Saturday, December 8, 2018

Buju Banton Returns to Jamaica


As a Jamaican living outside of the island, I can say I fully appreciate what it feels like fi come a yuh yaad, and I thought about that joy as I saw the images of Buju Banton arriving at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston last night. Nutten nuh better dan that at that moment. Suh welcome home breda Buju. Guh a beach. Enjoy it. Enjoy the love of your people who freely give it.



As I read some of the posts, I must admit that I get the complexity of the feelings. I too harbor some conflict when I think of the impact of drugs on our communities. But Buju didn't start this, the reality is that it is systemic, and he got pulled in.

In my own reflection, I've been thinking that folks like me who have a strong development agenda ought to be more aggressive about educating our creatives and others who have come into some money about better investment options. There is no guarantee that many will listen, but our failure is in not trying. Usain Bolt has ventured into the restaurant business and now real estate, for example. Outside of entertainment events, there are also options to invest in hotel and travel, agro-processing, transportation, light manufacturing, media, tech, and offering business financing/funding through the right partners. I can only list these few examples here, but the truth is that there are lots of options that can be pushed and our entertainers and other creatives must be courted by us to prevent devils on airplanes to take down some of our promise. Might we be failing some of our prodigies is not an unreasonable question? This could have been a very different story if Jamaicans could get out of our own way and past our boxed up prejudices, indeed the full has never been told.



Buju was a big part of the soundtrack of my growing up in Jamaica. At one point, it felt like he was releasing a new tune every week - and they were all good. Knowing what I now know about Jamaican music I can truly appreciate how lucky I am to have had that front seat from yaad.

At this point, I'll give Buju the benefit of any doubt I have because he has paid a price far greater than many of us will ever pay for our indiscretions. And who among us is without a few? Life is not an easy road.




I'm heartened by the demonstration of a kind of family love by some of my fellow Jamaicans, where members of the family know that a son might have done wrong, but yet they still reach into their hearts and welcome him home regardless, because ultimately a still yuh family and your humanity cannot bear to see them suffer. I eagerly await hearing and seeing the outcome of this experience from Buju himself in his music and his deeds.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Thoughts on Reggae's UNESCO Inscription


Perhaps it seems strange, but I'm in agreement with Dotun Adebayo of The Guardian who wrote the article "Reggae is Jamaica's rebel music - it doesn't need establishment approval". The headline says it all for me. 

Reggae is not some endangered cultural practice.  Reggae music (and other Jamaican music genres) is actually mainstream and not some endangered or regional practice as are the many other things that have received this recognition from UNESCO.  Unfortunately, I think the only people who think that our music in not mainstream might be some Jamaicans. Jamaica’s reggae has long been mainstream with an economy that is global and in many ways independent of the economy of Jamaica. What troubles me is that so many Jamaicans who have the power to help with the development of the industry locally still have this 'whoa is reggae' or this 'poor reggae' view.  I agree with Adebayo that reggae doesn’t need this and it may very well be a kiss of death for reggae’s anti-establishment perceptions.

The irony of this kind of advocacy in Jamaica where some from the anti-establishment are always seeking establishment approval never ceases to amaze me. What ever happened to the Garveyite philosophies of doing for self (including doing as a community)? The discomfort I have with this kind of advocacy is it seems to be relying heavily upon the goodness and mercy of the same people and institutions that have systematically marginalized us. Powerful people never educate (or provide) powerless people with what they need to take the power away from them. So if we are seeking establishment approval then it should be an establishment of our own making, since those who have systematically marginalized you are not going to suddenly change course unless they see a benefit to them, or that you no longer pose a threat.  Adebayo cleverly brings this home in his quote, "turkeys endorsing Christmas come to mind, with the gobblers hatching a cunning plan to turn 25 December vegan." Whatever victories the community feels it’s won here will be outmaneuvered by those who know how to make money from our culture and lifestyle before you've even understood what’s happened.  Conscious Jamaicans cannot continue to cede control of Jamaica to those who don’t believe in a certain kind of far-reaching development of its people and expect that these folks will be doing their bidding.

I'm of the view that if the Jamaican political establishment wants to show their commitment to Jamaica and Jamaicans I think the effort would have been better placed in the creation of institutions for the greater development of the Jamaican language - Patwa. It’s been the vehicle of our collective expression, it’s what many in the world want to speak.  Dennis Howard in his Jamaica Gleaner article, "Jamaican Language Anchoring Cultural Exports" articulated similar sentiments as to why the focus on the Jamaican language is a worthwhile investment of time and resources. I think embracing it will set a foundation for exploring cultural enterprise and additional economic empowerment activities along that avenue.

Admittedly, this might be an important gesture to declare ownership, but this doesn’t solve the underlying problem of Jamaica not being able to claim greater economic benefits from its creations. I get that Jamaica wants to world to know that Jamaica is where the music originated and that’s not a bad thing, and that was achieved, so the question is what’s next? Will the marketing strategy of the Jamaica Tourist Board change to now ensure Jamaica has a presence at all the international Jamaican music festivals to get these potential visitors staying on the island? If there is no plan to explore this then it speaks volumes about the initiative in the first place.

Ultimately, those who advocated this really need to focus more on some self-development, where they find resources to build profitable radio stations, tv stations, controlling real estate, their own financial entities, agri-processing and export businesses, manufacturing enterprises, schools and other institutions that will stand behind them when they speak. I don’t believe pure moral suasion is going to get them any meaningful part of what non-Jamaican investors and others are reaping from our culture.


Bookmark and Share