Two clips caught my attention on social media last week. The first one was about a Pakistani brass band playing a rendition of Bob Marley’s One Love. What touched the very inner cells of my heart was how the brass band—just as the Malawi Police Band would do with Africa Jazz Pioneers’ Skokian-—the band brought out One Love using trumpets, trombones, cymbals, drums. No vocals, no keyboards and no guitars as in the original Bob Marley version.
Yet, what was touching was the feeling of love and unity that the song brings. For me, that just emphasises how universal the language music is, particularly reggae music.
The other clip was on Jamaican Minister of Culture Olivia Grange, who was so overjoyed at the announcement that the UN culture arm, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) had recognised reggae, which was born in the 1960s in the ghettos of Kingstone Town, Jamaica, as a global cultural heritage.
On hearing the news, Grange and her Jamaican delegation led the international committee meeting, which had members from different races and creeds, obviously from different socio-economic, cultural and political backgrounds into a rousing sing-along of Marley’s offer: One Love, One Heart, Let’s get together and feel alright.
Reggae music has been a unifying factor for peoples of the world, no one can deny that fact….The recognition comes at a time The King’s Music as the genre has been going through so much transformation over the years, while maintaining its liberating spirit against oppression.
Back home, the reggae genre has been embraced warmly as well for a long time now both by artists and music lovers. One can remember Jai Banda’s Reggae by Foot concerts and the great international reggae acts that have set foot in Malawi. The love that is there for reggae music surpasses any genre that is played and listened to in this country.
Countless times arguments have been advanced that what Malawian artists do is not real reggae. It may not be delivered in the exact form as the originators in Jamaica do, but the root and source of what is done here is the same.
Reggae has influenced sound from many fronts. Today, the overreaching effects of the genre can be noted in hip-hop, tri-hop and desert reggae which is played in Australia. Such has been the power and influence of reggae music.
Artists such as Wycliffe Jean, Lauryn Hill and lately Amy Winehouse have brought in elements that were not associated with reggae music before. But if you ask them, they will tell you the biggest influence of their music remains reggae.
In the process of imitating reggae music, we may have created our unique type of reggae which we should be proud of and strive to improve and promote other than condemning the creators.
We should also look at the belief that the genre stands for and what it represents. In Jamaica, in the poor neighbourhoods of Kingstone town to be precise, reggae reflected the struggle of the poor, marginalised and their cry for liberation.
World over it has been used as a medium to voice out rallying calls for freedom. A push for a better tomorrow and a source of hope.
Why should we limit Malawian reggae players in making use of this tool when they are facing similar challenges? Why should they be deprived of this freedom chant when their days are getting darker and darker and their liberties are squeezed into a tight corner?
At the end of the day, what matters should be the conviction in one’s heart. If you are feeling reggae music, then be it. If you cannot feel it, then you will never feel it. Today is a new reggae day.
“Went to the doctor, to check out what’s matter/I went to the doctor, to find out the matter/Doctor said son/you have a Reggae-mylitis/I said, “What?”/Doctor said son/you have a Reggae-mylitis. Is it contagious?Is it outrageous?Is it vicious or is it dangerous… n