Still Searching … Finding Marley and Losing Ourselves

ImageAttending the premier of the film Marley at Emancipation Park, last Thursday was an interesting adventure, and not merely because the movie was good. Kevin MacDonald did a fine job of creating an interesting story about an engaging man, and it is very well told. My only point of issue is that he allowed Cindy Breakspeare to be the character to explain Rastafari, which for me grated. Of all the people in that film, I thought if someone was going to explain Rasta, it should be a Rasta. But I’m biased.

I was also awed at the unnecessary use of segregation measures at a park named for the achievement of emancipation for a film about a man who spoke about equality. We still appear to be too concerned with strata in this country and far too often assume that our people will misbehave and if the chairs are done will suddenly riot in the streets rather than calmly pull for a square of grass. Partitioning off the segment of the park before the main stage for supposed VIPs (and therefore relegating the rest of us to PIVs – Poor Innocent Victims a la Chinua Achebe) was completely unnecessary. Apparently, none of the organizers had heard that “until the philosophy that holds one man superior and another inferior is totally discredited and abandoned…”

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That said, I think that the flock of Jamaicans who turned out for a documentary certainly speaks to the continued strength of Bob’s legend. Watching the film on the grass at Emancipation Park, in the open air, even the bit of rain that started late in the night, augmented the whole experience and highlights the potential strength of the cultural industries and the increase vibrancy of Kingston as a thriving city if we found ways to improve and diversify available entertainment through out the year.

Of course, a part of our problem with dealing with culture and the creative industries is that we still seem to have our perspective twisted and despite producing Garvey, Marley, Bogle, Bedward, Nanny, Reggae, Rastafari and Jerk we are still unable to fully grasp who and what we are. Certainly, we still have a very strange idea of what is culture and the value and role of the cultural industries. A strange thing therefore happened on Thursday night. Ibo Cooper was introducing Majah Bless to perform a poem. Now aside from the fact that the addition of the poem to the evening was completely unnecessary, my real point is that Cooper introduced it as a “cultural item”. As though the film which we were about to see was not a “cultural item”. This kind of arbitrary mind blowing relegation of culture to poetry and dem things is a part of why the creative industries continue to struggle. Of course, please note that Calabash points to the great potential of poetry and dem tings as well.

Of course the true heart of the matter always comes back to the way that we treat Reggae and the general lack of support given to the cultural industries. Reggae Month continues to struggle despite its potential impact to totally revolutionize Jamaica’s continually diminishing role in the global Reggae landscape. Only when we return Jamaica to the kind of Mecca for all Reggae officianados can we begin to scratch the surface of the music’s potential for earning for this country.

For this aspect, I will turn over to Mr. Lexx. I receive the quote below via a bb blast last week and I thought it would be interesting to share it here.

Disclaimer: This blogger does not agree with all the assertions below, but he has a point.

On Jamaica Carnival — There is no name bigger in the world than ‘Marley’ musically. No not Presley, not ‘Jackson’, and not Montano.. Marley has more prestige anywhere in world than any other musical last name. Anyone that has travelled should know the power of Jamaican culture, of which our music is an integral part.. So why is “JAMAICA”s carnival a celebration of SOCA music?
Don’t get me wrong, i am not fighting down soca music at all, but when you label something as ‘Jamaican’, a country that has so musically inspired the world.. it should reflect our culture..

Mighty Crown has a reggae dancehall party of over 40 thousand ppl in Japan. Ppl everywhere love our music. Yet we produce hip hop and r & b and our carnival is soca.. Sighs.. Imagine a carnival where 3 truck were rockers with Sanchez & Richie Stephens etc, 5 dancehall trucks w. Octane Movado TOK Sean Paul Marshall Popcaan Konshens Bounty Beenie etc, 5 with reggae music w. Tarrus Jr Gong & Kimani Marley Jah Cure etc..

Road wuda BLOCK & hotels sell off with ppl from around the worldddd coming to our country to celebrate our music and culture with us..

Patwa is NOT broken english (its a different language altogether – check the semantics) & our music and culture is arguably the greatest per capita in the world! Big up all who love Soca, but JAMAICA’s carnival should be JAMAICAN music. Not for MY benefit, but for the country’s. Soca locks Jamaican streets & roadways in the middle of the day & we have no choice, while OUR dancehall locks off at NIGHT at 2am. Why don’t our ‘leaders’ stop bickering over gang colors like bloods and crips, and move towards supporting the culture..??” (By Mr Lexx)

 

On a final note. What I love about this film is that it properly contextualizes Marley. There are some interesting silences and I won’t try to go into what caused them and the film is good. By having this free and open premiere it also allowed many Jamaicans to know a lot more about one of our major icons, and the man behind the image that represents us in most parts of the world. But even as the film allows us to find Marley we still seem to be loosing ourselves.

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