I have never really liked reggae. I remember being seventeen and watching as my friends drove out of the high school parking lot, windows down, playing reggae at a not disrespectful volume but still loud enough for passers-by to hear the echoes of the drums and twang of the guitar.
Reggae, I decided back then, was for stoned people, or people who have smoked so much weed that they’re perpetually stoned. No value judgements here; I’m just saying it’s not really my thing. I wasn’t about to tell someone off for liking reggae, but I admit that I would make some basic assumptions about that person.
Luckily reggae is like soccer: it’s there if you want it, but it won’t interfere with your day-to-day life. This notion held true for my life back home, but it has not been true for life spent traveling, especially in hostels. At the hostel I stayed at in India reggae was basically unavoidable. It wasn’t just your classic Bob Marley, although good old Bob was there of course, but he was mixed in with the abominations that are reggae covers of popular songs. Not that anyone needed a reggae cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” mind you, but we discovered back in India that someone had indeed taken the piss out of that famous song. The laid-back reggae grove somehow cheapens the content of that song and robs it of all its strange sorrow. I was glad to leave many things behind in India, the reggae certainly being one of them.
Cut to two months later: Billy and I are sitting playing cards in the lounge of a hostel in Marrakech. Above the hum of activity cuts those famous opening notes. We look up. Maybe it’s the actual song? You can’t tell from just those first notes. But then the echoing drums and twanging guitar crash in, more jarring and inappropriate than the Kool-aid man stoned out of his mind smashing through a wall into a funeral parlor.
“Oh how I wish you were here,” goes the song, but I wish I were anywhere else.