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by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer
Every country has its customs and traditions, then there are the day-to-day norms that are a part of the lives of its citizens. What is popular culture in Jamaica?
Jamaica has been known to have influenced much of popular culture around the world and with social media, it only gets bigger. Scrolling through any social platform you are bound to see a dance, picture or video on something “Jamaica related.”
So what is popular culture in Jamaica? Is it exactly how it is portrayed on screen? (whichever you choose to use) or is Jamaica completely different from what you’ve seen?
The aspects of Popular culture that I think must contribute to our collective identity are language, religion, music, dance, sports and theatre.
The undeniable influence of Patois can be seen in culturally diverse cities such as London, Toronto and New York. The diversity in these large cities is so far and wide, yet Jamaican patois shines through.
Jamaican words have so easily become normal words in the lingo of other areas and have been present for so long, that it is sometimes hard to explain to someone that these influences do exist.
But in Jamaica, Patois is heavily spoken daily, unless in a professional setting where English is required. And even if it isn’t spoken, you will still hear it as most Dancehall and Reggae artistes use the dialect exclusively in their music. Speaking of music?
Music is, in my opinion, the biggest influence on popular culture. If an artiste sings about a particular item, chances are, you will see almost everyone with that item not very long after, case and point Clarks.
I think a big misconception though is that Reggae and Dancehall can be used interchangeably for “Jamaican music”, it is not so. They are both two entirely separate genres though one (Dancehall), was created through the other (Reggae). They are the two most successful genres of music to come out of Jamaica.
The other misconception is that Reggae influences Jamaica’s culture today more than Dancehall does. Again, that is not so. Reggae music does significantly better internationally than it does here in Jamaica. Dancehall appeals to a younger audience which means it will get played more often than Reggae.
For someone who isn’t from Jamaica, a true Dancehall party might be alot to handle. Are the videos you see online just for shock value or are they true reflections of what a Jamaican party is like?
Truthfully, yes. For some, that is a regular Dancehall party in Jamaica. Not every Dancehall party reaches those extremes but the genre operates on high emotions and a good deal of alcohol.
Reggae parties tend to be more demure than Dancehall but that is because Dancehall is more ‘forcefully ‘presented as a genre and so you would expect that it would evoke a completely different emotion.
Whether you choose Reggae or Dancehall though, what is true about both, is that there will be a party on the weekend playing both genres well into the morning. Sometimes even during the week, a party is quite common.
A common concept is round robins, where a group of persons will come together to keep a series of parties and will all support each other's events bringing all their respective supporters each time. Round robins can last for months depending on how many people are in them. Reggae Sumfest, Carnival and Dream Weekend are some that come to mind.
Much like the rest of the world, the number of persons practising religion is declining. Christianity is our largest religion in Jamaica; even for those who are not avid churchgoers, it still serves as their moral compass.
Going to church with your grandparents is a very common thing in Jamaica and for many (myself included) going to church is also a way to connect with family and friends and is a part of the “weekend activities.”
By the time our athletes have taken on the world stage, they are household names in Jamaica. And no it isn’t just because we are a small island. Sport is a big part of our identity here; even local primary school sports days are the main events.
With competitions like School Boy Football, Boys and Girls Champs, Grace Headley Cup Cricket and the various high school/college level activities in Jamaica, we become very familiar with the athletes very early on in their careers.
We aren’t a country with many locally made and funded box office hits. Most of the films about Jamaica that are widely known were not made or performed by Jamaican actors. Stage plays though, are quite big in Jamaica, from the pantomime to the special edition, it is our Broadway, if you will, which runs from Christmas to April.
The theatre started out performing Shakespeare before it snowballed into our unique theatre scene. Or the regular stage productions by our Theatre performers right here in Jamaica. The play will be made and then it goes on tour across the island making various stops.
Veterans such as Oliver Samuels, Glen “Titus” Campbell, Dahlia Harris and Delcita are household names on the island who are sure to fill the seats of theatres and halls across the island.
Veteran playwright, Patrick Brown is usually behind the production.
Popular fashion choices, I would say are heavily influenced by a western sense of streetwear style. We do get influenced by other countries but since most of our clothes are bought there, it would be America that has the greatest influence on the way we dress. London, England specifically is another strong contender.
As we get more access to other forms of fashion, you see more Jamaicans leaning into it and getting more experimental with how they dress.
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Popular Culture In Jamaica | Written: August 29, 2022