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'Jamaica Journal' explores country's history, culture

Published:Sunday | March 27, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Title: The Jamaica Journal Vol. 33, Nos. 1-2

Reviewed by: Barbara Nelson

This Issue of the prestigious publication, The Jamaica Journal, is a special double issue.

On the cover is an eye-catching illustration of Bob Marley by Aeron Cargill.

The sections in the journal are 'Life and History', 'In-House', 'The Arts, Science and Technology', 'Books' and 'Writers'.

In the 'Life and History' section the articles are: 'Reggae Sunsplash: a pioneering role in local entertainment'; 'The evolution of the Jamaican dubplate'; 'Chris Blackwell and the Internationalization of Reggae'; 'Alight from the West'; 'Marley and the Rastafari-Reggae Project of African Unity'; 'Requiem for a silenced trumpeter: Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore'; 'Bradshaw's final bow: Sonny Bradshaw, 1926-2009'; 'Remembering Pamela O'Gorman: A Cornerstone in the Development of Jamaican Music Education'.

Clover Taylor-Johnston, director of development and public relations at the Institute of Jamaica, writes on Reggae Sunsplash and gives the reasons why, in her opinion, the world's first reggae music festival that began in 1978 did not gain momentum, fame and fortune based on the popularity of this authentic cultural product.

"Reggae Sunsplash revived the excursion element in domestic tourism," she writes. It firmly focused attention on Jamaica as the source and backbone of reggae music and enhanced the tourism product in significant ways.

Joshua Chamberlan, who is a PhD student in the cultural studies programme at the University of the West Indies, Mona, writes on 'So Special, So Special, So Special: The Evolution of the Jamaican 'Dubplate'.

'Chris Blackwell and the Internationalization of Reggae' is explored by respected journalist Howard Campbell. He notes that Blackwell, who was born in London, grew up in Jamaica and learnt his business skills in Jamaican tourism.

Blackwell relocated to London in 1962 and there he established 'Island' as a leading distributor of Caribbean music. Following on the big break that came with Millie Small's My Boy Lollipop, Blackwell put out songs by Wilfred 'Jackie' Edwards and Jimmy Cliff. Later, the legendary Bob Marley became Island's flagship performer.

Campbell writes that Blackwell has his share of critics but he did make a major mark internationally "and thanks to that, reggae is the better for it".

The new series 'Glimpses of Our Documentary Heritage' makes its debut in this issue of the journal. This glimpse reveals the transcription of a letter written by George William Gordon to his wife, Lucy.

The letter was penned just hours before Gordon's execution on October 22, 1865.

The letter, shown in its entirety, is particularly poignant and heartbreaking.

It begins:

"My Beloved Lucy,

General Nelson has been kind enough to inform me that the court-martial on Saturday last has ordered me to be hung, and that the sentence is to be executed in an hour hence ... . I do not deserve this sentence, for I have never advised or took part in any insurrection. All I ever did was recommend the people who complained to seek redress in a legitimate way."

Gordon continues his letter without bitterness, but rather in praise to God that he should "thus suffer in obeying His command to relieve the poor and needy and protect, as far as I was able, the oppressed."