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Reggae has historically been rooted in politics, so it seems only natural that stateside Rastas might gravitate to the nation’s capital. None can claim more of a D.C. connection than Peter Broggs. In fact, Broggs, who has just released his fifth album, Rejoice, on Silver Spring-based RAS Records, is indirectly responsible for shaping the current reggae scene.
“I meet a man named Dr. Dread many years ago in Kingston, Jamaica,” says Broggs. “He told me that he listened to my first album, Progressive Youth, and he play it ‘pon his radio program. He said it inspire him to write a song, and he want me personally to sing it.”
Broggs dismissed the encounter as a compliment from an overeager fanuntil Dread called him from Silver Spring to follow up the query. “He asked me if I have enough songs to make an album, and I tell him yes,” Broggs recalls. “So I get the Roots Radics Band, and we go into Channel One Studio, and we make Rastafari Liveth.”
The 1982 album, which included Dread’s own tune “A Feeling,” was the first work ever released on the RAS imprint. The resulting success of Rastafari Liveth, still considered a classic today, spurred the growth of the young record company, which is now one of the world’s largest and most prolific reggae labels and regularly brings its artists to D.C. Broggs liked what he saw at RAS and eventually settled down at 10th and P Street NW. “I live here for 10 years, but I’d been coming to D.C. for eight years before that,” says Broggs. “When I come to the States to see Dr. Dread, I just get to settling down here, you know? I travel and tour all around, but I still like it here best.”
Longtime residents might best remember Broggs for a 1985 concert he performed on the steps of the Capitol. It’s something he says he’d like to do againif he’s allowed. “I just got deported from the States,” he says. “Right now I’m trying to release singles here in Jamaica from my new album.”
Meanwhile, Broggs is hoping his music can open a few doors and at least land him a traveler’s visa. “If that’s to happen, it must happen through the music,” he explains. “If someone hear the music can do that, bless them.” In the true Rastafarian fashion of understanding, Broggs harbors no ill will toward his captors. “All immigration that know me know that I’m a singer,” he attests. “I sign autograph for every one of them, and they love me, but they’re doing their work, you know? So I appreciate that and do the right thing, but I would like if they gave me the opportunity to come back.”
Broggs insists it wouldn’t be on a permanent basis. He’s had enough of D.C. for now and plans to live permanently in Jamaica. “But if I could come back and spread the good message to the people, I would appreciate that,” he says. “I see myself as a Rasta reggae messiah and not as a superstar. I want to come and do something for the poor people. And when I do come back to the States I’m gonna play D.C. first, ’cause I still love D.C. a lot.”