Celebrating Reggae Month 2018
by H.E. Cheryl Spencer, High Commissioner of Jamaica in SA
This year marks the 11th year in which the entire month of February, which is also the birth-month of Bob Marley (the King of Reggae), Dennis Brown (the Crown Prince of Reggae), and several other Reggae icons, will be used to highlight and celebrate Reggae in Jamaica and around the world.
A collaborative effort involving the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), this year’s Reggae Month will showcase several events which will appeal to Reggae enthusiasts of all ages and interests.
The theme for Reggae Month 2018 is “Peace, Love, and Reggae”. On their own, each of these words naturally invokes strong positive sentiments. When combined together in one statement however, their impact is incalculable.
Popular favourites such as the Trench Town Music Festival and the Dennis Brown Birthday celebrations are again included in the line-up of activities. Reggae Wednesdays, a midweek concert, will again be staged in Mandela Park, the park named in honour of Former President Nelson Mandela in Kingston.
Importantly, this year, Jamaica’s first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, will be at the centre of the celebrations as Reggae Month 2018 not only offers the Bob Marley Annual Lecture but also the Grounation Discussion Series, which will explore the cultural impact of the work of Marcus Garvey and, specifically, its impact on Reggae music.
For many, Reggae music can be reduced to one artist, that is, Bob Marley and for many who hear the name Jamaica, the country is synonymous with Bob Marley.
However, many do not know that the Rastafari movement, which began in Jamaica during the 1930s and for which Bob Marley is perhaps the most famous representative, was spurred on by the teachings of Marcus Garvey.
The four main themes that the Garvey movement was built upon were 1) Africa for Africans at home and abroad, 2) unity, 3) self-reliance, and 4) retaining black pride. With the linkage between Garveyism and Rastafarianism, Bob Marley’s commitment to African unity is no surprise. And it should come as no surprise that Reggae was the main vehicle which he used for his Pan-Africanist advocacy.
Reggae is multifaceted. As much as it is celebrated for the incomparable role it has played in liberation struggles throughout Africa and around the world, it is also celebrated worldwide as a music of peace and love. Bob Marley is considered by many to be the most influential songwriter of the 20th Century. On the eve of the Millennium, his song “One Love” was chosen by the BBC as the Song of the Century. The timeless lyrics of this song have become a virtual Anthem for the advocacy of love and peace worldwide:
“One Love, One Heart, Let’s Get Together and Feel Alright” (Bob Marley: One Love).
Several other internationally renowned Jamaican reggae performers, including stalwarts such as Jimmy Cliff, Tony Rebel, Queen Ifrica, Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor and Third World, as well as representatives of the younger generation such as Tarrus Riley and Chronixx have also utilized the reggae platform to share positive messages with the world. South African icons such as Lucky Dube have done the very same for many years. The High Commission was pleased to collaborate with his daughter for her participation in Jamaica last month at the annual Reggae event, “Rebel Salute”, which is the brainchild of well-known Reggae artiste, Tony Rebel.
In a year when South Africa, Jamaica and indeed the entire world, are mourning the passing of the legendary Hugh Masekela, a giant of the South African musical landscape, it is only fitting that the message of the Jamaican High Commission in Pretoria for Reggae Month 2018 should also highlight the significant influences that the indigenous Jamaican and South African musical art forms have had on each other and on the national development of both countries.
The High Commission looks forward to the roll-out of plans to celebrate the centenary of Former President Nelson Mandela’s birth.
As a form of cultural expression, it is inevitable that Reggae music will continue to act as a strong bond for both countries.
Jamaican High Commission, Pretoria.