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The Travels of Johnny Reggae: From Jonathan King to Prince Far-I; From Skinhead to Rasta

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“Johnny Reggae” began as an English pop-ska song in 1971. Written and produced by Jonathan King, it described a skinhead with that nickname through the eyes of his girlfriend. Subsequently, the song was covered in Jamaica, and then the name was used for characters in toasts by Big Youth, Dr Alimantado, and Prince Far-I, which were increasingly concerned with Rastafarianism. Ska was a Jamaican musical form that was transferred to England in the mid-1960s by the Jamaican migrants who had started arriving in Britain after the Second World War encouraged by the post-war labor shortage. Johnny Reggae moves from being a member of a racist white, English youth culture to being a black Rasta challenging the rule of Babylon. This article traces this historical development using postcolonial theory to examine the power dynamics that informed this cultural exchange between Britain and Jamaica.
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Keywords: Big Youth; Jamaica; Jonathan King; Postcolonialsim; Rastafarianism; Reggae; Rude Boys; Ska; Skinheads; “Johnny Reggae”

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2012

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