As the World Celebrates Bob Marley Day, Reggae is Changing and So Are Its Fans

Reggae icon Bob (Robert Nesta) Marley was born on February 6, 1945; his birthday is now celebrated around the world as Bob Marley Day. This year, he would have turned 73 years old. Marley's hometown of Kingston, Jamaica, is now recognised by UNESCO as a Creative City of Music.

As the anointed birthplace of reggae music, music-lovers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the Bob Marley Museum in uptown Kingston, the site of Marley's former home. Visitors also head downtown to tour Tuff Gong Studios, founded by Marley in 1965, and the “Culture Yard” in Trench Town, where Marley grew up, learned to play guitar and formed his band, the Wailers.

Bob Marley remains an enduring icon and legacy in Jamaica, but as musical tastes and trends change, some Jamaicans wonder if the spirit of traditional roots reggae may be fading.

Reggae Month, first announced by the Jamaican government in 2008, is currently underway in Jamaica.

Are young Jamaicans missing the reggae vibes?

While Bob Marley Day sparked celebratory social media posts from the Jamaican diaspora as well as non-Jamaican individuals and organisations, young Jamaicans were relatively quiet online.

Winston Barnes, a Florida-based Jamaican who hosts a radio talk show for the diaspora, bemoaned a perceived declining interest in reggae music, blaming the embrace of Western music styles such as hip hop:

I am now convinced that Marley's work was in vain. At least for Jamaicans. We know so little about what he did, as evidenced by our disrespect for his work and by extension our culture. Jamaica has many more radio stations than ever and cumulatively, they play less Jamaican music than before. This at a time when Jamaicans create and produce virtually every genre of music! What would we say to Bob if he was among us physically? I listened to a motivational feature on Jamaican radio last evening and virtually all the inserts originated from outside of Jamaica! In 2018?
Foreigners respect and regard Marley's music, at least publicly more than we ever have even in 2018! I am now convinced that maybe it is too late to fix this problem we face as a country and as a culture…and then we turn around and talk rubbish about the Grammies and Reggae!

Barnes refers to complaints by Jamaicans that the Grammy Awards do not give enough credit to reggae music, since the award is not televised.

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