Magic! tops Billboard chart with Rude, exposing Canada's reggae roots

With their song Rude at the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart, Magic! is the latest in a long line of Canadian reggae bands to make an impact on the global stage.

The Toronto reggae pop group is bringing island heat from the Great White North

Mark Pellizzer, Alex Tanas, Nasri Atweh and Ben Spivak of Magic! arrive at the 2014 MuchMusic Video Awards. Their first hit single Rude has a Jamaican guitar twang and a danceable beat. (Sonia Recchia/Getty Images)

Magic! is the first Canadian band in a decade to hit the number one spot on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.

The single Rude has ruled the top spot for three weeks since becoming the first Canadian reggae track to hold the title since Snow's Informer in 1992.

While Rude's sound is closer to The Police than it is to Snow, there's no mistaking the Caribbean influence, the Jamaican guitar twang, the lyrical bombast​ and the very danceable beat.

But Magic! and Snow are just the most recent offshoots of a longstanding reggae institution in this country — and the tradition's roots run deep.

Jamaican music booms in Canada

Arriving with the influx of Jamaicans and other West Indian migrants in the 1950s, reggae quickly became embraced by white Canadian musicians.

Jason Wilson, a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter, did his PhD on reggae music in Canada. (CBC News)
Juno-nominated musician and academic, Jason Wilson, grew up in a neighbourhood in north Toronto with many West Indian families, and being exposed to the music lead him to weave reggae into his career:

"By the time I came along in the '80s, and other musicians like me, reggae music was part of the Toronto music vernacular, embedded. You needed to know, if you were a gigging musician, you needed to know to play reggae."

Rock You High in rotation

Long before Magic! came on the scene, there was Messenjah.

The Kitchener, Ont.-based band formed in 1980 and went on to become the first Canadian reggae band to be signed by a major label.

Hit track Rock You High was the first reggae song to go into rotation on mainstream Canadian radio.

Jamaican-born brothers, Rupert Harvey and Carl Harvey came to Canada as children. They helped found the reggae band Messanjah, the first Canadian reggae band to be signed by a major record label. (CBC News)

The group's founding members, Carl and Rupert Harvey, were born in Jamaica and moved to Canada as children. Rupert says their style helped lay the groundwork for other groups like Magic! and Bedouin Soundclash​.

"I think we were the first reggae band to tour nationally. We were the first band to be signed to Warner Bros. back in the early '80s." he explains. "Even though there were other reggae bands before us such as Ishan People, Sattalites, Truth and Rights, we were the first guys that were recognized at that level."

Canada's West Indian community continues to have a huge impact. More than a million people are expected to descend into Toronto this weekend for the city's Caribbean Carnival, the biggest festival of its kind in North America.

As for Magic!, its tour brings them back to Canada in mid-August.

CBC Arts reporter Deana Sumanac has the full story Friday night on The National