40 years of Caribbean Wedding Music
The 1980s began a revolution of what is commonly known as reggae music but also what has now been fused with different genres to form everything from dancehall music to ragga, afrobeats name it but this music largely originated in the Caribbean. A lot of it was an off-shoot of legendary musicians like Bob Marley with his wailers and the likes of Toots and his Maytals. It was originally a mixture of Jamaican folk songs, ska and a host of genres so tempting that weddings could not resist.
Come down this memory lane with us as we track the evolution of Caribbean wedding music in the last forty years.
Before that, however, it feels almost shameful not to mention hits from the 70s that eased into the 80s and perhaps laid the foundation for the music in the proceeding four decades. Notably, Boney M‘s 1978 album Nightflight to Venus that gave us among others hits like Rivers of Babylon, Dancing in the streets and Brown girl in the ring which until the band popularized it was a traditional children’s song in the West Indies.
‘Is this Love?’ by Bob- Marley and the wailers was another 1970s love song that united lovers on the wedding music dance floor. Its lyrics were especially a hit for the brides of the time;
‘I wanna love you and treat you right
I wanna love you, every day and every night.’
Third World’s ‘Now that we found love’ launched the 1980s Carribean wedding entertainment. It was followed by Boney M’s 1981 Christmas album that featured hits like ‘I will be home for Christmas’ and Zion’s daughter meant to celebrate the birth of Christ but could not be resisted by lovers who had their beaus swooning over them with these ballads.
It’s also around this same time that UB40 got to our heads with their Red Red Wine and Cherry oh Baby from their Labour of Love Album while Bob Marley gave us One Love (people get ready), though released much earlier in the 60s, it became a class act in the 80s when included on his post-humous Legend album. The same album also featured ‘No woman, no cry’ another wedding party attraction. Bob Marley is considered the grand-father of reggae music
Boney M continued rocking the weddings of the early 1980s with their Kalimba de Luna released in 1984. No wedding music selection in the 80s was complete without this song.
The late 1980s introduced to us Rock me baby by Johnny Nash. If you are a millennial born in the 80s, I am sure you have heard this song at one of the weddings you attended as a child. Interesting about this song is how its meaning hits you as you grow older, only when you become an adult are you able to grasp the full meaning of it- and it’s R-rated!
Bobby McFerrin ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ was released around this same time and got newlyweds grooving to it into the 1990s. And how can we forget Mr. Loverman by Shabba Ranks and Tracy Chapman’s famous duo of Baby can I hold you tonight and Fast Car –both of which if missed would make for a failed wedding party?!
La Lambada by Kaoma was another 1980 hit with a beat that could not spare the wedding dancing floors. Released in 1989, the song was in every way Caribbean themed in spite the band being based in France and made up of different nationalities including a Brazilian.
The early 1990s ushered in some new faces to the reggae music scene.
Inner Circle’s Alalalala long (Sweat) was one of the songs that was received with glee and so was Maxi Priest’s ‘Close to You’. Deejays played them repeatedly and no one ever complained. Together with Chaka Demus and Pliers’ Murder She wrote; and Jimmy Cliff’s I can see clearly now, wedding dance floors were a buzz in the early 1990s. Not forgetting Shaba Ranks’ Tingaling and Housecall accompanied by UB40’s ‘I cant help falling in Love with you.’
Big mountain’s ‘Baby I love your way’ sealed the first half of the 1990s with its simple lyrics and soothing melodies that drew everyone to sing along.
The second half of the 90s started off Boombastic with Shaggy, the same album also featured In the Summer Time, a dancehall thriller on which he teamed up with Rayvon. This album officially introduced Shaggy to the world. The same era also gave us a couple of renditions done by the Fugees in No Woman No Cry and Killing me softly.
Maxi Priest also teamed up with Shaggy in 1996 to bring That Girl to our wedding dance floors while Girl dem sugar by Beenieman wrapped up a decade in which Caribbean music began to take on the world.
Whereas Freddie Mcgregor kickstarted this decade with his ‘I see it in you’, the stars of this era were Shaggy and Sean Paul. Shaggy’s songs swept wedding dance floors across the universe. Starting with Angel in 2000, he went on to rock weddings with Strength of a Woman, Wild 2 Nite which featured Olivia and many others.
On the other hand Sean Paul with his 2002 Dutty Rock Album that featured such dance hall hits like I am still in love with you, Shake that thing and later Gimme the light plus Always on my mind which featured Daville. With the beats in these songs, it was impossible to have peace without getting onto the dance floor.
Wayne Wonder picked on from here with No letting go; together with Kevin Lyttle’s Turn me on and She drives me crazy, wedding entertainment was wrapped up.
The latter half of this decade gave us a number of new kids with smashing singles that had guests shaking it on wedding dance floors:
2006 starred Tarrus Riley with Something Strong, 2Face’s if love is a crime and Ziggy Marley with Beach in Hawaii.
2007 gave us Sweetest girl by Wycliff Jean featuring Lil Wayne and Akon and Love is Wicked by Brick and Lace. You would think the title to the latter would tick off newlyweds instead they embraced it and so did their guests. Not forgetting Sean Kingston’s Me Love.
2008 came with Come Over by Estelle featuring Sean Paul and I feel good by Beres Hammond both very happy songs and lovely tunes suitable for smooth dancing at weddings.
Crowning this decade were Call on Me by Jah Cure and Phyllisia and a rendition of Rupee’s Tempted to touch which perhaps was a befitting tribute to what could be Reggae music’s best decade; rocking both clubs and wedding dance floors.
The most recent decade did not disappoint either; Jah Cure continued from where he had stopped in the previous decade with Unconditional Love. Gyptian gifted wedding dance floors with Hold You a song he later teamed up with Nicki Minaj to do a remix.
De Marco and Sean Kingston then lit up wedding dance parties with I love my life and Dutty Love respectively both with beats that literally beat up the dancing cells in everybody human body.
Sean Paul in 2012 made up his mind to love on weddings with Got to love you while Tarus Riley gave us Gimme Likkle one drop and Just the way you are in the same decade.
Konshens featuring Romain Virgo and Busy Signal were also a highlight in this decade with We no worry bout them and the rendition of Never gonna give you up respectively; not forgetting Shaggy’s Fight this feeling which featured Beres Hammond. Konshens song was especially a hit in Uganda with people making different versions of it!
The late 2010s gave us Gyal- You are a party animal by Charly Black and Only You by Jah Cure which featured Mya to seal a blazing, floor-rocking, jam-packed forty years of Carribean Music.
As we start this next decade look out for:
Romain Virgo’s Beautiful to me (2021)
Gramps Morgan’s A Woman Like You (2021)
We definitely danced at every turn as we compiled this list but also relived the memories the music signaled. Hope you do too.
Join us next time as we do a wrap up of forty years of country music.
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