The corruption of reggae music identity

Letters to the Editor

The corruption of reggae music identity

Friday, February 19, 2021

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Dear Editor,

Reggae — the special musical genre from the island — has added its compelling presence on the world stage not just for an economic value, but as a branch of refreshing heart-throbbing sound.

Just like ackee and salt fish, Red Stripe beer, fish and bammy, jerk pork, white rum, Tastee patty, ginger beer, or the Blue Mountain coffee, reggae has stood out with its own unique style that has facilitated different voices from singers, toasters, deejays, singjays, and even rappers.

Unfortunately, like the Jamaican Patois, its greatest and most vicious critics are those who also share its home town — Jamaicans. Can anything good come from within?

Therefore, the ongoing quest for external validation sits almost like a spiritual inertia waiting to hear the world's verdict on our activities.

Of course, the music has taken a dive in lyrical content that debases women, promotes vanity and obscenity while pushing violence and guns. But besides this deviance that has infiltrated it, many will still regard it as low-standard, “buggu-yagga” music not fit to be listened to or entertain the ears of the beau monde. It's funny that even the annual prizes awarded in the reggae genre at the annual Grammys seem less valuable by most Jamaican than others in different categories. It's hard to reconcile the apparent thrust of self-confidence and importance exhibited in most, with this self-chastisement and ongoing rebuke.

Yet reggae is an enviable branch of world music. Its packages in sound clashes challenges the guts and reaches of lyrical hardware where demand for presentation is epitomised. But, ironically, its height sometimes seem to be broken by its own weight and descends into discord and embarrassment; not for the the deficiency of the music, but the fault in its carriers.

So, to appreciate reggae music one has to separate the creation from the practitioners and cannot blame the product that has been twisted by the medium.

Homer Sylvester

Mount Vernon, New York, USA

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