Note to self: Jah 9

Note to self: Jah 9

...engaging, interactive, and thought-provoking Bob Marley 23rd annual lecture

Wayne Campbell

Monday, February 17, 2020

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Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living? — Bob Marley

The month of February is significant in numerous ways. Robert Nesta Marley, commonly referred to as Bob Marley, was born in the month of February. He would have been 75 years were he still alive. The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, has played host for the annual Bob Marley lecture for the last 23 years. The 23rd renewal this year was held on Thursday, February 13, in the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, and was aptly delivered by recording female artiste Jah 9 under the theme, 'Turn your lights down low'.

The Bob Marley Lecture is a collaborative effort of the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) and the Reggae Studies Unit. The lecture was scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm; however, it started 18 minutes late. Prior to the commencement of the lecture the audience was treated to a selection of songs done by Bob Marley and The Wailers. The opening remarks and welcome came from Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, senior lecturer and director of the ICS, while her colleague, Professor Donna Hope, senior lecturer at the ICS, introduced the speaker.

Rich cultural entertainment was provided by the father-and-son duo U-KANTABLA. They presented a medley of Indian and Cuban classic music on drums and guitar.

Jah 9's birth name is Janine Cunningham and she was born in Falmouth, Trelawny, to a Baptist minister father and a social worker mother. At approximately age nine her family moved to Kingston, where she completed primary education and attended the all-girls St Hugh's High School in Cross Roads for her secondary education. She is a proud graduate of The University of the West Indies, where she read for a bachelor's degree in psychology. The 36-year-old recording artiste has produced two albums to date: New Name and 9.

The lecture theatre had a mix of youth and wisdom. There were representatives from academia, the student population, well-wishers, lovers of reggae music, and past students of The University of the West Indies. Interestingly, an equal number of males and females turned out for the lecture.

Jah 9's presentation was engaging, interactive, and thought-provoking as it was culturally relevant and resonated with the audience. She touched on various themes in a presentation which was just under an hour long. Themes such as infidelity, diversity, polyandry, relationships, culture, spirituality, marriage, respect, love, family, sexuality, religion, and promiscuity were explored to an appreciative audience. Her presentation showed, at times, a very jovial Jah 9 who was candid and articulate as she shared rather personal experiences. Her candid remarks about her life and experiences were far removed from the 'Turn your lights down low' theme. She turned on the floodlights on social issues surrounding relationships as she spoke openly on the gender dynamics and polarities between men and women. She was bold, honest, and earned the respect of an enthusiastic and receptive audience.

She mentioned that Bob Marley was the type of man who had been able to get women to cooperate with him. This cooperation of which Jah 9 spoke is quite evident in the number of children Bob Marley fathered in and outside of his marriage. In some quarters some would say that Bob Marley was a “gallis”.

Jah 9 was especially passionate as she spoke about the close relationship between daughter and father; a father whom she described as her best friend. She stressed how important it is for fathers to love their daughters and to give them the affirmation which is very necessary as they grow up and form new relationships. She cautioned women not to sacrifice themselves over the physical characteristics of the male person, adding that there was a possibility for some compromise.

Jah 9 said that a man of substance comes with a level of responsibility. She spoke with pride that her parents have been married for over 45 years and added that as far as she knew her parents have been faithful to each other. She said that some women were too quick to give themselves sexually knowing that the man cannot commit to them. She reminded the audience that she was not being judgemental in her pronouncements and observations. She said some women had no problem knowing that some of their men have multiple partners.

Jah 9 shared some of her experiences in relationships and spoke about her first serious relationship which was at the age of 18. She is of the view that the seeming increase in domestic violence might be due to the proliferation of social media in reporting these cases as against more cases being reported. She urged women to learn self-defence techniques as a way of protecting themselves from abusive men.

Her presentation included a video showing of her latest single Highly, which was due to be released on Valentine's Day, February 14. This single from her highly anticipated album Note To Self was well received by the audience. Many in the audience, especially those attending a Bob Marley lecture for the first time, expected the lecture to be about Bob; however, this was not the situation with Jah 9. She was brilliant in her delivery at the 23rd annual Bob Marley lecture as her feminine energy filled the lecture room and facilitated natural synergies.

Not surprisingly, at various points throughout her presentation she referenced Bob Marley. In one particular instance she commented that Marley was a sort of prototype male who had a sort of magnetic appeal and charm about him. She mentioned that mission-oriented males are always attractive to females. She challenged the females in the audience to take the same serious approach to their relationships as they have with their spirituality. Am I playing a game or am I looking for partnership, was one of many questions Jah 9 asked.

Dr Dennis Howard, who gave the vote of thanks, used the line “feminine energy almost mathematical” from a popular song to describe the riveting presentation of Jah 9. The host was Hugh Douse. The lecture was refreshing, informative and captivating.

As we continue to celebrate Reggae Month we are reminded that our support is needed at the numerous events which have been planned to commemorate Reggae Month 2020.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or, @WayneCamo

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