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by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
February holds a special significance for us Jamaicans. Not only is it Black History Month, an important commemoration of the struggles and triumphs of our people. But, it's also Reggae Month! Reggae isn't just music to us. It's ingrained in our culture. It tells our story, from the highs to the lows, and the fight for freedom.
It all started with ska and rocksteady, and then reggae took over the world. So, when you listen to reggae tunes, you're not just hearing music, you're experiencing our history, vibe, and identity as Jamaicans.
I think that’s why so many people gravitate to reggae. The genre manages to capture many unique aspects of our culture while still being able to speak to the hearts of people beyond the borders of our island.
Reggae Month, which was officially proclaimed as such by the Government of Jamaica on January 9, 2008, is a month-long celebration that aims to highlight Jamaica as the global epicenter of reggae music and showcase our vibrant cultural heritage to the world.
It’s also when we acknowledge two of our greatest reggae legends, Dennis Brown, the 'Crown Prince of Reggae,' celebrated on February 1, and Bob Marley, the legendary 'King of Reggae,' commemorated on February 6.
Bob Marley is crucial to reggae music for several reasons. He pioneered reggae's global popularity, his lyrics addressed themes of love and social justice, and he became a cultural ambassador for Jamaica. Marley's music was spiritually influenced by Rastafarianism, and he used his platform to advocate for political change. His legacy continues to inspire generations of musicians and activists worldwide.
Dennis Brown, who is dubbed the "Crown Prince of Reggae," is revered for his exceptional talent, prolific career, and cultural significance within the reggae music scene. His soulful voice and innovative style propelled him to international acclaim, solidifying his status as a reggae icon. Brown's legacy endures through his timeless music, which continues to inspire and resonate with audiences worldwide.
Reggae Month also aims to celebrate the impact of the musical genre on our island's social, cultural, and economic development. The Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth, and Sports is responsible for developing activities to make Reggae Month an international phenomenon.
Each year the activities get more extravagant, and it seems like something more is added. But, it had to start somewhere, right? The first set of activities included hosting the Reggae Academy Awards, the Bob Marley Photographic Exhibition, the Africa Unite/Smile Jamaica Youth Symposium, the annual Bob Marley Lecture, the African Film Festival, the Reggae Film Festival, the annual Irie FM Reggae Music Awards, and the Bob Marley Creative Expression Day.
Then in 2009, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) was formed to coordinate events and activities for Reggae Month 2009 and beyond. The event honoured eleven stalwarts of Jamaica's music industry for their contributions to the development and international penetration of Reggae Music.
In 2010, Reggae Month was held under the theme "To the Root," with the 'I Love Reggae Foundation' musical event dubbed 'Reggae Jazz on the Waterfront' in Washington D.C. raising funds for the Alpha Boys Home in Kingston.
Then in 2011, free concerts were held at Edna Manley College for the entire month of February under the theme "From di Root, to di World." In 2012, the month-long activities coincided with the country's Independence Jubilee celebrations. In 2013, the theme was "Reggae 50: Jamaica's Heart and Soul," and in 2014, the Jamaican High Commission in London ended its Reggae Month celebrations with a special event paying tribute to women in Reggae Music.
Let’s fast forward to 2024. Under the theme 'Come ketch di Riddim,' Reggae Month 2024 promises an array of events catering to music and cultural enthusiasts alike. Core events on the Reggae Month calendar include musical tributes to reggae icons, the Reggae Gold Award, Dancehall awards, the Young Reggae Ambassadors program, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association Open University symposium, and the Children of the Icons concert.
One of the highlights is Dancehall Week, endorsed by the Ministry and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, featuring activities from February 13 to 19. There will also be a vibrant street parade on February 18, starting from the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre and ending at the National Stadium in Kingston.
Reggae Month is truly a great time for both locals and visitors alike to explore our musical culture, tied in with black history month, it is probably one of the best times of the year for visitors who are interested in our history and culture to visit.
To stay updated on events and activities throughout Reggae Month, you can download the Reggae Jamaica mobile app, available on Google Play Store and iOS. The app serves as a comprehensive guide, providing you with event details, demography, and directions to venues via Google Maps.
So go ahead and book your trip to Jamaica so you too can take part in Reggae Month. And, you don’t have to worry too much about the money. Wellesley put together this very useful guide, an E-book called “Jamaica On A Budget”. The only guide you will need to get the best out of Jamaica, for less than you can imagine.
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