Chronixx Plays Reggae but Rejects the Idea of a "Reggae Revival"

Joachim Maquet
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Jamaican reggae and dub singer Chronixx (real name Jamar McNaughton) is a passionate believer in the music that his home nation has produced and, more to the point, keeps on producing. The son of Chronicle, a popular reggae singer in his own right, Chronixx has been immersed in music and the arts pretty much from birth. As a result, he’s also been surrounded by talented musicians from childhood. The man has grown up in Jamaica surrounded by music, so he knows what he’s talking about.

So when Chronixx says we should quit referring to all Jamaican music as reggae, and when he reminds us that a country as culturally rich as Jamaica is bound to produce a multitude of different types of musicians, all with their own little flavors, and that even those classified as reggae can vary dramatically in sound, we should listen.

“People don’t understand how rich Jamaican music is,” Chronixx says. “If you generalize Jamaican music and brand it as reggae, then you’re literally killing our music, because our music also has ska, dancehall, reggaeton, mento, hip-hop — it’s all our music. It’s all rooted in Jamaican traditional sound. Focus more on the music, where it’s coming from and where it’s going, and [you'll] find very interesting things and interesting artists.”

This is relevant, because Chronixx has been roundly lumped in with a perceived “reggae revival,” along with other contemporary artists like Dre Island, Jah Bouks, Protoje and Jesse Royal, among others. But he's keen to point out that the phrase “reggae revival” is a media creation, and not something that the musicians dreamed up. For certain, Chronixx isn’t interested in spearheading any such movement.

“I don’t get paid to spearhead anything,” he says. “I didn’t sign up to spearhead a movement, but I really feel like I’m a part of something very powerful that is happening in the Jamaican music space, because it is undeniable that a lot of attention and a lot of great music has been coming from young people in Jamaica in the music space. Not just in reggae, but dancehall. There are a lot of artists with the potential to take our music to a whole new level, to places that it has never been before.”

That harks back to the reasons that Chronixx wanted to make music in the first place. He saw, through his father, the liberating power that creating music can bestow upon a person. Still, rather than follow in anyone’s footsteps, Chronixx wanted to create something all his own.

“I liked the feeling of making music, not just listening,” he says. “It gives a very special feeling. I saw that happen to a lot of people, people that were around my father, and even him. After making a good record, after being in the studio for a while, you start feeling good. But I didn’t really decide to follow his footsteps in music. I just decided to do music. I just wanted to learn music honestly and with total purity. I wanted to learn how to sing, play instruments, dance. I started doing that at a very young age. I knew, based on the vibe I experience making music, that I would be doing this for a very long time.”

Chronixx had a huge year in 2012. That was when his music started receiving widespread airplay in Jamaica. It was also when he realized that his well-thought-out online presence was paying dividends in other countries. People in Europe, Africa, Australia and right here in North America were listening to his music. Chronixx just had to take advantage and get out on tour.

“That gave me hope and made me stick to an unconventional way of sharing my music,” he says. “Not just taking my music to the radio stations. I would create a Soundcloud link and send that to people, create download links and send that out; that was how the music got out there. That way, it doesn’t have any limits. I’m not trying to be popular; I’m just trying to share it with people. That was how the music got out.”

Viewers of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Friday, February 24, saw and heard Chronixx performing, during his second appearance on the show. The singer is pragmatic when considering just how important and perhaps even career-defining an opportunity like that can be.

“This is national TV, so I guess there’s a lot of people watching and in tune,” he says. “The music is being shared with a large number of people all at the same time. That’s a very powerful thing. Just on the level of consciousness, it’s very powerful to have so many people hearing that sound at the same time and being introduced to it, captivated by it, inspired by it. That’s one way of how the music can become a potent force in the world space. That’s one way of how our message and our lyrics could actually move a lot of people.”

Chronixx is out on tour in the States now, and he’s about to hit Denver. While he’s looking forward to coming to Colorado again, he says that he gets a good crowd wherever he plays nowadays. Rather than being arrogant, though, he attributes his success to the groundwork laid by the reggae stars that came before him.

“We find ourselves now playing a very distinct role in where that music is going,” he says. “I’m very excited about that part. This music that was created by some of the most powerful people on Earth — Bob Marley, Toots & the Maytals, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Lee "Scratch" Perry, so many more. Some of the greatest musicians to ever be born helped to create this music. Now, you can call it whatever. Call us the reggae extraordinares, or the reggae superstars, or the reggae all-stars. I don’t know what you want to call us, but this shit is great.”

For the upcoming set at Cervantes', Chronixx says that he has a relatively new band behind him, the Zincfence Redemption Band, so the vibe will be slightly different than the last time he was on the Front Range.

“That will switch the vibe up a little,” he says. “In general, my whole perception of music, especially after making my album [Chronology], has changed drastically, and it’s affected the way I want to play the songs live. We can definitely look forward to something very refreshing, because it’s refreshing for me.”

Chronixx plays with Kelissa, Jah9 and Max Glazer (Federation Sound) at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, 2635 Welton Street, 303-297-1772.

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