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For a small place, Jamaica exerts a big influence. It covers an area of less than 11, 000 sq km, with fewer than 3 million inhabitants. But ask anyone with even a passing interest in music to name its principal export and you'll get the same answer: reggae. Once it leaves Kingston, however, this Jamaican product takes on new tinges.

In west London, the Clash cross-pollinated it with punk to produce a new kind of dub-inflected rock. In the west Midlands, the Specials and their contemporaries turned it into the radical ska of 2 Tone. But for all the successes, there are more troubling examples of artists trying to reshape reggae, and the likes of the Police and Eric Clapton - whose cover of I Shot the Sheriff was a worldwide hit - help explain why "white reggae" remains one of the most critically reviled musics of all.

The problem with white reggae has always been that reggae depends for its force on its context: the rich rock insider's take on I Shot the Sheriff can never really capture the intensity of a song about struggling for freedom and killing a policeman. Then there's the perpetually thorny issue of white performers co-opting the culture of a historically oppressed minority.

All of which makes it surprising that there is a new crop of white reggae performers, eschewing the melanin-deficient basslines and embarrassing attempts at patois that have caught out their predecessors. These artists even market themselves not to the crossover market but to hardcore reggae fans - including those in Jamaica. Maybe, finally, there is white reggae that is more than a pale imitation of the real thing.

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