Is Jamaica losing reggae?
Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer
There's a fear in some quarters, not unjustifiably so, that Jamaica's signature musical gift to the world - reggae - is being expropriated, and pretty soon will lose its Jamaicanness.
This view is based on the presumptive and/or assumed fact(s) that more and more 'foreigners' are showing more interest in the genre; and more and more foreigners are now laying claim to be authentic exponents of this indigenous art form.
Some in the industry do find it worrying that what has been described as the best reggae festivals are not held in Jamaica, thus marginalising Jamaica as the home of reggae.
Their concern is valid, but where we will part company is where those conspiracy theorists advance their notion on the foundation that it is being spearheaded and/or funded by some wicked capitalist musical guru behind the scenes.
Dears, the sad reality is not that there is some secret society behind some corporate façade trying to wrest reggae from the hands or cultural mix that is Jamaica. It is that the current Jamaica-born and bred exponents and ambassadors of the legacy of Jamaican music have been its weakest link.
The truth is, that while many reggae performers, producers, promoters etc., got the memo, and understand the fact that the world is indeed one global village, there are many who still have not. They cling to their parochial lyrics of homophobic machismo; misogynistic barbarism; and outdated exclusionary platforms that would demonise and/or murder all but those who see the world through their eyes.
must be inclusive
On the other hand, there are foreigners the world over who understand that homosexuals, abused women, and other deprived and/or abused minorities are also reggae lovers, and for the audience to grow, the music must be inclusive. Not spewing the venom of hate, which reduces the appeal of the music.
Well, for those who did not get the memo, the University of the West Indies Press and the celebrated doyen of style and ambassador of indigenous culture, Professor Carolyn Cooper, dubbed 'The Patois Doctor' by her detractors, are not about to roll over and play dead, while others exploit Jamaica's musical heritage and patrimony.
So along with the support of the University of the West Indies, and others, she embarked on a project that essentially documented and celebrated the global appeal and resplendence of reggae. Not as a tool of exclusion and/or marginalisation, but as a tool of empowerment, education and entertainment. Pretty much in the style of the forebears of reggae, its many martyred sons and daughters, who not only fought to have their stories told through the music, but also found solace in telling their stories.
With February being the month Jamaicans and the music-loving world celebrate as Reggae Month, the erudite 'Patois Doctor' took concrete steps with the culmination of the work undertaken to celebrate the global appeal and impact of reggae, invited the national and international media; scholars and leading exponents of reggae, to the launch of reggae's newest tome - Global Reggae.
Hosted at the very fashionable Studio 38 at the Pulse complex on Trafalgar Road, under the threat of cloudy skies last Sunday evening, the event was quite the buzz, and then some. Chaired by the chairman of the Entertainment Advisory Board, the dapper Kingsley Cooper, it had the intelligentsia, the literati, glamourzons and socialites all out in celebration of the occasion. And with a programme of events that included special offerings by Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus; performances by Jah 9; Protoje; No-Maddz and Cali P - you all know we are talking a beautiful blend of entertainment and the literati here.
And so it was - a very charming and lucid affair speaking to the journey of the music and people in volumes. The end result is we are talking one fabulous outing, and nothing but!
Now, more anon, on Global Reggae, as this is a tome worthy of a review. The launch, however, was a fabfest with among those in attendance were: Edward Seaga; head of the EU Ambassador Paola Amadei and her husband Jorge Garzon; Professor Michael Bucknor; head of KIA Motors Jamaica, the enterprising Dwight Moore; Erna Brodber; social and cultural historian Jerry Small; attorney Patrick Bailey; the esteemed Barbara Blake Hanna; Dr Leahcim Semaj and his charmingly beautiful wife Cecile The affable Knolly Moses; the charming Beverley East; distinguished jurist Nathan Robb, in from Montego Bay; Carl Davis and the fabulous Peju Wilson; Betsy Williams looking fab and her fab daughter Enola Williams; the fabulous Dr Kurdell Espinosa.
Also there was the tres elegant Karen Neita and her sibling Michelle Neita; Dr Dennis Howard and companion, the fabulous Jacqui Tyson. The exciting actress and entrepreneur Karen Harriott; the stunning Novlet Green-Deans; the buff-looking Shelly-Ann McFarlane; the lovely Sasha Cane; Betty-Ann Campbell; the charming Carolyn Graham; Erin MacLeod, visiting from Canada, and who introduced the guest speaker, Michelle 'DJ Afifa' Harris. Visiting United States diplomat Lloyd Jackson, visiting from Kosovo; and the stunning-looking Romae Gordon, looking fabulously preggers; plus a number of others.