Celebrating Reggae Month 2015
H.E. Cheryl Spencer, High Commissioner of Jamaica
On the occasion of Reggae Month, the Jamaican High Commission in Pretoria welcomes the opportunity to join Reggae fans in South Africa in celebrating the global impact of Reggae music, a genre that originated in Jamaica and evolved out of the country’s social history.
The birthdays of two of Jamaica’s and Reggae Music’s late icons are also commemorated during the month of February. The late Dennis Brown also known as the ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’, is celebrated on 1 February. Importantly, this year, Reggae Month derives special significance from the fact that 6 February marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of Reggae’s best-known exponent, the late Robert Nesta Marley, affectionately called Bob Marley and popularly dubbed the “King of Reggae”.
Born in the village of Nine Miles in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica, on February 6, 1945, Robert Nesta Marley more than any other artiste, brought international currency to Reggae music. It is acknowledged in Jamaica that the country’s global recognition has benefitted immeasurably from Marley’s seminal role in the development of Jamaican music, his unparalleled success as a Reggae artiste, and the consequent international acclaim of Reggae.
In his short 36 years of life, Bob Marley blazed a trail in using Reggae to denounce injustice and suffering. Marley’s incisive social commentary maintains its ability to inspire people of all cultures and races, even after his death.
Through his lyrics, Marley continued the tradition of pan-Africanist advocacy established earlier by Jamaica’s first named National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey. His song, “Africa Unite” still has resonance today in the strategic vision of the African Union.
Long before the Liberation of South Africa and the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, Marley was at the forefront of establishing Reggae as the main vehicle for strong cultural ties between the peoples of Jamaica and South Africa. His solidarity with South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle was strongly reflected in his music.
His song entitled “Zimbabwe”, which he performed at Zimbabwe’s Independence Ceremony in 1980, will long be remembered as having inspired those who fought for the rights they deserved.
There is no doubt that Marley gave powerful expression to the solidarity of ordinary Jamaicans with the Liberation struggles of their brothers and sisters in Africa.
It is also instructive that it is this year that the international community has begun its decade-long focus on People of African Descent, a Decade that will be used to promote knowledge of and respect for the heritage, culture and global contributions of people of African descent. Bob Marley’s music showcased his love for people of African descent, and he was, undoubtedly, an advocate for emancipation and social change, an agenda which is still critical today.
Some of Bob Marley’s accolades include, the naming of his album “Exodus” as the Album of the Century by Time Magazine, the naming of his song “One Love” as the Song of the Millennium by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and conferment on him by the Government of Jamaica, of the Order of Merit, the country’s fourth highest honour, in 1981.
In Jamaica, the launch of Reggae month 2015 on January 27, preceded a flurry of activity, beginning with an Ecumenical Service on 1 February. Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, in collaboration with the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) has unveiled a month-long programme of activities for February to celebrate Reggae month and the 70th anniversary of Bob Marley’s birth. Under the theme “the Journey is the Destination”, the month’s activities include Reggae Month Open University discussions, the Reggae village lunch hour concerts, Reggae praise, a Reggae music industry trade fair and the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) Honour awards.
As we celebrate Reggae month and honour Marley’s legacy, we have an obligation to stand proudly behind the Reggae brand, realising that we have only just begun to tap into its vast potential. We also must continue to explore ways of ensuring that Reggae music remains an instrument of advancement and social change.
Jamaican High Commission, Pretoria