Reggae artists worldwide have had a bit of a stigma around them as weed smokers and violent people. This isn’t entirely true, in fact the majority are pacifists, but society’s treatment have let this image remain. Swedish reggae tackles this in a way not seen in most reggae worldwide.
A prime example is Governor Andys song Vakter & Polis (Guards & Police), where the singer and the two guest singers travel to the capitol Stockholm to play for an audience, before they go to the club, they want to party a bit. The guards recognizes them as reggae artists and beats them up, so they end up on the hospital. They get out just in time for their gig, so they go to the club where they are supposed to play, same thing happens there. They wake up the day after in the hospital, walks out and there are a few cops there, and the story repeats. All of this is done in a humorous way, a parody of the everyday life.
The fact is that this has been done to almost all of this type of reggae artist, which have given them visible scars that enforces their image of being violent.
On the other end of the scale we have those who wants to give a more serious message, the lyrics here are more aimed towards highlighting the friendships they have and how strong love can be. However, there is still undertones of the violence there, like in Kapten Röds song 1.000.000 nollor (Captain Red – one million losers (loser in Swedish is “zeroes”)), where the singer explains how people end up on the streets, in gangs and with violent tendencies through the eyes of the kids that gets bullied, the youths that gets underpaid at work and the sick that gets their benefits revoked. He also sings about how strong the bonds between the friends in these gangs become, because they have something in common and they can only rely on each other. There is a serious undertone here about how society would be better if everyone was more tolerant to each other, and that these bonds could be built between any two people in the world if they just stopped hating each other.
Of course, then we have the goofball reggae, that makes their music with a bit of a chock value. General Knas (General Goof) is one of the biggest names in this category. With a more traditional, Marley-esque singing style, he sings about topics like how to grow marijuana and how it should be nobody’s business if he chooses to smoke it (in the song 12/12), hot girls and how sex can bring him closer to God (Hetare än lava (Hotter than lava)) and straight out goofing out and rabbles the Swedish alphabet in what seems to be a way to show people that he knows it, mixing the letters sounds with existing words that sounds similar (ABC).
But wait, didn’t he do another song that became popular? That’s right, General Knas also sang En God Vän (A Good Friend), a lot calmer than his usual style, that is all about being a good friend and if you manage to get a good friend back, never let that person down. It’s our friends that makes us who we are.
Wait, again, who was that on Hetare Än Lava? There was a girl there, wasn’t it? Of course, Syster Sol (Sister Sun), a member of the musical collective Femtastic. Femtastic consists of 23 artists and bands, predominantly reggae artists, that sings a whole other tune. Women in Swedish reggae tends to sing more about how to be strong in the face of those who wants to harm you, how to live your life to the fullest and to be true to yourself.
Syster Sol has a wide range of songs centered around those who sticks out in society and the boring life of those who tries to fit in. Ding Ding Värld (Wierd World) makes a point about how power means nothing in the long run. You can push others down or be pushed down by others, but none of that matters when you are dead and forgotten, and this will happen to everyone. The undercurrent of this song is that you might as well be kind to others, stick out in the crowd and live with a little bit less than to be that pusher that steps on others or let yourself be stepped upon by others to fit in. If you do that, you’ll at least get some enjoyment out of your life and you’ll make some friends along the way.
Etzia is an artist that sticks out a bit on the Swedish scene. Much of this is due to her background, her parents are from Panama and Trinidad. She is born in New York and came to Sweden in 2008, she was immediately a big hit on the Swedish dancehall scene. Thou she knows how to speak Swedish, she has chosen to sing her songs in English for the more global impact. Her songs fits more into the traditional world-view of reggae, singing about the poverty and the less fortunate around the world, like in Same Thing A Gwan.
If you want the full experience of Swedish Reggae, both male and female, oddly enough you would have to go to one of Femtastics songs. Even thou no male sings a single word in it, this song sums up Swedish reggae in a few minutes. It’s a retake of the scene by the women of Femtastic, showing that they are both different and the same as the men on the scene. The song Bland Dom (Among Them) can be found here.
I wanted to highlight this because the language barrier have made this genre specific to Sweden. I do absolutely love Swedish reggae, and I will end this in the words of Izzie: “Wow, you swedes are more Jamaican than I am”.