Before this massive escalation in American reggae, far ahead of the reggae festivals marking the calendar year, people grew up honoring the roots. Roots, rock, reggae — dub, ska, dancehall, lover’s rock, mento, rocksteady, raggamuffin. These genres are the infrastructure making up reggae as we know it. One person who knew it all too well went by the moniker DJ Carlos Culture, a man always upbeat, always encouraging, always supporting the reggae scene… and taken from us too soon.
A staple of San Diego, you might recognize Carlos as the deejay spinning every Reggae Wednesday night at Winston’s in Ocean Beach or the voice over the Alt 94.9 airwaves in between his chosen reggae selections on Reggae Sunday mornings.
Or, just perhaps, you were privileged to call him a friend.
DJ Carlos Culture was not only in the local scene: you could find him at California Roots Festival, One Love Cali Reggae Fest, Kaya Fest, Bayfest San Diego and beyond. Walking into the sole year of Boomshaka Fest, hosted by local favorites Tribal Seeds, Carlos Culture greeted you personally over the microphone — “Top Shelf Reggae in the house!” That was back when we were ‘Top Shelf Reggae’… like we said, he represents the ‘roots’. For Carlos Culture was one of our earliest supporters in the San Diego reggae circuit. When we were a fledgling brand out of the San Francisco Bay Area in 2013, Carlos would give us a public shoutout any time he could. That was his calling — the role of supporter.
Not only did Carlos enjoy showing love to the media, he helped bands get off the ground by spinning their music when virtually no one else would. Countless reggae rock and roots bands have risen through the ranks following initial discovery by Carlos. He got the music to the masses. Considering ‘reggae’ and ‘reggae rock’ remain primarily underground entities, Carlos’ efforts have changed the musical careers of many.
It was with a heavy heart to hear of his passing this morning.
To be honest, a blow like this one to the music industry is almost too hard to bear. Carlos Culture might’ve not made his own music, yet the music he brought to the table touched the lives of most of us (at least, those who live for reggae). If you happen to be at a southern California reggae festival, chances are Carlos was making you dance. Carlos was the guy smiling from ear-to-ear passing you on your way to the beer line. He was the one wearing that fresh fedora with the feather.
To all who knew Carlos, as well as his close personal friends and family, our deepest condolences. What makes this travesty even worse is the fact that, with COVID, we cannot band together at this time to throw the greatest of remembrance parties in his honor — an event only fitting for a party legend. You will be missed, old friend.
Donate to Carlos Culture’s surviving family:
Photography by Sean McCracken & Kristy Rose