No better time to celebrate reggae - Reggae Month debate rages on
Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer
In January 2008, it was announced that February of that same year would be celebrated as Reggae Month. Then Prime Minister Bruce Golding made the announcement, stating that every February thereafter would be recognised as Reggae Month, when the genre would be celebrated for its contribution to the cultural development of Jamaica and its music industry.
Since that announcement, many have voiced opinions expressing the need to move Reggae Month because of its automatic association with Black History Month.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the debate is still very much alive, as many are of the belief that reggae, given its contribution, should not share attention and space with Black History Month.
Ten days into the seventh annual Reggae Month celebrations, some of the industry's stalwarts weigh in on the debate.
Desmond 'Desi' Young, president of the Jamaica Federation of Music, believes the connections between Reggae Month and black history make for an ideal situation.
"It doesn't matter to me either way. There are a lot of important people who made significant contribution to reggae music born in February such as Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Bunny Rugs and many others. Reggae music is also a tremendous part of black history itself and so I am in agreement with February being reserved as Reggae Month," he said.
Reggae singer Herbert 'Herbie' McDonald is in agreement with Desi, pointing out that the combination has been working so far.
"I haven't given much thought to it, but I believe that if we can combine the two and make it work- and it has been working, I don't see the need for a change. Reggae music and black history go hand in hand, so Jamaica found a way to tie it up and make it stronger," said McDonald.
Frankie Campbell, chairman of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates doesn't think coming to a decision on whether or not Reggae Month should take place at some other time is an easy one to come to.
DIVIDED ON ISSUE
"I'm split down the middle, as there are strengths to maintaining it and strengths to changing it. Either way, I wouldn't have a problem. Since it has already been established and is now in its seventh year, it's kind of hard to change. I originally thought it could be changed to June, because that would attract many tourists to our shores for the sole purpose of Reggae Month. February is already Black History Month around the world, so there are a lot of other important happenings that draw away from the focus on reggae music, but JaRIA [Jamaica Reggae Industry Association] has been doing a tremendous job in making Reggae Month a success, so changing it at this late stage would be difficult," said Campbell.
Ibo Cooper, chairman of JaRIA, believes that while Black History Month is important, it is not Jamaican.
"Black History Month is a United States declaration, it is not our own; Reggae Month is ours. Are we going to move our Independence Day if America decides to put a holiday on that day? We need to just support our own. There is no better month to celebrate Reggae Month because the King of Reggae, Bob Marley, and the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown, were born in February, among others like the late Bunny Rugs. Reggae Month was promulgated by the governor General and is an important part of black history. It is the month we celebrate our icons and it is going to continue to grow; it's not there yet, but it will get there, and that's the vision."