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Who ‘‘Created’’ Reggae Music? A Conversation with Ras Cardo who Claims Copyright Ownership to the Word ‘‘Reggae’’

On 20th June 2020, I published an article ‘‘University Professor Who Can’t ‘Stop’ Reggae’’ in which Mike Hajimichael, a university Professor in Cyprus and DJ for over 40 years shared his love for the music.

Following this interview I got some interesting feedback from a reader by the name Ricardo Scott aka Ras Cardo from Jamaica who was impressed by the work done by the Prof. Besides complementing the article, Ras Cardo made quite interesting claims on reggae music, indicating he was a contemporary of Reggae greats like Bob Marley.

He further claims that he was right there in Trench Town at the birth of a new tune. He claims to be the one who baptized that tune and gave it the name ‘’reggae’’ and as such, actually owns the copyright to the word ”Reggae.”

On his various online profiles, Ras Cardo describes himself as a ‘‘Reggae creator from Trench Town, Jamaica. Original Wailer who mentored Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and other known Reggae legends. Radiological Technology Expert.’’

Intrigued, I reached out to him to further understand those claims as well as other reggae experts across the world. I have included responses from other reggae enthusiasts immediately after the interview.

Richard Scott aka Ras Cardo.He claims to have created the word ‘Reggae’ way back in 1962 and has copyrighted the word, a claim that is contested by other reggae authorities.

You are very passionate about reggae music. What does it mean to you?

I, Ras Cardo, from Trench Town Jamaica, created reggae in my backyard while living there in 1962. It was done to send the messages of our struggles and sufferings to the world at large. I did it to let the world know what sort of abject poverty and conditions we were living in.

We were seen as ostracized people in the Jamaican prejudiced society. Those who were the oppressors told the rest of Jamaica and the world that-“nothing good comes out of Trench Town”. So Bob Marley and I put that in a song-Trench Town Rock. I was his mentor, teacher, brethren, and protector then.

Many reggae enthusiasts around the world greatly associate the music genre music to Bob Marley who is arguably its greatest world ambassador. Who was Bob Marley to you?

Trench Town was the -Musical Mecca- of Jamaica then. It was the place where any and everything to be called music in Jamaica came from. I was living there, long before Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer came there to live. It was the holy ground in music where all the legends live. It was the place where-SKA, Rock Steady, and my Reggae came from. This could be called- Ground Zero today.

When Bob Marley came there it was I, Ras Cardo and my brethren-Junior Braithwaite, who welcomed him and protected him. He became a part of our family. At that time Junior B, and I was already singing as the -Original Wailing Wailers. We later gave this name and torch to Bob when he wanted to start his group.

This was a tacit agreement. My family and friends protected Marley and taught him a lot. We did the same for Peter Tosh and others.

Bob Marley (second left, back row) and the Wailers.PHOTO: The Wailers Museum

What does reggae music mean to people of Jamaica?

To the poor people it means-hope for a better day out of the poverty, violence, and deaths we see around us. The economic hardships, prejudice and the ostracism we had to endure were unbearable.

Tell us about your journey in reggae music. When did you get into music?

My journey in the music would take more than this questionnaire to explain to you or to anyone today. I have the most massive archive. Most of what I have published so far does not scratch the surface. However, I will say this: -“The life of the poor man is either miserably long, or tragically short”. Keep that in mind and share this with others.

I was the first Trench Town- original wailer to sing upon a stage. I was only 12 years old then. I formed the first ever youth club in Trench Town also-Prominence Youth Club- to educate the youths. What I learned from High School, I shared with them all. It was Junior Braithwaite and I who gave Bob Marley what he needed to form his own group with Bunny (Wailer) And Peter (Tosh)…We took him to meet-Joe Higgs and Seeco Patterson. I named the group- Wailers– because the mothers of murdered sons used to wail in the streets about it. I took it from the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible-” For a wailing has come out of Zion”.

You have come out strongly publicly to claim that you are the highest authority on reggae and that you actually coined the word ‘‘reggae.’’  How true is this?

I legally and exclusively own the copyrights to reggae and its creation. You can check the Library of Congress copyrights office in Washington DC USA. “Reggae, Origin of The Word and Incorporation Into Music”- Scott’s Official History of Reggae, The Original Wailers, and The Trench Town Experience”. Go and check it out. Jamaica is fully aware of all this, but their music industry folks will lie about it. I have shown them in media there several times.

Cover page of Ras Cardo’s 2005 book. With the book he claims to the highest living reggae authority.

In 2005 you wrote a book, Reggae Jamaica – The Wailing of a People: Ras Cardo, The Man, The Legend of Reggae Music: Ras Cardo, The Man, The Legend of Reggae. What motivated you to put your thoughts in such a book?

The book is one of many I have written and published in Reggae and Radiology over the years. I did this because so many people began to tell lies and falsehoods by writing books spreading falsehoods about us, which I had to step in to set the records.

Listen, The murderous music industry in and out of Jamaica, do not want the true story about Trench Town Reggae to come out, because they make money from selling lies, and killing those whom they later will rape in their graves. This is what they are doing to Bob Marley and Peter tosh even as I write this. I see so many from the UK and USA putting my name and quotes in their books without getting my written permission so I called them out globally. They form a conglomerate of robbers and thieves who make a living from stealing my works, and surely, I have all the evidence I need to hold them accountable. They still hide and follow my works online and off.

What are the highlights of this book?

Surely, my books are an authority on Reggae because it is all  true. I have lived the experiences. It was written in the first person. It was not hearsay evidence. It is incontrovertible, indomitable, and indubitable true and authentic. The highlights of the book are many but I will summarize by saying- it is the truth on reggae, which those in Babylon cannot steal nor deny, no matter how hard they may try.

In your opinion, how has reggae music evolved over time?

Reggae music has been robbed, raped, pirated for decades now. The music of the Trench Town people shared with Bob Marley was stolen from the Marley family in a court action of his estate. The universal groups of these thieves are all over the place trying to control the music of the world, and some of the Jamaican artists are too blind to see it.  They are now trying to brand the Marley children so that they can control them.

Since Bob Marley’s death in 1981, how has reggae music faired on in Jamaica?

Jamaica is better for only those who control political power and wealth. The poor folks still remain in the abject poverty they know so well. Trench Town today is worse than when we lived there. The money made from tourism using Reggae goes to the benefit of the pirates and echelons of the society.

Music is a powerful tool for emancipating the minds of people from retrogressive ways. How well would you say reggae music has performed this role?

Surely, “my music is for a healing of the nation. It is a reggae education.” It heals the broken hearted, and calms the troubled souls of the poor people.

Young Bob Marley (left), Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. PHOTO: The Wailers Museum

What would you say is the current state of reggae music globally?

I can say a lot on this issue, but for now, I will say this briefly-” I will never be happy until I see the poor people in Jamaica, and in Trench Town getting the help they need from the returns of the Reggae blessings I have left for them.

Tell us a little bit about Rastafarianism and reggae. How are the two intrinsically linked?

Reggae music by any other name is Rasta music. It is spiritual music, never secular, it is non-political, biblical, non-prejudicial, message music of truths and rights, equality and justice, for the redemption of Jah people, peace and love and unity, and it shall free all African peoples. The -“Grammy’s”- will never know what reggae truly is about. I have another book to show how they are intrinsically linked. I will not disclose that at this time. Follow up with me later on all that.

What do you see as the future of reggae music?

“My reggae music is for a healing of the nation.” I am here to make sure that the people of Trench Town and others all over the world including- mother Africa- benefit from the reggae I named and helped to create. I know that Babylon system in the murderous music industry will not stop to kill and steal what it can to reap the rewards of the works of the legends.

I created this to help poor and dispossessed peoples globally, and to empower women to take charge in protecting this legacy for the perpetuity of our peoples. I am Ras Cardo from Trench Town.

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Given the gravity of Ras Cardo’s claims, I reached out to a number of other authorities on reggae on their take on Ras Cardo’s claims.

Haji Mike, a university don and DJ in Cyprus. PHOTO: Cyprus Insider

My first port of call was Prof. Mike Hajimichael, who as been a reggae DJ for over 40 years and a university Professor in Cyprus, and the subject of my first article that elicited Ras Cardo’s interest.

He observes that there have been many claimants to the reggae music throne, and not sure who is genuine about it. Additionally, reggae legend Bob Marley’s disciples and acquaintances are many, with each having their fair share of a story to tell.

‘‘There are many people claiming the word Reggae including the late Toots Hibbert who was the first to sing it on record. Drummers have also claimed it. I am not doubting the person’s credibility, but many people knew Bob Marley, and every one of them has a story to tell,’’ says Prof.Hajimichael.

I also engaged Roger Steffens, journalist, musician and producer, reggae historian and collector, a Marley archivist and author of recent book So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley. He is based in Los Angeles, USA.

Roger Steffens, one of the most respected reggae authorities globally and variously referred to as the ”reggae encyclopedist.” PHOTO: Cultural Weekly

While he admits to have encountered Ras Cardo, he discounts the latter’s claims on reggae music.

‘’I have had several encounters with him over the years. His main claim is that he named the music c.1962. I find this hard to believe,’’ he says.

For Steffens, Kingston town has been a melting pot of lingual dexterity and no word is constant. Everything is in state of flux. And so is reggae music.

‘‘Slang/patois is in a constant state of change, and words in the Western Kingston area spread like wildfire. In that case, why did it take six (6) years before Toots used the word, albeit misspelled, on ” Do the Reggay?’’ he poses.

He writes off Ras Cardo’s copyright claim to the word ‘‘Reggae.’’

‘‘And as for his copyrighting the term, I’ve never heard of that before. That’s like saying one owns the words “rock and roll” or “blues,” he opines.

Roger Steffen’s massive reggae archive. PHOTO: Roger Steffens.

He backs his assertion with recollections of a few members of Marley’s team with whom he has had a personal interaction with over the years.

‘‘Joe Higgs was a very close friend of mine, and he agreed that in the earliest days of Bunny (Wailer) and Bob (Marley) in Trench Town, Cardo was around and often jammed with them in their yards. But he was never a Wailer. Both Bunny himself and Joe, the Wailers’ early tutor, agree on that point,’’ he adds.

And as for Cardo’s contribution to reggae music:

‘‘I don’t know of anything concrete. Did he ever make a record, or write a song that was recorded?’’ he poses.

The late Joe Higgs, considered the ‘‘father of reggae’’ and an early tutor of The Wailers acknowledged that Cardo was among the many youths who used to do gigs with the group but wasn’t an actual member.

‘‘But to say he was an original member of Wailers, I contest that statement very, very strongly—I don’t know of it. Cardo neither founded the group nor came up with the name,’’ says Higgs, as quoted in Roger Steffens’s book.

As to the origin of the group’s name, The Wailers, there’s an interesting twist to this.

Reggae legend Bunny Wailer.PHOTO: Bunny Wailer Museum

Bunny Wailer, another of the original members, contends that the origin of the group’s name The Wailers is a kind of a mystery.

In an interview with Steffens, he contends that the group had initially toyed with names such as the Teenagers or Roosters as their identity.

Then one day as they were rehearsing in a studio, they had the eureka moment, an epiphany of sorts.

‘‘So everybody did call names, you, you, and suggest names, and it’s like a man was there next door or in a bathroom or something, and we just hear a voice that say, “The Wailers.” And every man say: “The Wailers. The Wailers? The Wailers. The Wailers?”

He adds that no one in the group knew or could tell whom strange voice belonged to, as he didn’t show his face.

‘‘Him just say “The Wailers” in a big, strong voice, say “The Wailers.” That sound good, weeping and wailing, ’cause we a weep, ’cause we are in Trench Town there and we a feel the pain. So, “the Wailers” fit,’’ he notes.

A search at the US copyright office for this entry, ‘‘Reggae, origin of the word and incorporation into music’’ to verify Ras Cardo’s claims, yields the following results:

It appears the controversy surrounding the origin of reggae music and the debate around it may not end any time soon and may fester for many years to come.

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4 replies »

  1. Chiimbiru Gimode: enthralled by your writ, reggae is more than music, it’s almost a religion by itself, of which if so, Bob Marley be it’s Prophet.
    Reggae as a genre did evolve from earlier music in Jamaica , the genres of Sca and Rocksteady.
    Amongst the earlier producers to record the Bob Marley , were Leslie Kong, who did produce his song, Judge me Not and the legendary Lee scratch Perry, a revolutionary music producer at a time Jamaican music was evolving from , Dub music , Sca and Rocksteady before Roots reggae.
    Whilst,it’s almost globally accepted that Bob Marley invented Reggae, this is far from truth, but the absolute truth be that, it’s the maestro Bob Marley who popularized reggae to the world thanks to his mixed parentage, White father called Norval Sinclair Marley, a British naval captain, who begot Marley when he was around the age of 60, when he met up with the then 19 years old native Jamaican teenage girl named Cedella .
    It’s Bob Marley’s wife, then girlfriend, who introduced Bob to rastafarism .
    Chris Blackwell of Island Records is responsible for commercial success of Bob Marley, it’s him who came up with the suggestion of BobMarley and the Waillers, BMW.
    ( something Peter Tosh did oppose vehemently, eventually leading to a break up of the Waillers, after the breakup both Bunny Wailer and PeterTosh would struggle for global acceptance, something that kept on eluding them, ironically, Bob Marley never got to have a Grammy but Peter Tosh would, though not translating to commercial success.
    Bunny Wailer was more of the poet and peace maker, Peter Tosh ,the ever militant one, whilst the maestro himself was a cocktail of everything the Wailler

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  2. SENNAH. I AGREE WITH THE BASICS OF WHAT YOU HAVE SAID, BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT PETER TOSH WAS THE ONE WHO TAUGHT BOB MARLEY HOW TO PLAY GUITAR? DID YOU KNOW THAT JUNIOR BRAITHWAITE SANG ON MANY WAILERS HITS SUCH AS- HABITS, STRAIGHT AND NARROW, IT HURTS TO BE ALONE? DID YOU KNOW THAT ROGER STEFFENS WAS NEVER IN TRENCH TOWN? DO YOU KNOW HOW HE CAME TO BUILD HIS BOB MARLEY ARCHIVE? DID YOU KNOW THAT HE USED MY BOOKS TO FIND TRENCH TOWN PEOPLE? DID YOU KNOW HOW HE DECEIVED JOE HIGGS? WELL, I COULD GO ON, BUT THERE IS A LOT OF HISTORY THE WORLD DO NOT KNOW AND I AM HERE TO PROTECT THAT TRUTH FOR THE POSTERITY OF THE POOR TRENCH TOWN PEOPLE. CHECK THE COPYRIGHTS OFFICE IN WASHINGTON DC TO FACT CHECK MY TRUTH. THIS IS ALSO MY LEGACY AND HISTORY. I WAS THERE. I SPEAK AND WRITE ONLY IN THE FIRST PERSON. NO HEARSAYS, NO LIES.!!

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  3. GIMODE, MR. EDITOR, SO YOU HAVE SEARCHED THE US COPYRIGHT OFFICE AND FOUND MY ORIGINAL COPYRIGHT LISTING AS I SHOWED YOU AND THE WORLD. ***I AM SURE THAT YOU WILL NEVER FIND ANY OTHER WHICH CAN DENY THAT TRUTH, AND THAT TIME OF FILING. SOME WILL TRY TO CREATE FALSEHOODS TO UNDERMINE THE TRUTH, BUT I HAVE DONE THINGS IN SUCH WAYS WHICH SHOW THEIR HIDDEN AGENDAS EVERY TIME.
    YOU WROTE THAT “THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THIS MAY GO ON FOR SOME TIME”- I KNOW THAT IT ENDED BEFORE IT BEGAN BY THE MURDEROUS MUSIC INDUSTRY WITH ITS THIEVES AND MURDERERS. THEY CANNOT UNDO THIS REGGAE HISTORY. THEY HAVE BEEN TRYING FOR DECADES NOW. THE ENEMIES I BABYLON ARE RELENTLESS IN THEIR EFFORTS AGAINST STEALING TRENCH TOWN REGGAE CULTURE, BUT THEY WILL ALL FALL IN THE PASSAGE OF TIME. YOUR READERS CAN NOW SEE THE RESULTS AND BEGIN TO SEE THE -“TRUTH MUST SWIM LIKE OIL”. YOU HAVE DONE GREAT FACT CHECKING GIMODE YOUR READERS WILL BEGIN TO TRUST WHAT YOU POST, RESPECT!! LET ME KNOW JUST WHEN YOU MAY NEED MORE REGGAE TRUTH VERIFICATION AND CONFIRMATION FROM THOSE REGGAE PIRATES AND VAMPIRES! DID YOU CHECK -R.R BOWKER-BOOK PUBLISHERS TO SEE JUST HOW MANY REGGAE BOOKS OF TRUTHS I HAVE PUBLISHED? CHECK THEM OUT ALSO. LOOK INTO THEIR LISTINGS OF 1993-94.

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  4. GIMODE, NEXT TIME ANYONE ASK YOU ABOUT REGGAE CREATION, BE SURE TO ASK THEM-IF THEY COME FROM TRENCH TOWN? THEY MAY COME WITH A CLEAN HAND AND HEART, BUT YOU MUST BE AWARE OF THE PIRATES AND VAMPIRES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.
    REGGAE IS THE MOST PIRATED MUSIC IN THE WORLD. THE BIBLE IS THE MOST PIRATED BOOK IN THE WORLD, YET IT IS THE MOST POPULAR BOOK EVER, THIS IS ALSO TRUE OF REGGAE..AND YET THE GRAMMY’S WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT IT IS, NOR CARE TO KNOW. THEY JUST EXPLOIT AND STEAL TO MAKE MONEY. BOB MARLEY AND ALL OF US KNEW THIS LONG AGO.RESPECT! REMEMBER BOB SANG”‘THEY WILL DO ANYTHING TO MATERIALIZE THEIR WISHES?” “WOE TO THE VAMPIRES, THEY EAT THE BREAD OF SORROW, SAD TOMORROW”. “GUILTINESS RESTS ON THEIR CONSCIENCES”.THEY HAVE BEEN FIGHTING AGAINST OUR TRENCH TOWN REGGAE FOR DECADES NOW.

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