Unearthing reggae's stories

Observer senior reporter

Sunday, September 23, 2018

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Cultural commentator and lecturer at the University of the West Indies Professor Donna hope has released her fifth publication, Reggae Stories: Jamaican Musical Legends and Cultural Legacies.

This work is an edited volume of some of the papers presented at the last International Reggae Conference, which Hope chaired back in 2015.

The publication, which is published by the University of the West Indies Press, aims to provide a range of perspectives on the development of Jamaican popular music and culture, in particular reggae and dancehall, as well as open doors to new debates on these music forms.

Professor Hope is upbeat about the contribution that this collection of scholarly writings will bring to the ever-growing discourse on Jamaican music forms and their global impact. She is especially excited about three of the chapters, which she says are not only unique but also widen the conversation about our music.

“Christian López-Negrete Miranda is a Mexican PhD candidate and he presented on The Development of Reggae Music in Mexico: A Periodization of the Adoption and Adaptation of this Genre. He breaks down the influence of rasta and reggae on Mexican society, and looks at reggae in Mexico and Mexican reggae in a way we had never discussed before, primarily because of the language barrier. I was able to work with him to get this paper translated and edited so we can have a real insight into just how our music forms continue to influence the world from this perspective.

“It is that same level of interest I have for the chapter by German scholar Klaus Näumann, whose paper was entitled I was born here: Glocalizing Reggae Music in Belarus. Again here we are getting information on the journey of Jamaican music, which was previously locked behind the Iron Curtain in this former Soviet state and compounded by a language barrier,” Hope continued.

The third piece, Hope notes is the presentation on reggae legend Peter Tosh by Racquel Bernard, PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This again is so important as not much is being written about Peter Tosh. This paper — Peter Tosh, Social Protest and Jamaican Curse Words — looks at him as a pan-African revolutionary through his use of language. This is critical because Tosh is not being discussed. There are so many books on Bob Marley and perhaps only two on Tosh,” she explained.

The five chapters also include Hope's introduction, Tracing Jamaican Musical Legacies and Cultural Legends: A Reggae Story; Anna Kasafi Perkins' look at incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel in A Kartel of Sin?: Messianic Desires and Vybz; and Tommy Lee as “Uncle Demon”: Contemporary Cultural Hybridity in Jamaican Dancehall by Robin Clarke.

Hope stressed the need for more stewards to safeguard the history of the music through writing, and noted that this is how a legacy is created and maintained.

“We have such a rich musical heritage and a lot of Jamaicans do not understand the value of our music. In this case I am just helping to document so we give an idea of what happens when our music leaves our shores. Someone has to push this work and put it in a location that is trustworthy for students and future generations. A lot is happening with our music and culture, and I just wish more persons would start documenting,” said Hope.

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