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Jamaica’s music on show at Philharmonie de Paris

Published:Tuesday | July 18, 2017 | 12:00 AMMarcia Rowe
Lee 'Scratch' Perry
Peter Tosh
Bob Marley

Jamaica's music is quite popular in Europe, but France is the only country to have mounted an exhibition on it.

"It is quite a costly exhibition, €800,000, but it was worth it because 30,000 have seen it to date and 50,000 are expected to view it by its closing date. I think it is the biggest exhibition on Jamaica's music," Jean-Michel Despax, ambassador of France, told The Gleaner on Friday, Bastille Day.

The exhibition titled 'Jamaica, Jamaica' traces the journey of Jamaica's music from World War II to the present, and brings together memorabilia, photographs, visual arts recordings and footage from private collections and museums in Jamaica, such as the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Museum of Music, Institute of Jamaica and the Peter Tosh Museum, and also from the United States of America and Great Britain.

And it "seeks to acknowledge the history, reconsidered through the prism of the post-colonial conflicts and encounters that led to a unique and universal movement - a virtual 'sound clash' between Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lee Perry, King Tubby, Studio One, the Alpha Boys' School, Haile Selassie I, Marcus Garvey, etc., through musical styles as varied as burro, revival, mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall", the ambassador explained in his speech to guests at the Bastille Day celebration.

He also shared with The Gleaner that the idea for the exhibition came about after curator of the Institut Francais, and musicology, Sebastien Carayol, did work on sound systems which originated in Jamaica. He approached the director of the Philharmonie de Paris. The director and his team bought into the idea. And after two years of working on the project, from April 3 to August 13, 2017, classical music has made way for the sights and sounds of Jamaica's music.

A feature of the exhibit is the transformation of the walls by Jamaican street artist Danny Coxson. And for Ambassador Despax who attended the opening, "It's really a great success and I'm very proud to be part of this project. It is something."