread knowledge about peace and the war, and remind people that we should stop and play music, drop beats, not bombs.”