Reggae Music in California

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Reggae music is commonly associated with the Rastafari movement, which originated in Jamaica. Reggae music is also very popular in California.

The History of Reggae in California

The history of reggae in California is a long and storied one. Reggae first came to the Golden State in the late 1960s with the arrival of Jamaican immigrants, many of whom were members of the Rastafari movement. The music quickly found a home in the state’s vibrant and diverse African-American community, particularly in the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Over the next few decades, reggae would become an integral part of California’s musical landscape, influencing artists across all genres. In the 1990s, a new wave of Jamaican immigrants helped to ensure that reggae remained a vital force in California’s music scene. Today, reggae can be heard throughout the state, from small clubs to large arenas. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

The Birth of Reggae in California

In the late 1960s, a new type of music called reggae began to emerge from Jamaica. This music, which was based on the traditional sounds of mento and ska, quickly became popular throughout the Caribbean. Reggae soon made its way to the United States, where it found a receptive audience among African Americans in the south.

However, it wasn’t until the early 1970s that reggae truly began to take root in California. This was due in large part to the efforts of two radio DJs, Dr.
Dread and Brother Jeff, who played reggae music on their respective shows. As word of this new music spread, more and more people began to seek it out.

In 1973, the first reggae festival was held in Los Angeles. This event, which featured such legendary performers as Bob Marley and Burning Spear, helped to solidify reggae’s place in California culture. Since then, the state has been home to numerous reggae festivals and clubs.

Today, California is widely considered to be one of the birthplaces of American reggae music. Thanks to the state’s large population of Jamaican immigrants, as well as its long tradition of cultural openness, California has become a hotbed for this vibrant form of expression.

The Spread of Reggae in California

Reggae music initially gained popularity in the United States in the 1960s with the release of some hit singles. The first reggae song to become a top 40 hit was “The Israelites” by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, which reached the 37th spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. In subsequent years, other reggae songs would enter the top 40, including “Deeper Shade of Blue” by The Wailers, “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley, and “Shy Guy” by Diana King.

The 1970s saw a significant increase in the popularity of reggae music in the U.S., due in part to the large number of Jamaican immigrants who came to America during that decade. Many of these immigrants settled in California, and they helped to spread reggae music throughout the state. By the 1980s, California had developed its own unique style of reggae known as “roots reggae” or “Cali-reggae.” This style blended elements of Jamaican reggae with American genres like rock, punk, and hip hop.

In recent years, California has continued to be a hotbed for reggae music. The state is home to numerous reggae festivals, including the annual Reggae on The River festival in Humboldt County and the Long Beach Reggae Festival. California is also home to many successful reggae bands, such as Rebelution, Iration, and Stick Figure.

The Impact of Reggae in California

Reggae music has been popular in California since the early 1970s, when reggae artists such as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff began to achieve mainstream success. The popularity of reggae in California continued to grow in the 1980s and 1990s with the rise of dancehall and modern roots reggae artists such as Ziggy Marley, Maxi Priest, and Shaggy. Reggae music has had a significant impact on California culture, influencing fashion, art, and language. The popularity of reggae in California has also helped to spread the Jamaican Rastafari movement throughout the state.

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