Mr Herbie Miller’s thankless but invaluable work

Saturday, March 04, 2017

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Amidst the constant news of crime and politics, Mr Herbie Miller, musicologist, social analyst, song- writer, music producer and cultural historian, continues his thankless work of documenting the history of Jamaican music, with little fanfare and mostly out of his own pocket.


The former manager of the late Mr Peter Tosh is one of the few Jamaicans who study the country’s rich musical heritage which has given reggae to the world and its best known exponent, Mr Robert "Bob" Marley, the Third World’s first megastar whose immortal song, One Love was acclaimed by the British Broadcasting Corporation as the Song of the Century.


Few Jamaicans, especially the youth and those absorbed with dancehall music, know or care to know of the evolution of reggae. We remain ignorant of where our music came from, how it has influenced us and the world, and its role in giving voice to the issues and thinking of the majority of poor Jamaicans.


Our contemporary music is not something to be censured but needs to be understood as a vent for views of the majority of Jamaicans. Censorship and ridicule have been the tradition of a nervous ruling class, starting from the slave plantation and continuing through mento, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, to Bob Marley. You do not have to like it, but you cannot ignore it.


There are those few among us who recognise the importance of studying, documenting and disseminating the history of our music. That is why, ironically, most of the books and video documentaries made about the exponents and producers of reggae are by foreigners.


The few Jamaicans who dedicate themselves to understanding and recording the history of Jamaican popular music and meaning, and the social and cultural importance of its current forms, are to be thanked. In this regard we salute Professor Carolyn Cooper for her penetrating analyses and for being the pioneer in establishing the intellectual legitimacy of reggae studies.


Mr Herbie Miller’s dogged work in this regard is worthy of commendation. He was Mr Tosh’s manager during his halcyon days of Legalise It, Equal Rights, Bush Doctor, Mystic Man and Wanted Dread and Alive. In a more sedentary role he has laboured tirelessly with inadequate resources as the first director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, Institute of Jamaica.


Jamaica is indebted to Mr Miller for his work, which is expressed in many ways, but most visually in the series called lsquo;Groundation’. The most recent event was last Saturday when there was a celebration of Mr Carlos Malcolm and his pioneering work with his "Afro-Caribbeans" band.


It is an enigma and sad commentary that Mr Miller’s efforts are not well supported financially by Jamaican artistes and producers in an industry that earns billions of dollars. He has had to make considerable personal sacrifice to continue doing his work, which is partially the reason for the delay in completing his long-awaited book on Mr Don Drummond.


Mr Miller’s is a labour of love, and an important act of patriotism for which he has not been given enough recognition. We salute him and express our appreciation for his work and call on those in the music industry to support the work of the Jamaica Music Museum.

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