Tuesday, August 21, 2018

We Are the Lucky Ones: Reflections from Rototom

In the shopping area of the Rototom Reggae Festival I had the following discussion with a vendor:
Vendor: Where are you from?
Me: Jamaica
Vendor: You’re so lucky!

It’s something to think about. There are a whole set of people, quite likely more than the population of Jamaica, who really think Jamaicans are the lucky ones. This may be hard to believe if you’re Jamaican given our daily life challenges, but there are many people on the face of the earth who think otherwise. 

At the very least this should translate into a boost of confidence at the fact that we have some things right.  This is a boost that’s needed to push us to another level of economic performance.

This Rototom reggae festival is one that keeps on giving and one additional observation I’ve made is the centrality of African-ness to the aesthetic. In essence, the unwritten code is that to be a recognized part of the gathering one must in effect show your African - your red, your green, your gold, or your black. Anything with a hint of Rastafari, Jamaica or Africa works. I’m amazed at the European embrace of the pan-African message ‘Africa Unite’ that I’ve seen on so many tees worn by ordinary Europeans. 

In effect, this really is a full embrace of the Rastafari philosophy made world famous through music. For better or worse our music is embraced globally for themes of peace, love and African unity, rebellion against establishment values, and on another level simply being irie.

There should be no illusions as to the implications of what this means politically for impacting the Jamaican identity from the outside in, and I suspect therein lies a major challenge for the rapid growth of this sector in Jamaica. 

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