The Music Diaries | Reggae Month full to the brim
Perhaps one of the reasons for declaring February Reggae Month is that two of reggae’s most illustrious icons, Bob Marley and Dennis Brown, were born in that month.
But was it a good choice? Each year, the month is packed with an abundance of events and activities that ultimately and inevitably clash – with many entertainment enthusiasts being left short-changed not being able to attend some of their favourite events. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the month is the shortest on the calendar.
Over the years, February has gradually become a keenly anticipated month in the lives of many Jamaicans. Lest we forget, there is Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday (sometimes), Jamaica Day, Bob Marley Day, and Dennis Brown’s birthday. Additionally, it is Black History Month, Heart Month, and Reggae Month. They have all combined to create what could easily be described as a phenomenon.
The Reggae Month theme for 2019 is ‘Celebrating Reggae’s Legacy’, and some of the major events planned are Reggae in the Village (Ocho Rios), Amateur Night on the mound at Victoria Pier every Tuesday, Reggae celebrates Bob at the Bob Marley Museum, Junior Byles’ benefit concert at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, and Reggae on the Waterfront today, just to name a few. The events listed for February 15 show no less than seven in all, some of which are happening at, or about, the same time. They include Rita Marley Foundation’s 5th annual public-speaking competition, a Reggae Month exhibition, a global reggae conference, Reggae at the Ruins, and Reggae in the Park in Linstead. Additionally, the Red Rose for Gregory show, which is now being marketed as a major component of Reggae Month – and a tourism booster for Kingston, is slated for the Liguanea Club in New Kingston on February 17. Jamaica Day in schools takes place on the 22nd, while the Dennis Brown tribute concert will grace the Kingston waterfront on the 24th. On that same day, the unveiling of murals in tribute to Orange Street icons Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Cecil ‘Prince Buster’ Campbell and Clement ‘Sir Coxson’ Dodd, will take place along Orange Street in close proximity to where Dennis Brown was born in 1957. No doubt, diehard fans of Brown will be hard-pressed to attend both events.
February was officially declared Reggae Month by the Jamaican Government on January 9, 2008, and the proclamation was read by Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall at an official ceremony at King’s House on January 24. All this was done to highlight and celebrate the impact of reggae on the country’s social, cultural and economic development. The then Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports was then charged with the responsibility to develop activities to make Reggae Month an international occasion, thereby making Jamaica the showplace for reggae music worldwide.
Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and Toots and The Maytals have been widely branded by many as the artistes most responsible for pushing reggae music into the international spotlight, their work ultimately acting as a catalyst for the establishment of Reggae Month.
Eight classic albums by Marley for Island Records may have provided the biggest push. The first, Catch A Fire, was released in April 1973, followed byBurning at the end of the year. The other albums, with their release dates were: Natty Dread (October 1974), Rastaman Vibration (April 1976), Exodus (June 1977), Kaya (March 1978), Survival (October 1979), and Uprising (June 1980). They heralded a new style of Jamaican reggae music, with the inclusion of rock elements and lyrics that conveyed a message of hope for the underprivileged.