On Reggae as true world music

Thirty years after the release of The Harder they Come, the narratives and the images that the movie presented in 1972 remain a central aspect of a broader Jamaican narrative. In the interim, the political scene in Jamaica has experienced volatile and often violent changes.

Large multinational corporations like Sony and MCA have replaced the Mr. Hiltons of the early 1970s, Jamaica has become a bridge for transporting cocaine between South America and the U.S., and “Uzis have replaced hand guns.”

The tourist industry continues to thrive, achieving more and more isolation from the daily lives of most Jamaicans, and Jamaicans continue to migrate to Britain and the U.S. As reggae has spread through the world, like most music of “the black atlantic,” it has undergone tremendous transformations and mixed with rap and other forms of music.

As Maureen Sheridan reports, “reggae today is a true world music. From Siberia to the Seychelle Islands, from Agadir to Tokyo, the talking drum and bass of Jamaica have spread their seductive message, and there are no signs of its movement slowing down.”

Some social theorists and arts intellectuals speculate on the power of popular music style like reggae and rap to trigger social consciousness and radical change.

However, this analysis of The Harder They Come illustrates the precarious balance between music as a revolutionary force and the cooptation of cultural products for “producing, reproducing or destroying the representations that make groups visible for themselves and for others.”

Ultimately, the effectiveness of a cultural product like reggae does not rely in itself as an artistic form, as Herbert Marcuse would argue.

Instead, the subversive potential of the arts lies in the practices and the struggles over meaning around which they are produced and consumed. When new cultures encounter each other and when political processes force different cultural practices, symbols, and values to intersect and interact with each, as in the case of India or Jamaica, interstices
that emerge are the true “location of culture,” defined as an active process of negotiation, redefinition, and re-presentation.

Found in THE LAST “REDEMPTION SONG,” SELLING JAMAICA, from:
Reggae, Ganja, and Black Bodies: Power, Meaning, and the Markings of Postcolonial Jamaica in Perry Henzell s The Harder They Come
by Rubn A. Gaztambide-Fern ndez (2002.), Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies.
Art source: Words in the Bucket.

 

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