En una serie de encuentros, famosos periodistas, escritores, académicos, así como facultativos y artistas del mundo reggae, se reúnen para conversar, discutir y analizar aspectos y momentos importantes de la música y de la cultura reggae.
Las sesiones se concentran en el pasado, presente y futuro del reggae para explorar la evolución de la música, así como su naturaleza global, como uno de los estilos musicales contemporáneos más influyentes arraigado en una rica herencia cultural. Las sesiones de la University tratan sobre varios temas que abarcan desde el diverso repertorio musical (desde el dub hasta el dancehall), pasando por los contenidos líricos, los aspectos emancipatorios, sociales y políticos, la profundidad espiritual, así como la manifestación musical en películas y libros.
El colectivo encargado de las sesiones está formado por David Katz, biógrafo de Lee “Scratch” Perry y autor de “Solid Foundation: An oral History of Reggae”, y consultor creativo de varios sellos discográficos de reggae; Ellen Koehlings y Pete Lilly, editores de la revista alemana Riddim, y Pier Tosi, periodista italiano que dirige un programa de radio, punto de referencia para la reggae massive italiana.
6.00 pm VIBES
With Donna Hope (University of Kingston)
Invited artists: Shaggy and Queen Ifrika
Info coming soon
7.00 pm BOB MARLEY, THE ISLAND YEARS
With Vivien Goldman (University of New York) and Chris Salewicz (author, UK)
Vivien Goldman and Chris Salewicz have both written important books about Bob Marley. But unlike some of the other Marley scribes, each has the advantage of having known the man personally.
Vivien Goldman, Bob’s personal chronicler, worked as a press officer at Island Records for seven months and contributed—as she says, “in a humble way”—to Bob’s breakthrough at a time when most of the press was still ignoring the uprising rude boy. In the winter of 1976, after the Jamaican government declared a State of Emergency, in which anyone caught with an unlicensed firearm (or even a spent bullet) immediately found themselves slapped with “indefinite detention” at the infamous Gun Court, and Kingston was under a state of siege, Goldman found herself at Marley’s Kingston headquarters, 56 Hope Road. In the midst of all the chaos, Bob had created a safe spot, a refuge where his “bredrin” from both political camps, which were fighting pitched battles with their respective gangs in the streets, could meet and discuss the many obstacles of the time. Vivien stayed at Bob’s Rasta camp for a couple of days shortly before the terrible assassination attempt on the reggae singer.
Three years later, in 1979, the writer Chris Salewicz also visited 56 Hope Road to meet with the man, journeying with him to the aforementioned Gun Court in the hopes of releasing a detainee—a most memorable experience, which the writer recounted in his Marley biography, The Untold Story, and which he also related in a special issue of RIDDIM magazine “livicated” to Bob Marley.
Goldman and Salewicz have more in common than simply knowing Marley personally and spending time with him at 56 Hope Road. Both worked for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records at a time when reggae was still striving for acceptance, and both shared a deep love for punk and reggae music alike; indeed, both were famous for their feature articles on these revolutionary musical styles, published in important British newspapers of the era (including Melody Maker, Sounds and New Musical Express), and both witnessed and partook of a time when London was enjoying its “punky reggae party.” In this session, they will talk about their personal experiences with Bob Marley and about their work at Island, focussing on a time that was very exciting, but also very dangerous.
6.00 pm IMAGES OF AFRICA
With Professor Louis Chude-Sokei (University of Washington) and Luciano (artist, Jamaica)
In Jamaican reggae, we can find myriad songs about Africa, partly because the history of slavery is still too painful to be forgotten, no matter how many years have passed by since the gruesome and traumatizing experience. Having been brutally robbed of your own roots, identity, family, habitat, self-confidence, and yes, your own life as such, and then being transplanted to another environment and degraded to an animal-like status still has very real repercussions on the life of so many Jamaicans. However, with the passing of several generations, images of Africa have become terribly blurred, and may also collide with the negative representations of the worldwide news, which reduces the continent to one riven by poverty and war. And whilst slogans such as “Africa for the Africans”, “Back to Africa”, and “Repatriation is a Must” were very common in Jamaica’s past, as well as in many early reggae songs, over time, the meaning of these demands/claims have shifted. And since Jamaican reggae has also become very popular in various African countries in more recent times, how do these countries respond to the notions of Africa presented in Jamaican songs? Do these presentations maybe also collide with African realities, as do those provided via television, or these days, via Internet-transported images?
In his work, US-based academic Louis Chude-Sokei, who was born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, discusses the tensions and contradictions that emerge when Jamaicans began to invent and popularize notions of identity, culture, and politics, which they refer to as “African”, and he takes a closer look at what happens when those ideas get imported “Back to Africa” via sound.
Similarly, if we examine the catalogue of the successful reggae singer Luciano, we come across many songs dealing with Africa in one way or another. There are some obvious ones, in which he refers to the continent in the title (“Forward To Africa”, “African Skies”, “Africa Sweat”, “I Pray For Mama Africa”, “African Woman”, “Back To Africa”, “African Liberty”, etc), and there are many others in which he talks about various aspects of the Motherland. One of his latest albums was even titled United States Of Africa. Luciano has also travelled and performed across the continent.
In this session Louis Chude-Sokei will give a short summary of his essay “When Echoes Return: Roots, Diaspora and Possible Africas,” which will be part of his forthcoming book The Sound Of Culture. He and Luciano will then go on to discusses various aspects of the images of Africa, as represented through reggae music
7.00 pm NO WOMAN NO CRY
Rita Marley and Professor Carolyn Cooper (University of Kingston) in Conversation
Rita Marley’s controversial autobiography, No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley, was exactly what her critics had been waiting for. Instead of viewing it as an account of the man by someone who knew him best, everyone jumped on a casual remark in the work that suggested her husband, the “King of Reggae,” obviously wasn’t only concerned with “One Love” when it came to his private life—as though it was big news that Mr Marley had been chasing after every skirt that came his way during his lifetime.
However, one of Jamaica’s leading academics and top cultural critics, Professor Carolyn Cooper, gave the book a more careful critical analysis, whilst also questioning the common marketing strategies it had been subject to (such as selling the book as a Bob Marley biography, rather than the life history of his widow), and thus came to the conclusion that the book is actually a documentary of a strong woman that transformed herself from “Blackie Tootus” (a racially derisive term referring to her dark complexion) to an independent woman that was able to live a “life without Bob Marley.” Ultimately, Cooper reads Rita Marley’s autobiography as a black feminist fable, an allegoric narrative about the determination to overcome the narrow confines that were conceded to a poor black woman of 1940s Jamaica. As we all know, Rita has certainly succeeded in many concrete ways; she is a strong and powerful woman that can serve as a role model for black women, and indeed, oppressed women all over the world.
It will be exciting and fascinating to witness two such strong women, Carolyn Cooper and Rita Marley, discussing a life journey that many believe they already know so many things about, when in reality, most hardly have a clue.
6.00 pm RASTAMAN VIBRATION: EXPLORING THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MARCUS GARVEY AND RASTAFARI IN JAMAICAN MUSIC AND CULTURE
With Colin Grant (author, UK) and Brigadier Jerry (artist, Jamaica)
Open to endless forms of interpretation, the Rastafari faith means many different things to many different people. First emerging in the turbulent era of the 1930s, when Jamaica was gripped by labour strikes and societal struggles relating to skin tone, the faith was partly inspired by the fiery speeches of Marcus Garvey, one of Jamaica’s heroes of black self-determination, whose campaigns to ‘uplift the mighty race’ inspired African freedom fighters such as Kwame Nkrumah, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King in the USA.
Although the international prominence of reggae music has helped to subsequently spread Rastafari doctrine all over the world, most notably through the recordings and performances of Bob Marley and the Wailers, followers of Rastafari are still very much a minority in Jamaica, often facing discrimination, and yearning to be repatriated to a distant African homeland. From the early days of the Jamaican music scene, as most musicians and performers were members of the black underclass, the vast majority of the music’s foundation figures have been Rastafari adherents, the music providing an alternate space in which they can express their beliefs, using reggae as a means to ‘chant down Babylon,’ in direct opposition to the status quo upheld by the Jamaican mainstream. Yet, Rasta can be baffling to outsiders that struggle to understand its dense mysticism, accompanied by coded language, a dramatic dress code, and other seemingly contradictory aspects that make the faith distinctly unique.
In order to help us better understand various aspects of Rastafari and its symbiotic relation to reggae music and Jamaican culture, we are fortunate to benefit from the appearance of Brigadier Jerry, the leading DJ from Jah Love Muzik, the sound system most associated with the Twelve Tribes of Israel. During the 1970s, the Twelve Tribes became one of the more prominent branches of Rastafari, including both Bob Marley and Dennis Brown amongst their ranks, and after an apprenticeship on Sturgav, ‘Papa Briggy’ as he is affectionately known, became renowned on Jah Love Muzik for his stylistic dynamism and relaxed, understated delivery, with the Bible often a direct source of inspiration for his lyrics; by 1980, he was among the most in-demand performers on the island, and he remains a legendary figure that helped keep cultural lyrics alive during the dancehall era.
To give further context to the proceedings, we will be joined by British author and independent historian Colin Grant, whose biography of Marcus Garvey, Negro With A Hat, was highly acclaimed, while his latest book, I & I the Natural Mystics, explores various aspects of the Wailers’ evolution, including the ways in which their adherence to Rastafari was crucial to the personal development of each member of the group.
6.00 pm EVOLUTIONS IN REGGAE FOUNDATION
With Bunny "Striker" Lee (producer, Jamaica), Johnny Clarke (artist, Jamaica) Michael Prophet (artist, Uk) and John Masouri (author, UK).
Info coming soon