Reggae Christmas Songs
Hardly seems right that a country so associated with beach life like Jamaica could at all be well-endowed in producing songs for a season so closely associated with snow and icicles. But, there are still plenty of Jamaican Christmas songs with a reggae beat to choose from. And to begin any discussion on sampling a genuine reggae Christmas you have to first look at the genre’s heavyweight performers, which in this case is undoubtedly Bob Marley. Despite what you might think the Jamaican legend had some decent form when it came to reggae Christmas songs. Take a listen to his restrained version of ‘White Christmas’ for one which genuinely brought something new to a yuletide classic that was already perfect. While it might not be altogether reggae Marley’s rendition would certainly sit neatly in a list of best ska Christmas songs ever. ‘Sound The Trumpet’ is another Marley song from his early Wailers days in the 1960’s which cleverly integrated parts from ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’.
Marley’s ‘Sound The Trumpet’ is taken from a 12-track Christmas compilation called ‘Reggae Christmas from Studio One’ which was released in 1992. Featuring Tennessee Brown & the Silvertones, Dobby Dobson and Johnny Osbourne it ranks as one of the best reggae Christmas compilations. Opening with Johnny Osbourne’s laid back and bass heavy ‘Christmas Stylee’ this is perfect yuletide party material. Equally horizontal in nature is the Heptones ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ (no Charlie Brown sound-alike I might add) which has the trio vocalising over a rocksteady beat that will undoubtedly pull you into its alluring groove. Tennessee Brown & the Silvertones contributed 3 tracks to ‘Reggae Christmas from Studio One’ with ‘Real Christmas Rock’ the only original, save for snatches of traditional favourites appearing on occasion. Their reggae’d up ‘Little Drummer Boy’ sounds positively joyful and also a little triumphant in places.
As a genre reggae has produced very few dedicated Christmas albums from a single artist and the best way to enjoy reggae Christmas music appears to be to find a top notch compilation that pulls the best festive singles together. And RAS Records did so in some style on their 2004 compilation ‘Reggae Pulse 4: Christmas Songs’ which featured some old and some brand new reggae Christmas songs. Of the old John Holt, Culture and Freddie McGregor (his rendition of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ being a particular highlight) all contributed winners while the Mighty Diamonds’ new version of ‘Frosty The Snowman’ somehow pulled a reggae/Motown sound from the old chestnut.
If you are going your own route and creating a homemade compilation of reggae Christmas music we have some essential mixtape recommendations. One would be the Granville Williams Orchestra’s suitably named ‘Santa Claus Is Ska-ing To Town’. Don’t forget Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Sandra Robinson’s ‘Merry Christmas (Happy New Year)’ which is a wholesome happiness inspirer. Finally you should bear in mind John Holt who over the course of a whole album, ‘The Reggae Christmas Hits Album’, turned non-reggae Christmas standards such as ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ into ones that were wholly representative of the style.
One final reggae Christmas compilation worth checking out is an album of dancehall Christmas songs called ‘Dancehall Christmas’, which came out in 1991. And the big surprise on this one is how many of the songs are originals with the best coming via Horace Andy and his summer time vibe ‘Let’s Make Merry’ and the sugar rush that is Maxine Miller’s ‘Christmas Is Coming’.