Hanna urges reggae revolution

Date Published: 
Monday, February 18, 2013

Youth and culture minister Lisa Hanna says although reggae music is now a global phenomenon there is more to be done to ensure that the music form helps propel Jamaican culture to its rightful place as a potent force of social and economic liberation. Hanna pointed out that the ongoing intellectual assessment and reflection, such as that occasioned by the recent staging of the third international reggae conference at the University of the West Indies, Mona last weekend, is critical to the advancement of that objective.

“The Jamaican culture, so aptly represented by reggae, remains for many an enigma which has shattered classical theories and has allowed a small island developing state to emerge as a global powerhouse of cultural identity and influence,” Minister Hanna said, pointing to the global reach and popularity of the music.

Addressing the conference opening, the culture Minister said today the emerging tone of reggae’s lyrics is cause for concern, noting that throughout the history of the music, its lyrics have been an excellent barometer of the mood, frustrations, rumination, aspirations and intentions of the Jamaican people and urban youth in particular. “Over time, the defiance of ‘The Harder they Come’ became the yearning of ‘Betta Must Come’ as film and music converge with the language and tone of the streets. Then music messages transitioned from ‘You Can Get It if You Really Want’, to ‘Nutten Nah Gwan fi we’,” she said.

Paying tribute to reggae icons and ambassadors Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, whom she again congratulated for his recent Grammy award, Hanna said reggae is and has always been the “music of the crossing”, reminding her audience that Jamaica was at its own economic, social, cultural and ideological crossing. “Today, as we grapple with our economic and other social challenges, reggae music can help us to reach into our past and extract from it the values, attitudes and systems that have previously propelled us forward, and are able to do so again. This conference is positioned to look into the rearview mirror of time and place us on a forward path to prosperity for all,” Minister Hanna told the conference participants on February 14.

Drawing on lyrics from two generations of Marleys – Bob’s Zimbabwe and Damian’s More Justice, Ms. Hanna called for a reexamination of reggae music’s role as a catalyst for change, a music of action, passion and revolution in terms of how it can now help to effect positive social change at home as it has done overseas.
Recalling the contribution of Rastafari and African culture, religion and philosophy to the emergence and development of reggae, the culture minister expressed the view that, “there is the urgent need for a social and cultural revolution in Jamaica. It is a revolution to restore sanity to our social relations, to end the murder, the bloodshed, the abuse of children.”

“What part can reggae play in that revolution? Can the music today again contribute to this quest to build a platform of collective engagement? Can reggae help to advance the cultural revolution, to work for the collective good, for the triumph of good over evil? Can it revive passions and decry apathy, especially among our youth?” she asked.

Pointing to the important contribution of several cultural analysts who have done important academic work in rigorous appraisal of the evolution and current status of reggae in its various manifestations as Black philosophy, as religion, as protest music, as a reflection of the Jamaican ‘livity’ and the social, political and economic reality of struggle, and reggae as a powerful creative asset in national economic development, Minister Hanna said the music was integral to advancing the needed positive social and economic revolution.

The needed revolution, she said, required Jamaicans to engage through our culture in the promotion of the positive values and philosophy that must underpin any project for national development. “Like our ancestors before us, we must use our music and culture for the unleashing of the positive and creative energies of our people in a total commitment to national restoration,” the Minister pointed out.

Noting that reggae has established Jamaica as the cultural capital of the world, Ms. Hanna underscored the challenge that Jamaica’s mission now involved finding the balance that will allow the nation to use the music to promote positive identity and spiritual values while at the same time creating a product that can enhance our national economy.

“I invite us to look into the music and extract those modalities that can help to advance our national cause of economic growth and social re-engineering. Let the discourse awaken us to our own responsibility for the shaping of this society so that, grounded in the reality of our people’s struggles, it may lead us into pathways through which our nation will be redeemed,” she challenged the reggae conference participants.