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Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. Australia has several bands and sound systems that play reggae music in a style faithful to its expression in Jamaica. Australia has a relatively small Jamaican community, but reggae penetrated local consciousness via the popularity of reggae among the non-Jamaican population of England in the 1960s and 1970s. Many indigenous musicians have embraced reggae, both for its musical qualities and its ethos of resistance. Examples include Mantaka No Fixed Address Zennith and Coloured Stone
The first Reggae sound system in Australia was Soulmaker, established in 1972 by J.J. Roberts, a Jamaican from Saint Catherine Parish. Bob Marley & The Wailers toured Australia in 1979, playing Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Reggae had success on the radio charts in Australia in the early 1980s when Toots and the Maytals, the first artist to use the term "reggae" in song, went to number one with their song "Beautiful Woman". One of the first Australian reggae bands was Untabu. They had releases on Larrikin Records and were resident in a number of clubs in the Darlinghurst and Manly area of Sydney. They also toured the East coast regularly. They performed original music and reggae covers. The Aboriginal band No Fixed Address from Adelaide also had reggae songs in their repertoire.
In 1984, Australian label Corroboree Records had its first release with Dangerous Times. This 7" single was recorded at Channel One Studios with the Roots Radics, voiced and mixed at King Tubby's with Bugs as engineer, and voiced by Dudley Green and General Justice. It Contains the song "Dangerous Dub" on the B side, which was mixed by King Tubby. It was released in Jamaica, the UK and Australia. In 1985 Larry Maluma arrived in Australia from Zambia with master tapes recorded in Zambia. He remixed a couple of tracks, Black or White and Chimutima Chako at AAV studios in Melbourne for a 45 single vinyl which was released in 1986 under his own newly formed independent (Safari Music) label. In 1987, two years after his arrival from Zambia Larry Maluma released his first album Confusion on his own Safari Music label. The video clip Black and White from the same album was aired on Countdown Revolution and Rock Arena on ABC. Larry Maluma went on to release his 14th album, Ndakondwa (I'm Happy) in 2014.
The first notable dub release in Australia was Ten Dubs That Shook The World by Sheriff Lindo and the Hammer, issued on the artist's own label, Endless Recordings, in 1988. The LP was reissued on the Creative Vibes label with five extra tracks in 1998, and again by EM Records of Japan in 2006, on CD (catalogue number EM1049CD) and LP (EM1049LP), limited to 500 copies. The CD version contains five extra tracks.
In September 2006, Astronomy Class released Exit Strategy on the record label Elefant Traks. The record fused reggae and hip hop music. In February 2007, Melbourne-based producer Mista Savona released Melbourne Meets Kingston on Elefant Traks. It is a 21-track collaboration with Jamaican singers and deejays such as Anthony B, Determine and Big Youth. In September 2008, the Sydney-based band King Tide released their debut album To our Dearly Deported on the UK label Urban Sedated. The single "No Dog War" was used worldwide by the Sony corporation for their Wag the Dog campaign. The commercial shot in Brazil featured members from the cast of the feature film City of God. In December 2009, Australian artist Matty Woods released The Ras Gong Guerrilla EP, a 10-track recording that tackles Australian and international political issues such as Indigenous sovereignty, climate change and human rights.
As of 2015, many indigenous Australian artists from the Northern Territory represented by the Aboriginal owned and operated music label CAAMA Music identify as reggae or ska artists (often in combination with rock). Artists include Tjintu Desert Band (previously known as Sunshine Reggae) and Tjupi Band. Some also identify as "desert reggae" artists, with examples including Lajamanu Teenage Band and Rising Wind.
Reggaeton, a music genre that blends reggae, hip hop, and traditional Latin American music, is also popular in Australia. The genre first came to prominence when Puerto Rican reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee released his most notable single, "Gasolina," to Australian radio in 2006. Already a hit worldwide, it reached a peak of No. 12 on the ARIA Singles Chart and was certified Platinum, making it one of the few Spanish-language songs to reach that position on the Australian charts.
Reggaetown is an annual reggae and roots music festival near Cairns in Far North Queensland. South Beach annual Reggae Party Fremantle Western Australia started in 1998. Raggamuffin Music Festival is an annual reggae music festival that tours Australia and New Zealand.
In 2016 the very first Jamaican Music & Food Festival was launched in Melbourne, Victoria featuring reggae and other music of Jamaican origin. Sponsored by PBS and with live performances by Australian artists, bands and DJs, the festival has also featured many International artists including Jamaican reggae singer Bushman, British vocalist General Levy, soul singer Richie Stephens. In 2019 the festival also takes place in Sydney, NSW and features Mad Professor as its headlining performer.
The Far North Queensland Roots, Rock, Reggae Festival is to be held for the first time in June 2020.
Notable Australian reggae radio programs of the past include Splashdown and The Pounding System. Australia's longest running reggae radio show is Jamdown Vershun which has been broadcasting on 92.1 FM in Perth with selector General Justice since July 1979. The Jamaican singer, producer, and broadcaster Mikey Dread produced and presented a reggae radio special for 2JJJ in the mid to late 1980s. In Melbourne, the PBS 106.7FM program "Babylon Burning" (formerly known as "Chant Down Babylon") has been presented by Jesse I since the late 1990s.
Foreigndub run a weekly radio show in Sydney on 94.5FM – FBI radio every Sunday from 5–7 pm called 'Foreigndub Airwayvs'. They have been broadcasting the show since 2010 and stream worldwide.
Every Saturday afternoon, 4ZZZ presents The Yard, a Reggae show from 4-6pm with selecta Basmati (Rhythm Collision Sound)
Every Wednesday Morning 12 am −2am Fresh 92.7 a community station based in Adelaide has a reggae dancehall show called Dancehall & Ting which has aired since July 2012 and is hosted by DJ Ragz.
In 2013 An online radio station, Australia Reggae Radio (ARR) began broadcasting from Melbourne. ARR plays 24-hour Reggae and Dancehall music, 7 days a week. Run by a former Jamaican music executive and current selector and MC, Zare Demus, ARR features a broad range of reggae and dancehall shows from both Australian and international DJs including, but not limited to, Robert Ragz – Dancehall and Ting from Adelaide, Australia; Basmati – The Yard from Brisbane, Australia; Zare Demus – The Zare Demus Show from Melbourne, Australia; Mumma Trees – Jamdown Vershun from Perth, Australia; DJ Septik – Slow Bounce from Brussels, Belgium and Young Lion – Young Lion Show from the UK.
- Adrian's Wall Soundsystem
- Babylon Burning
- Black Bird Hum
- Blue King Brown
- Nicky Bomba
- Dizzy Dee
- Echo Drama
- Fraud Millionaires
- Heartical Hi Powa
- Inner West Reggae Disco Machine
- King Tide
- Mista Savona
- Monkey Marc
- The Red Eyes
- Soulmaker Soundsystem
- Matty Woods
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