Although the extent to which reggae was commercialized led to the exploitation of Rasta culture, there were definitely benefits to reggae becoming internationalized. The westernization of reggae spread the roots and core of the music to many other genres, and led to new modern forms of reggae such as dub and dancehall. These two more modern forms of reggae were essentially Jamaican, but have now been westernized and commercialized as well.
The influence of reggae on other types of music has made way for great artists to incorporate multi-national styles into their music. In addition to this, there are still many “roots” or predominantly Rasta reggae artists that have continued to express their radical political agenda and Rastafarian faith in their music, trying to stay clear from the exploitation of their core values. One particular artist that retained his essential Rastafarian roots and political pro-black agenda was Peter Tosh.
Although Tosh played with The Wailers and reached the international scale, he never strayed from his roots. The sound of his music changed partially because of his large scale funding by western labels, but his message generally stayed clear. He was a pro-black activist and a Rastafarian. Such songs as “Downpressor Man” used the Rastafarian language because, in this dialect, the word “oppressor” is changed to “downpressor” because oppression is a bad thing and the sound op (pronounced “up”), is positive.
Tosh gained such acclaim that he actually toured with The Rolling Stones, having gained the admiration of lead singer, Mick Jagger, because out his courage, purity, and determination to spread his message. Other singer’s such as Jacob Miller, who gained international recognition, even made songs to make the problems associated with modern reggae known. He recorded a song actually entitled “Too Much Commercialization of Rastafari”, in which he expresses his fear for the modern reggae and Rasta movement and anger towards the lack of understanding of Rastafari.
This song suggests that the international level to which reggae has reached could be a good thing if it was not so commercialized. He doesn’t discredit commercialization or the spread of reggae, but emphasizes that there is just too much. A line needed to be drawn between the spread of a powerful, spiritual culture, and the exploitation of this culture. There are many westerners that do understand this culture, and for that I am glad reggae was brought to an international scale.
There are new reggae artists emerging from all over the world including Italy, Germany and the United states who understand Rastafari and actually produce “roots” reggae that embraces the faith and movement. International reggae also reflected more awareness of international issues, which benefited western listeners and helped them gain knowledge about troubles outside of Jamaica. Key themes expressed in international reggae dealt with the political turmoil in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
A lot of international reggae benefited western society and gained awareness about the Rastafarian faith, again it was the EXTENT to which this commercialization occurred that exploited the Rasta culture. The commercialization of reggae definitely did exploit the Rasta culture to an extent.