In November 2018 the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) accepted the submission made by Jamaica’s Minister of Culture Babsy Grange to have reggae music inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This list was established by virtue of the UNESCO 2013 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The aim of the Convention is to ensure better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide, and to promote awareness of their significance. Despite the misunderstandings and diverse opinions expressed about the UNESCO recognition of reggae, I think we can agree that several music genres and major pop stars stand on the shoulders of a first generation of musical pioneers from Jamaica. There would be no Reggaeton or Hip Hop without the influence of Jamaican musical culture, and artists such as Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, Major Lazer, Sting and Bruno Mars would be the first to tell you how much Jamaican music impacted their development.
The following list is by no means an exhaustive one, but among the musical pioneers that contributed to Jamaica’s rich intangible cultural heritage I would include Count Ossie, King Tubby, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Third World, Inner Circle, King Jammy, Lee Scratch Perry, Coxsone Dodd, Sly & Robbie, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Culture, and Toots Hibbert. The accomplishments of these and other early Jamaican musicians are even more startling when one takes into consideration the difficult environment in which they functioned, with inadequate industry infrastructure and resistance from the colonial and post-colonial system.
Music business mogul Chris Blackwell once said that the glory days of Jamaican music are over, and that we will never again experience what transpired musically in the 1970s. Maybe the same argument could be made about the 1970s music scene in the UK and USA. It is my opinion that Jamaica and the world is about to experience the global impact of the second generation of Jamaican music. I invite you to explore and analyze the music of the biological off-springs of some of the early exponents of music from Jamaica, namely, the Marley brothers, Chronixx, Protoje, the sons of King Jammy and Cat Coore of Third World, Nadia McAnuff, Hempress Sativa, Runkus, and Stephen McGregor.
While I have a high level of respect for the judgement of Chris Blackwell when it comes to Jamaican musical talent, I am going to predict that the best years of Jamaican music are yet to come. I base my prediction on the work being done by the children of early Jamaican music pace-setters and their peers, such as Etana, Kumar Fyah, Jesse Royal, Jah9, Kabaka Pyramid, Samory I, EarthKry, Agent Sasco, Sevana, Lila Ike, Koffee, Kelissa and Skygrass.
So, for those among us who continue to berate and belittle current Jamaican music, I leave you with the words of my now favorite Jamaican singer Prince Kumar Fyah – IT’S ALRIGHT