Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Before last Sunday's opening session of the weekly Grounation series began at the Institute of Jamaica, East Street, Kingston, Youth and Culture Minister Lisa Hanna made the link between Jamaica's culture and hoped for development.
Herbie Miller, curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, stated two primary objectives for the repository of musical memory - to build an enviable collection and have a building in which to house it. The first of four Grounation sessions for February focused on drummer Count Ossie, leader of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari from east Kingston, who died in 1976.
Stating that "I want to speak to you from my heart", Hanna said while the ministry she heads represents the youthful majority of the population, by including culture, it also represents the dynamic force of all the memories and collective struggles which have forged the Jamaican identity.
"As we recognise that Jamaica is going through a very special period in its development, so are our children and our youth. Many have lost a sense of their identity and their purpose," Hanna said.
She spoke about drawing "on our history, particularly what is called our black history", noting the Maroon victories over the British. "We did it against great odds," Hanna said, noting that the drums and music helped to stir the fighting spirit.
Using the 1738 treaty between the Maroons and the British, full emancipation in 1838, and the labour upheaval of 1938 as historical markers, Hanna looked ahead and said, "We believe 2038 is too late to wait for the revolutionary work that needs to be done."
The generation gap got musical treatment, Hanna comparing Bob Marley's Ambush in the Night and Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley's Welcome to Jamrock.
"When you speak to the young people now and you ask them 'what is their passion, what is the fire in their belly?', they can't tell you," she said, adding that some are into bleaching and others hate their mothers. "The passion they are fighting for is to protect their ends and their turf and for people not to tell them how to live," she said.
"What they are longing for is the change within themselves, to understand where they are going," Hanna said.
And in effecting that change, Hanna said, "The time has now come for us to launch the cultural revolution in our country and take it to the streets. In special periods of development, the one thing you never cut is the culture." This includes artistic programmes for children, so they can express themselves.
In ending, Hanna spoke directly to race, saying that anyone who suggests being black is not important obviously does not understand our history.
Miller reflected on relatively recent events, noting that during the 1970s in Jamaica the artists led a broad and diverse range of expressions. The grounation, or reasoning session, was crucial to the creative process and, Miller said, "influenced everything that created a Bob Marley".
Referring to Count Ossie, Miller said "Count Ossie, on whose genius pivots our musical culture, is someone all of us need to know more about."