Celebrating the Reggae Nation 50 Years Later
Fifty years ago the genre of Reggae music was introduced officially to the world with the release of “Do the Reggay” by Toots and the Maytals in 1968. This was soon followed by the sensation of Bob Marley & The Wailers as they unleashed a wave of the new musical genre across the globe. Other reggae superstars like Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Dennis Brown, Tony Rebel, Jimmy Cliff, Alton Ellis, Beres Hammond, Garnett Silk, Gregory Isaacs and Sizzla would continue to dominate the airwaves across the world. Burning Spear, Aswad, Third World, Toots & The Maytals, Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, Freddie MacGregor, The Abyssinians and Lee “Scratch” Perry among others are some of the names that carried on the world domination of reggae music.
Mega musical stars like Maxi Priest, Shaggy, Half Pint, Chronixx, Proteje, Etana, Damian ‘Jr Gong’, Stephen and Ziggy Marley now continue to carry the banner high for the island nation with new acts developing their sound every day. Other countries would begin to dominate in the genre as well with musical acts like Gentleman out of Germany and Naâman out of France as well as reggae music festivals being created to rival Reggae Sumfest. In fact some are better attended and are far larger simply due to location accessibility.
However, nothing can compare to experiencing reggae in the land where it was born along with at least seven other indigenous musical genres. The music of Reggae is something that is distinctly Jamaican no matter who else in the world embraces it as their own. Dancehall has been its own juggernaut of a cultural explosion for the island of Jamaica, but it will always come back to the conscious roots of a music that grew out of not only the rhythms of the island nation, but also of a religion that is also distinctively ours.
Ten years ago at Jamaica House on January 8th, 2008, then Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, declared the recognition of February officially as Reggae Month in Jamaica. It is in recognition of the importance of its place in the tapestry that is the culture of the island nation. Why February? It was chosen for its importance based on it being the birth month of two iconic reggae superstars, Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. And now this year marks the Golden Anniversary of the genre of Reggae Music. As reported in the national newspaper The Jamaica Gleaner, the celebration was declared and launched by the country’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Youth and Sports, Olivia “Babsy” Grange, on Sunday, January 20.
“It was a major step for us and our music which is our heartbeat and our lifestyle,” Grange said. “It is an achievement for reggae music to be formally recognised and for that it is my pleasure to participate and share in the launch of Reggae Month this year.”
In 2008, Grange stated that the main aim of reggae month was to sharpen the focus and draw the attention of the world to the powerful asset that is wholly Jamaican.
This year’s reggae month celebration will mark 12 years since the month-long festivity was started in Jamaica and fifty years since Toots & The Maytals ground breaking hit dominated the airwaves.
With the launch of the Golden Reggae Month this February, 2019’s celebration promises to be bigger, interactive, historical and memorable for the people of Jamaica and all those who are visiting the island during the month of February.
Activities for the celebration include Children of the Icons and Emerging Artistes Road Show; Reggae on the Waterfront; Amateur Night on the Mound (Victoria Pier) for four consecutive Tuesdays; and Reggae Films in the Park that will feature movie productions that highlight reggae music.
In addition, panel discussions and symposiums on reggae, the JARIA Honour Awards to honour Bob Marley and artistic exhibitions will also take place throughout the month. Towards the close, on February 24th, a Dennis Brown Tribute Concert will be held, followed by the Reggae Gold Reception and Awards Ceremony on February 27th honoring 50 musical icons – groups and individuals – who have contributed to the development of the genre of reggae music over the decades. Recently, Reggae Music of Jamaica was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list of intangible treasures for the whole of humanity and this year’s celebration is perfectly timed to recognize this recognition by the global community as well.
The major all day concert and festivities held at the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston on February 6th is a staple of Reggae Month every year no matter what and is well attended by locals and visitors to the island alike. Some of whom come to Jamaica solely to be present on the icon’s birthday. However, small concerts and celebrations are held all across the island all month long and include a concert in the famous neighborhood of Trenchtown and beach front dancing all night on the seven mile long white sand beaches of Negril.
February is indeed the Month of Music on the island of Jamaica and the future is looking golden.
For more information contact JaRIA on Facebook for upcoming events.And follow @reggaemonthja, #reggaemonthJa, #reggaemonth
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