Words By Erin MacLeod–
Sure, Kitchener, Ontario wouldn’t exactly seem like the ground zero for great reggae, but one of Canada’s most acclaimed reggae bands, Messenjah, was born there way back in 1981. They were quite popular for a couple decades–even opening up for the Clash on the Combat Rock tour.
But I know them for other reasons. The wonders of Canadian Content regulations means that a huge percentage of radio play in Canada must be dedicated to Canadian music. This means that, in addition to growing up with the same American pop music touchstones of our neighbors to the south (that’s “neighbours” to us), Canadian kids also grew up alongside a whole parallel universe of Canadian music. One of the bands that populated this universe was Messenjah, whose pop/rap/new wave/reggae fusion was one of my favourite things as a kid. Two songs (among many) that I remember in heavy rotation on the radio (and on the wonderfully cheesy VideoHits TV show) were “Crazy” (from their 1990 album Cool Operator) and “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” (from their 1996 album Run for Cover).
“Crazy” has an unmistakeable earworm of a hook, and the video demonstrates that Messenjah must have had a pretty entertaining live show. “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” is a pretty good pop reggae version of the Motown original–with the possible exception of an ill-advised rap verse.