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Reggae is Jamaica’s rebel music – it doesn’t need establishment approval | Dotun Adebayo


Unesco can add reggae to its cultural heritage list, but this music has no time for government and global power

Don’t you just know that Unesco’s decision to add reggae to its list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity will be the kiss of death for any remaining semblance of “rebel music” in Jamaica? While the island’s delegation at the United Nations was skanking in celebration the other night, there was no corresponding “jam out there” in the streets of Kingston, Spanish Town, Mo’ Bay or Ochi. Once upon a time there would have been, but this recognition by the UN is at best too little too late and, at worst, somewhat suspect.

Suspect? Yes, when the institutions that reggae has been decrying for decades as “Babylon” – the Jamaican government and global power – are the very ones hailing it as an international cultural treasure worthy of protection and promotion. Turkeys endorsing Christmas come to mind, with the gobblers hatching a cunning plan to turn 25 December vegan. If this gong gives the Jamaican government the ownership of reggae that it craves, Unesco may be guilty of endorsing the Caribbean equivalent of John Lydon (once Johnny Rotten) appearing on a television butter advert. That moment whacked the final nail into the coffin of punk and the 1977 anarchy in the UK that roots reggae went in tandem with back when, if you were fortunate enough to be the white man in the Hammersmith Palais, you got two rebellions for the price of one. Unlike the punk thing, the political potency of reggae has endured for generations. And the Jamaican authorities certainly don’t like that.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Dotun Adebayo

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