Tue | Oct 27, 2020

Letter of the Day | Jamaicans need to be taught to appreciate our culture

Published:Monday | September 21, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Toots brought a 'Bam, Bam' to the stage at the Third World and Friends Concert at Hope Zoo on December 2, 2016.
Toots brought a 'Bam, Bam' to the stage at the Third World and Friends Concert at Hope Zoo on December 2, 2016.


With the passing of Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, it is becoming clearer to me that the future of reggae music, as we know it, is in trouble. Reggae lovers worldwide have been shaken by the news, and for more reasons than one. An era of reggae music has passed with the legend. The genre spurred out of an era of injustices and brutality against Rastafari, and though unrelated, serves as the direct antecedent for dancehall music.

Toots and the Maytals were one of the first groups to refer to the sound as reggay (reggae), introduced the genre to a global audience, creating platforms for today’s ‘reggae artistes’.

Recently, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission urged young people to take the time and learn the contribution of Toots Hibbert – and I could not agree more. People do not appreciate what they cannot understand. They do not see what all the ‘fuss’ and the praises being directed to this legend is about, simply because they do not understand the magnitude of his talent, nor the doors he has opened for our entertainment industry.

We have treated reggae music as merely pop culture for way too long, that we have placed the importance of studying everything else above it. Cultural studies should be incorporated within the school’s curriculum from as early as the elementary level.

In the same way we can make creative songs and jingles to help them remember and grasp concepts, we can introduce children to the genre.


If I was not raised in a musical, and more specifically a roots reggae family, I would possibly be among the many who are completely unmoved by this man’s passing. I would be among those who think that dancehall can substitute reggae, or that there is a need for a ‘revival’ of the music. Luckily, I can understand the need for dynamic culture in moving forward to fit modern taste. What I cannot understand is how can people know so little about the culture they were born into. How can they opt for revitalising of the music without understanding the most basic forms of it? How can contemporary reggae acts not fully grasp the spirituality and sacredness of the genre? How can an upcoming dancehall artiste say in an interview that “fi dem time up”?

We don’t have many reggae artistes today who remain true to the tenets of reggae and Rastafari. There are also reggae artistes who are legends, who continue to release albums and perform at concerts overseas, but what about Jamaica? The audience at most of these concerts is filled with youth.

This may sound like a speech from your grandparents but it is unintentional and I stand by it.


Final year Bachelor of Arts student in Journalism

The University of the West Indies, Mona