How is Music in Jamaica Different Today than When Bob Marley was Alive?

From the musician who gave us lyrics such as those from his song, Satisfy My Soul:

When I meet you around the corner (round the corner),

You make me feel like a sweepstake winner (a sweep – a sweepstake winner).

Whoa, child! Can’t you see? You must believe me!

Oh darling, darling, I’m calling, calling:

Can’t you see? Why won’t you believe me?

When analyzing the songs written by Bob Marley, one can hear his love for life, his passion for Rastafarianism and his distaste for much of the injustice that was a sign of the times then. Even in such songs as Exodus, his lyrics convey his wish to empower his fellow brothers and sisters, by way of lifting oneself up and looking within to find the answers to difficulties everyone faces.

Conversely, lyrics in present day Reggaeton and Dancehall, which advocate violence and hate, have even the fans of the music torn between loving the beat and hating the lyrics they represent.

Throughout 9 Mile and the island nation of Jamaica, music has long been an expression of the dissatisfaction with the poverty, crime and living conditions of the majority. What appears to be different today vs. when Bob Marley and the Wailers were writing and singing about the issues that plague the country is possibly perspective. While Marley clearly advocated taking responsibility for ones actions and if empowering people to stand up be heard, he never advocated violence as a vehicle to achieve this. Embracing the principles of Rastafarianism, which by nature is non-violent and peaceful, Bob Marley did all he could to spread a message of love and understanding.

It’s difficult to imagine that the man, who is ultimately responsible for putting Reggae on the International map, would be very happy to hear the lyrics of the popular Jamaican genres of today.

At the moment, it would seem as though both Reggaeton and Dancehall are not going anywhere anytime soon. While some love the music for its ability to get fans on the dance floor, others appear to be inspired by the message of hate and taking matters into your own hands.

As with all fads, one can only hope that as the expression goes, this too shall pass.

One Response to “How is Music in Jamaica Different Today than When Bob Marley was Alive?”

  1. Stephen Says:

    In general, I agree with your viewpoint on this, although of course any musical style can be used for good or ill depending on the heart or intent of the musicians.
    Bob was a man with a massive heart full of the one love, who happened to be a gifted musician (okay, let’s face it, a musical genius), who happened to be born in a time and place where reggae was his vehicle.
    It all starts with the love, in my opinion.
    In the late 70s popular culture was more supportive of universal love as a mainstream message. I have no doubt that there are musicians with massive hearts full of love, but they are not gaining the support they deserve.
    Looking forward to the pendulum swinging back in a positive direction!

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