Reggae Month in Jamaica

Are you patriotic? What does being patriotic mean to you?

February around the world is a special time for people of African descent, such as myself. We celebrate the achievements of our race and our rich heritage, while pausing to reflect on the atrocities of chattel slavery which our ancestors endured and which interrupted our history for three centuries. However, in Jamaica, February has much more special meaning.


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On January 9, 2008, the Government of Jamaica officially declared February as Reggae Month to highlight and celebrate the significant impact of the reggae music genre on Jamaica’s social, cultural and economic development. February also happens to be the birthdays of two Jamaican reggae music legends– Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley and Dennis Brown. I’m sure this influenced our leaders in selecting February as the month to celebrate reggae.

Bob Marley statue at Trench Town Culture Yard

Now, how does Jamaica celebrate Reggae Month? There are usually events held at the resting places of these reggae legends, a free concert organized by Bob Marley’s children and held at his last-home-in-Jamaica-turned-museum and maybe one other concert or two, and a few press conferences and workshops.

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Reggae Month 2023

Capleton in concert 2023

However, like every other facet of life, Reggae Month was also affected by the pandemic. In-person events which were always well supported were cancelled in 2021 and 2022. The celebrations were held virtually, but were tangibly less impactful and supported. Now that our local transmission rate for Covid-19 has been consistently low for several months, there has been a resurgence of social gatherings and for 2023, Reggae Month returned to physical events! Mostly centred in Kingston which also happens to be the birthplace of reggae, the events this past month have included:

  • Reggae Wednesdays with live music from popular reggae artistes by the Kingston Waterfront. There have been other treats and special additions too such as: a fashion show last Wednesday and a festival marketplace earlier in the month. Best part is that all these Wednesday concerts have been FREE to the public.
  • An extremely well executed concert with the reggae icon Sanchez on Thursday February 2. Sanchez doesn’t get all the flowers he deserves, having only been awarded a national medal in 2022 for a career which spans several decades. Nonetheless, he has one of the best voices to have emerged from Jamaica and still sounds as good today as he did 40 years ago. Growing up in Jamaica, Sanchez’ music plays on the radio every day and his music often opens every street dance, family gathering and oldies event. What an icon! Seeing him in concert for FREE was a once in a lifetime treat.
  • A week-long reggae conference in New Kingston with new and established reggae musicians, social media personalities, marketers, lawyers, producers and just about everyone involved in and employed by reggae. I didn’t attend but I hear it was well supported and filled with excellent networking and learning opportunities re branding and more.
  • The highly anticipated February 6 Bob Marley Tribute Concert, held to honor Bob Marley’s birthday. It was held at the beautiful Emancipation Park in New Kingston and featured acts such as Gyptian, Max Romeo, Capleton, Marcia Griffiths, Queen Ifrica, Etana, Lutan Fyah, G-Whizz, George Nooks and Julian Marley. There were a few glitches with the sound and lighting, but besides those it was an excellent concert and reminded me about the beauty of being Jamaican, growing up here in the rich culture and music of my people. I felt proud to be Jamaican.
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Am I Patriotic?

Now, to answer the WordPress prompt of the day– am I patriotic to Jamaica? Yes, but on many days that patriotism feels hard as my country grapples with a very high crime and corruption rate, ranking consistently in the top 10 most violent countries in the world and also among the top 6 most corrupt countries in the Caribbean. Our wages are so low that it should be downright illegal– minimum wage is $9000JMD per week (US$60 per week). This adds to our poverty and further fuels our crime, desperation and our brain drain rates. Jamaica has the world’s second highest brain drain rate and majority of our skilled and educated young people have either already left or are in various stages of considering or planning to migrate. I have no active plans to leave but it’s a thought which crosses my mind often. Considering I could easily earn 5 times what I do now, while working better hours and with more resources… sometimes I feel stupid for staying. You’d wonder then how can I truly be patriotic for having those thoughts.

Well for starters, Jamaica is a special place. We have a lot for which to be thankful. Our country is extremely beautiful and filled with natural resources. We have close to one hundred rivers, about fifty waterfalls and the land is lush, green and fruitful. I am in love with our mountains which make up 50% of the island. I take delight in discovering and showcasing those beautiful places on Adventures from Elle.

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Girl sipping from coconut on a bamboo raft at Martha Brae

In addition to that, our reggae and dancehall music feels like home as Reggae Month reminded me once more. I love being in a crowd at a concert or party with a mixture of local faces and excited foreign faces jumping to the pulsating beat of our music. I love speaking Jamaican patois, understanding and being understood. I love our proverbs, slangs and even our expletives. They are so colorful and descriptive! I love trying the new dances and failing miserably. I love having easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables, coconuts, freshly baked Jamaican patties, seafood, Blue Mountain coffee, Jamaican chocolate and more. I love the familiarity of the island– its roads, history and culture and of course, having family and friends in close proximity (well, the ones who haven’t left– yet). There’s more too which is difficult to put into words– a kind of kinship and bond to Jamaica which I’m not sure I’ll ever find with any other land. That’s why most Jamaicans who migrate still visit very often, and if we go to visit, we have to sneak in lots of Jamaican rum, patties, fried fish, Red Stripe beer, ackee and other Jamaican delicacies for them. Jamaicans mostly migrate for opportunities, not because we dislike Jamaica or are unpatriotic.

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Wrap Up

This is my first time taking part in a WordPress prompt, but when I saw this prompt I couldn’t let it pass. I love this recent update; I think it will encourage more writers to write and further hone their talent. 200+ articles and 6 years later, I am definitely a better writer now than in 2016. Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this personal and sensitive topic of patriotism. Are you patriotic to your country of birth, or to somewhere else? Why or why not? Comment down below.

‘Til next time. ✌🏾


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Published by

Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a travel blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. The blog is curated by Rochelle Knight, a junior resident (M.D.) in internal medicine and published author. She began the blog in 2016 as a medical student & wants to see the world, starting with her home country. Purchase her book 'SIGHTSEE JAMAICA' on Amazon and join her in Jamaica!

38 thoughts on “Reggae Month in Jamaica

  1. February sounds like such a vibrant month! I love your take on patriotism. In my opinion, you wouldn’t be patriotic if you weren’t so insightful. If people had more insight like you, there wouldn’t be toxic patriotism

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing post Rochelle! I like how you describe your bitter-sweet relationship with Jamaica. Things could definitely be better for all of us in countries that grapple with corruption, poor wages and brain drain however, the situation must not engulf the few other “things” that make us crave for better days.

    Hey, heads up! I think your Amazon link is broken. You may want to look into that to confirm.

    Nice to read from you again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erico, you’re back! Welcome 🙂 it’s been a while. I agree. I believe in working towards better opportunities while enjoying the positives of where we’re currently stationed in life.

      Re the Amazon link, I started having an issue with the store 🫠 working on it! Thanks for the heads up

      Like

  3. I didn’t know February was Reggae Month in Jamaica! All those events sounds amazing! I also loved reading your thoughts on patriotism and completely understand your view: having two “home countries”, I sometimes lack the sens of belonging and the “roots” of having just one home country, but I do miss my “homes” everywhere I go, that’s for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

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