UNESCO: reggae music must be preserved and promoted as an international cultural treasure.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain…” Bob Marley
On Friday November 30, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) has moved that reggae music be preserved and promoted as an international cultural treasure.
Announcing the decision, UNESCO said the music’s “contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual.”
The term reggae originated from the term, “rege-rege’ which means rags or ragged clothes giving an insight on the origins of reggae music. It emerged in Jamaica in the 1960’s and was first seen as a fusion of Jamaican mento music, contemporary ska music, as well as New Orleans style jazz and rhythm and blues. The band Toots and the Maytals were crucial in popularizing the genre.
Reggae soon appropriated the African Nyabingi drumming style, which imitates the heartbeat pattern and the bass guitar that flows off the drums.
With time, reggae morphed into its own distinct sound with lyrics that gave voice to the struggle and the love that emanated out of marginalized communities in Jamaica as well as across the Caribbean and Africa.
The genesis of the music was integrally connected to global advocacy of Jamaican iconic human rights fighter, Marcus Garvey who campaigned for the relocation of all people’s of African descent back to the motherland.
In the 1970’s reggae music took a bend towards Rastafarianism, the love of fellowman and most importantly the love of “Jah” or God. And if the lyrics were not about the goodness and teachings of God, they agitated for socio-political change and rebelling against government oppression.
The music would later become part of the fervor for independence as countries across the African continent began shaking off the shackles of colonialism.
And it eventually found its most worthy and iconic messenger in Bob Marley, who moved Nine Mile, St. Ann’s Parish to Jamaica’s musical mecca Trench Town and emerged as the voice of reggae music around the world.
To date, his masterpieces such as One Love, Redemption Song and Get Up Stand Up remain anthems showing that reggae not only lives but that its message is eternal.
Other Jamaican icons of the genre include Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Lee Scratch Perry, Gregory Issaccs, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Carline Davis and Rita Marley.
The global influence of reggae is reflected in the work of international artists such as Alpha Blondy and Lucky Dube.
And today it stays strong in the hands of current stars like Jah Cure and Chronixx
Reggae music joins other protected cultural items such as Marimba music from Colombia, the Zaouli music and Dance of Cote D’Ivoire and the Gada system, which is an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo of Ethiopia on the largely symbolic UNESCO heritage list.
Its inclusion promises to raise Jamaica’s international profile.