Reggae Culture in San Diego

Reggae music and culture in San Diego doesn’t stop with the Tribute to the Reggae Legends concert annually in February. It continues with the sound systems spinning the tunes, the restaurants creating the Jamaican cuisine and specialty shops providing the culture.

A little history: During the 1950s in Jamaica, a speaker box, amplifier and a record player was the state of the art equipment and the components of the first sound system. Most couldn’t afford a record player instead paying entry fees into something called a dancehall. Dark, crowded and a place without rules, the dancehall gave birth it’s own genre of reggae. Jamaicans relied up sound systems to provide the newest music and is still a necessity for a respectable sound.

San Diego being a “military town,” Jamaicans and other West Indian people were stationed here without having cultural connections. In the mid-’80s, Fidelity Hall became the city’s first dancehall and Ram Jam Hi-Fi Sound played the tunes. Of the eight functioning sounds in San Diego, a few will categorically be mentioned. Destiny Roots Sound (formerly Ram Jam Hi Fi) is the longest and arguably the best overall sound system in San Diego.  Commanda Jackson spin tunes Saturday nights at The Round Table Cocktail Lounge.

Revelation Sound lost the 2006 sound clash, in which sound systems battle each other on the turntables, to Tribe of Kings Sound. By far TOK plays the best roots reggae and culture music in San Diego. Hear them play Sundays at U31 and Thursdays at Harney Sushi in Old Town. This sound is extremely versatile due to each of the selectors specializing in many reggae genres which is why they are represented San Diego in a Bay area clash this past April. Whatever reggae genre is your favorite, there is a sound system here that plays it. Most of the sounds have mixed reggae cds available containing classic, old and new reggae.

You can also get music, books, dvds or the reggae look at the local favorite, Trade Roots in San Diego or Earth Culture in Oceanside. Trade Roots has a large stock of reggae music on vinyl and offers the customer an educational shopping experience. Earth Culture caters strongly to the cultural aspect of the “Rastafari” movement.  Ras Charles, owner of Earth Culture, has a very extensive African art and artifacts and reasonable prices.

Three things rarely not at a reggae event are food, Heineken and Guiness, so if there is a desire for Jamaican food, San Diego has that too. For more than 10 years, Island Spice was the only restaurant that served Caribbean food. Try the Jerk Chicken if you can handle spicy food. Caribbean Taste also serves up traditional Jamaican dishes such as curry goat and oxtails. For North County, grab a beef patty at Jam Roc 101 Caribbean Grill in Encinitas. They offer a lot of selections for a small-sized restaurant. Whether you’re going to the Legend’s concert for the music, vibes or food, it doesn’t have to end after the concert. San Diego has a small West Indian culture, but there is a large love for for the reggae culture.



  1. This particular article, “San Diego Riddim Vibez” was in fact superb.
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  2. tony afrique Said:

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