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Throughout this course, one can see how music and politics is quite a unique interaction. As Marcello Sorce Keller states in his article:
“One of the most intriguing continuity traits encountered in the study of music, East and West, is the recurring belief in music’s ability to influence human behavior and, therefore social order.” (104)
This statement pertains to the topic of what was taking place in Jamaica during this time. What makes this study interesting is the power of influence music holds. In chapter nine of Streets book, the section “power of music” (162), defines this value. Through his research and from theorists, this power can be best described as music having the ability to initiate a neurological drive that stores sounds and generates emotions. In relevance to Keller’s article, to utilize this interaction can be advantageous for many reasons toward a political agenda. This is relative to the majority of people who associate music with certain lifestyles. Sometimes, it is the environment that plays the influential role which leads me into the introduction and history of the topic.
While researching text written about the 1970’s in Jamaica, I discovered authors who published material about the country during this period of time, particularly books and articles. The authors provide detailed information of Jamaica through music and political studies in its history. While the authors discuss the history, influences and issues, the information supports the purpose of this paper. To produce material that connects the powerful interaction of music and politics due to a demand of economic reform during this time. To begin, first there must be an understanding of Jamaica’s background before examining the topic in which I now turn.
Christopher Columbus first sighted Jamaica in 1494, and by 1509 Spanish colonists occupied the country. Britain established its control on Jamaica in 1655, but it was not until 1670 that the Spaniards gave up their control and recognized British dominance. The 1700s saw an economic boom with Jamaica becoming [the] largest producer of sugar across the world. The economic boom, however, led to the growth of slavery and other evils. Slavery was later abolished in 1834 after the British colonists enacted the Emancipation Law in wake of growing slave revolts and uprisings.
At about this time nationalistic sentiments were on the rise and a movement towards independence started to take shape. In the 1930s and early 1940s, Jamaica saw the birth of two political parties People’s National Party (PNP), and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). In 1944, Jamaica held its first elections which were won by JLP. JLP was replaced by PNP in 1955, and in 1958 Jamaica joined the Federation of West Indies, but withdrew in 1961. Finally, on August 6, 1962, Jamaica achieved freedom from British colonial rule. (Maps of World)
This new-found independence gave the Jamaican people to opportunity to develop their own identity. This opportunity was linked to a religion that was on the rise called, Rastafarianism. Rastafarianism was at the beginning of bringing its own movement amongst the Jamaican people. The details of the religions history and causes can be best presented by a 60 Minute CBS special hosted by Dan Rather. In this video, he films directly from Jamaica;
Advisory: (Aggressive language and drug use.)
Through this video, it is easily seen how Rastafarianism is its own movement that holds a strong influence with reggae music among the Jamaican people. As the country progressed into the 1970’s, there were concerns facing the citizens such as poverty with the unemployment rate at 20%, radicalism and violence. This was due to capitalism being the dominate form of government during the 1960’s. This rendered inevitable causes for the majority of people to be low on the socio-economic scale. Due to these factors, it left most of the Jamaican people in a state of suffering that initiated a demand for economic reform.
- Keller, Marcello Sorce. “Why Is Music So Ideological, and Why Do Totalitarian States Take It So Seriously? A Personal View from History and the Social Sciences.” Journal of Musicological Research 26.2-3 (2007): 91-122. Print.
- “Independence Day of Jamaica.” Jamaica Independence Day. Maps of World, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
- Street, John. “Ch. 9.” Music and Politics. Malden: Polity, 2012. 162-164. Print.
- Rather, Dan. “60 MINUTES – “The Rastafarians”” YouTube. YouTube, 1980. Web. 1 May 2015.