It’s been 35 years since Jamaica’s Reggae legend Bob Marley died and still from beyond the grave he is managing to claim respect due to the volume of work he put in.
On President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Jamaica in April 2015, in the midst of his busy and very tight agenda he still took the time out to check out the Bob Marley Museum- an important part of his trip, might I add.
That speaks to the power of Bob’s music and the respect it demands. Multiply that by the many other Bob Marley fans who pencil in a visit to Jamaica for the sole purpose of visiting the museum or Trench Town- the place he once called home.
What was so special about Jamaica’s late legend? He ‘preached’ a lot of feel good messages – ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘War’, ‘Three Little Birds’ and the universal anthem ‘One Love’ which has ricocheted the world over.
It is important to note that there are other foundation reggae artistes who also make musical connections with the masses through the kinds of songs they sing. Think of other stalwarts such as Peter Tosh, John Holt, Gregory Isaacs and all the others- alive and passed on- who put great care in their musical messages.
‘Feel good dance vibes’ also has its place on the international market and that is evidenced by the crossover success of two of Jamaica’s standout artistes, Sean Paul and Shaggy.
However, there is a concerning trend now where Reggae/Dancehall success stories don’t necessarily originate from Jamaica. The Billboard and iTunes top album sellers are seeing names such as The Greens, Matisyahu and Rebelution, among others.
But there’s hope- closer examination shows that there is no shortage of talents in Jamaica – Reggae messengers are still present – Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid, Iba Mahr, Proteje and of course Dancehall also has some bright stars coming up!
So what’s the problem?
It’s all in the packaging. Producers will now have to be selective about the kind of music they invest resources in, artistes will have to do more than go into the studio and ‘ride a rhythm’. Good music is much more than just rhyming and churning out anything that pops in the head.
It’s time to study the trend that was set so long ago by the foundation artistes and it would not hurt to take a little from the old landmark.
All is not lost for the pulse of Jamaica’s music – a little redirection, a little tapping into more social conscious songs and a little more creativity– mixing the old with the new can see a turnaround in the fortunes of the genre that’s called Reggae and Dancehall.
There is no doubt that Jamaica’s music can hold its own on the international market and rake in dollars for the country, but players must wake up to the reality that it’s not ‘business as usual’.
The world is changing, fans’ tastes are changing but one thing remains constant – good music- lyrics that tap into people’s emotions will always get the edge over frivolity any day!