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Is Reggae Jamaica's? Part 2


...So the lecture/presentation was going on... the complimentary glass of Peruvian wine was late in coming to our table - ours was the only one not served and so we had to call upon the waitress to draw to her attention the fact that we had not yet been served. I don't know if the oversight was due to either the lack of opulence in our dress and demeanor or that we did not look Afro-centric and academic enough. In any event the wine did finally reach to us - white wine - I'd have preferred red. Before long, the wine apparently "jim-screechied" passed our taste buds into the synapses of our brains, causing a constant supply of seratonin which oiled our ensuing conversation.

Those of us at our table: two theologians, a linguist/translator, an ethno-musicologist and a researcher of Jamaican popular culture, forgot about the lecture that was happening and began a discussion of our own. The researcher felt that the German presenters were disingenuous. That they professed love for Jamaican culture and in particular Reggae/dancehall, necessarily meant that they should offer some form of solidarity to Jamaican Artistes, whose culture they had borrowed. He was adamant that if they were so grateful to Jamaica for its culture that they needed to demonstrate such solidarity and good will by ensuring that a space for and economic viability of Jamaican talent are guaranteed on the European market. Some of the views expressed can be read here

He went on to describe the German's relationship with Jamaica as germane to imperialism... That they with the money and power have uprooted the Jamaican culture and exploited it for their own aggrandisement, while stifling opportunities for artistes on "The Rock". That, he claims, is an important issue to interrogate. In my humble opinion, notwithstanding that I am no researcher in popular culture, I find such rantings pathetic and infantile. For one, if we continue to blame the problems we face on everyone else, we head nowhere. Moreover, to continue to look to the powers-that-be for the hands-out to make us better off, is paternalistic and only further perpetuates imperialism: the idea of a superior and an inferior power in relationship. One thing we agreed upon, Jamaica is the home of Reggae and has produced the biggest reggae stars in the world. That Jamaica, now, is having problems marketing its reggae and reggae stars is indicative of the homework Jamaica has to do to revive its own music.

Another argument I found unfortunate was the appeal to ownership and right to the art form as the justification for demanding payback from other powerful nations who benefit from Reggae. What!!? Are you kidding me!!!? The red, green and yellow which are attributed to Rastafari/Jamaica are actually Ethiopian in origin. Are the Rasta movement, Reggae Stars who have appropriated those colours and Jamaican government remitting to Ethiopia anything from the financial gains derived from such appropriations? Are Jamaican cricketers who have gained anything financially from cricket, remitting anything to England as a result of an appropriation of a British sport to our culture? Furthermore, the Caribbean is a melting pot of other cultures, whose various cultural expressions we have appropriated; blending them and making them our own Caribbean Cultures. We too are borrowers of cultures. Jamaica, as a Caribbean territory has the same cultural assimilation as part of its own history. Do we owe the people of West Africa for having borrowed/appropriated kumina?

GENTLEMAN: A pioneer of the Germaican music scene; one of the foremost German Reggae Artiste with several international hits behind him and requests to perform in Japan, Israel, and even Suriname

It is unfortunate that while we sit and point fingers at Europe/Germany for having stolen and exploited reggae and barring Jamaican artistes from performing in their territories, we are doing nothing for ourselves to establish reggae as authentically Jamaican and Jamaican reggae as most competitive. We speak all the while about the boycotting, attacking and blockading of Jamaican reggae acts without fairly examining the reasons for such actions against our music/ians. We excuse the violence, "slackness" and discriminatory content espoused by some Jamaican artistes, which other cultures find more offensive than we do. Germany, for example, which has had a history of xenophobia and 'heterophobic' (the fear of difference) behaviours during Hitler's regime is more cautious in allowing music that promotes such misanthropy. Instead, to enjoy a cultural expression that they have grown to love and appreaciate, they have raised up their own artistes, whose serving of lyrics is more culturally sensitive and palatable.


Despite the ban on many reggae/dancehall acts, artistes such as: Sean Paul, Shaggy, Cherine Anderson, Damion "Junior Gong" Marley and Tanya Stephens continue to do well on international calendars. Have we paused to examine why that is so? What are the similarities among them? I want to submit that the content of their music has a lot to do with it. If we, as Jamaicans, are going to dominate the International reggae scene again and are going to realise any great financial gains from reggae, we first have to do our home work; clean up the mess that plagues our music and after we have done that we can objectively make claims that we are being victimised. If giving up "slackness", violence, misogynistic and discriminatory lyrics is too great a price to pay, then let us shut up and stop whining about an exploitation of "our" music and stop making excuses for why we are not doing well internationally.

Though Jamaica is the home of reggae, reggae belongs to the world! What do you think?

Just a likkle note to mi brite resocha fren... Professa Huebert Devonish is not Jumiekan and Jumieka no av no Nashanal Dish! Iz weh yuh get dat fram?


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