As a crowd dominated by young Americans swayed under the hot California sun, Chronixx roused them with his relentlessly positive explanation of reggae.
“Reggae music is good for the spirit. It is good for the heart,” the Jamaican singer declared in his ever-mellow voice at the Coachella festival.
At 23, Chronixx is at the forefront of what some music industry players consider to be a revival of reggae, which became a global mass movement starting in the 1970s under legends such as Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs and Pete Tosh, but which had been overtaken in its Jamaican birthplace by the more aggressive dancehall genre.
Chronixx — whose father Chronicle is a dancehall singer — started off as a producer and offers a modern musical update to the classic reggae sound, with a dash of soul in his voice and harmonies, while the rhythms show a love of hip-hop.
But Chronixx sees himself firmly in the tradition of roots reggae, believing his music is an integral part of the Rastafarian faith.
“Reggae music is a music that was born out of a spiritual awakening in Jamaica,” Chronixx told AFP at Coachella, which runs for two consecutive weekends with identical lineups.
“It has that spiritual element within it. It is part of us trying to be innovative and be creative and have reverence in the spirit that gave us this music,” he said.
In contrast to dancehall, which so often is driven by machismo, Chronixx sings of personal uplift and non-violence. He has little interest in partying.
“If I were you, I would sell my gun / And buy a burning machine / Bootleg every Chronixx CD,” he sings on one song to a beat influenced by electronic dance music.
“Tell the rich man — a foreigner and the politician / Ghetto youths don’t need more guns and no more ammunition / We need a change in we tradition / We need some other things like computer,” he sings.
Another track, “Smile Jamaica,” personifies the island nation as a woman in a strikingly good-natured love song.
“I ask her where she from — she tell me in the tropics / She asked me what’s my name — I tell her I am Chronixx.”
– Celebrity backing –
As evidence of the rising interest in Chronixx, the young singer — whose real name is Jamar Rolando McNaughton, Jr. — has been winning powerful endorsements in the music world.
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who is known for his interest in reggae and worked with Tosh, showed up when Chronixx played in New York’s Central Park in 2014 and greeted him backstage.
Major Lazer, the crowd-packing electronic duo that is a top attraction at Coachella, tapped Chronixx as a collaborator for a song, “Blaze Up the Fire,” on its latest album.
Chronixx, who is on a wider international tour and will release his first full-length album later this year, was making his debut appearance at Coachella, one of the world’s most lucrative and closely watched festivals.
Also performing was Protoje, a reggae singer older than Chronixx who is also seen as part of the revival.
But Chronixx played down the talk of a reggae resurgence, insisting that the music was never far away for those who wanted to find it.
“We are just a continuation of musicians who have been around since the 1950s, 1960s and even before that. we are the continuation of the spirituality that Jamaica has been a part of for decades,” he said.
“People are more in-tune with what is happening now. That, to me, is what the true revival is.”