“There’s something about Jamaica” is a weekly Friday commentary post onwww.mckoysnews.com, where Amber Crowl [DJ, Host, Promoter, Writer and Activist] shares culture, roots, highlights, traditions of Jamaica and more. Amber welcomes your questions and comments on Mckoy’s News. You can send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org
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THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT JAMAICA, WHICH HAS BEEN MAKING PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD DANCE SINCE THE LATE 1960’S.
THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT FROM THEN UNTIL NOW, OUR MUSIC HAS CERTAINLY MADE IT’S MARK IN THE WORLD.
I JUST WANT TO HIGHLIGHT REGGAE MUSIC IN THIS WEEK’S COMMENTARY. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT SKA, ROCK STEADY & DANCEHALL ARE SOME OF OUR MOST TREASURED TYPES OF MUSIC, BUT ABOVE THEM ALL IS REGGAE.
Ska was Jamaica’s first music, which came about when musicians tried to play the American Rhythm & Blues. What the musicians then played did not come out how they had hoped. That blunder was a gift in some sense, as the musicians of the time accepted the difference – and that’s how SKA was born. It was an up-tempo music which had people dancing all over Jamaica, from about August 6, 1962, Jamaica’s Independence Day.
Around that time a certain fire ignited in Jamaicans, causing the shift from mainly listening to American music, to accepting their own music. It was as if the Independence jubilation gave Jamaicans a new-found pride.
Ska dominated the party scene in Kingston and other parts of the island.
Rocksteady followed Ska at a time when Kingston, then known as Jamaica’s music capital, was going through heavy social turmoil. People began to understand that independence didn’t mean much to the average Jamaican, who had little to no start and, few opportunities for employment in a segregated Jamaica.
So you had the Uptown-Downtown culture which still exists today, and Rocksteady became the music of the people. The excitement of the Ska beat was no more; and the beat began to slow down a bit. This allowed people to listen more keenly to what the singers were saying, and the singers of the time were singing about things that the population could relate to – “poverty, hardships, discrimination and hope.”
Hope was always in the Jamaican music and the music in some ways helped to soothe the people’s souls during these hard years after independence. Artistes like Alton Ellis, The Paragons & The Melodians were big names in the Rocksteady age and their music continues to thrill people from all over the world.
However, Rocksteady’s prominence was short-lived, as a newfound sound emerged out of the Jamaican Ghettos of Kingston. Though we continue to enjoy Rocksteady today, there is no doubt that Reggae music stole the spotlight from Rock Steady, and quickly grew in popularity in Jamaica.
Reggae is an even slower music than Rocksteady. One of its hallmarks is the heavy base which did not stand out in Ska or Rocksteady. This made a huge difference in the music. By 1969 Millie Small’s “My Boy lollipop” had broken into mainstream and was a big hit for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. By then Reggae was gaining mass support from young whites in England and Jamaicans there as well. With artistes like Marcia Griffiths, Bob Andy, Desmond Decker, Jimmy Cliff, Prince Buster, The Skattalites & Ken Boothe packing venues and getting rave reviews from music critics and their audiences all over Jamaica and in England.
As Reggae continued to open the way for more Jamaican musicians; a group that worked with Coxone Dod began to gain a lot of attention for its lyrics, beats, and overall presentation of their music. That group was “The Wailers;” who later became ‘Bob Marley & the Wailers.” They rose to international prominence and gave us so many timeless reggae songs like ” War,” “Three Little Birds,” “Guava Jelly,” “No Woman no Cry,” ‘Jammin’ and too many to name.
The music of Bob Marley & the Wailers continues to sell millions of copies around the world and Bob Marley has been known as the King of Reggae in just about every country on the planet. Through Bob Marley’s music and that of the Wailers, the I-Threes and other early Reggae musicians, the image of “The Rastafarians” and their spiritual messages became face & voice of Reggae music. Today the Reggae music Industry is still dominated by Rastafarians who continue to sing about Haile Selassie, Africa, Love and more positive topics in their songs. Reggae has spread to the four corners of the earth, through radio broadcasting, the internet, world tours and what seems – an instant attraction for European, Asian and North American music lovers.
There’s just something about Reggae music which is irresistible to millions of people who speak different languages, different cultures and, who have different religious beliefs. Yet, they all find pleasure in soaking up our indigenous music. Some even imitate Jamaican Dialect, Cuisine, Dances, Spiritual Practices, Fashion and Music. Reggae is a spiritual music. It’s a social music. It’s a music of love, laughter and tears. Reggae provokes our thoughts on a wide cross-section of ideas and of all the types of Jamaican music, Reggae is the one that maintains Jamaica’s status and reputation in the world. Our music is highly rated among world genres and sought after by many overseas promoters and music producers. Jamaican artiste enjoy international recognition, contributing to their earning power; as Reggae is a serious business in the world of music.
It is sad for me to say, but Jamaica does not and historically has not treated her own music as the “big business” that it is recognized as in other parts of the world. Our Government has failed to streamline the music business effectively. Our music stakeholders continue to struggle to get the government to understand the effectiveness of Reggae music; and by extension the Jamaican culture on a worldwide scale. Just like in the days before Ska, our own music struggled to get recognition and acceptance from people in the “powers to be.” We are is still left behind, as the world embraces our music through distribution, the promotion of Reggae shows and the feature of some of our artistes and songs in major movies in England, America, Canada and other parts of the world.
Reggae music and by extension “Dancehall” music have become embedded in America’s music culture and even bigger in the U.K. It must be noted that Dancehall is not Reggae, as is considered by some music critics. There are big differences between Dancehall and Reggae music, but I will save expanding on that for another time.
I have no doubt that Reggae is the music created by the people, for the people, and will last way beyond my years. I am proud to say that I am from the “Island of the Reggae Music,” Jamaica. And though one article or one month cannot truly express all my sentiments about Reggae, I still am happy to be a part of such a great music.
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Until next week, walk good…
I am Amber – Signing off until next week
DJ/Host/ Promoter/ Writer/Social Activist
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