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  • Writer's pictureSarah Miles

A Toast to Reggae with Reggae Month Jamaica

What rings a bell when you think of February? The leap year? Bob Marley's birthday? I don't know bout unnu, but Reggae Month immediately comes to my mind.

Reggae Month was first declared by the Jamaican government back in 2008 and, since then, has grown immensely into the action-packed celebration that it is today. Every year, Reggae Month honours the impact of the world renowned genre, paying tribute to reggae greats of the past, the present and the future.

The 2020 staging of Reggae Month was bigger and better than ever. This year's theme was 'Come Ketch Di Riddim'- and it was definitely hard not to. From exhilarating concerts to educational art exhibitions and relaxing film screenings in the park, there was a diverse and exciting cultural event taking place each day, perfect for all reggae enthusiasts. With events across the island, including Kingston, Falmouth, Mandeville, Montego Bay and Port Antonio, Jamaicans and tourists alike were given the opportunity to partake in these fantastic festivities.

While I was stuck in the freezing Canadian winter for the majority of February, I was honoured to be invited to attend the Prime Minister's Closing Reception for Reggae Month on March 1st. The theme for the finale night was 'Toast to the Reggae Industry', and that it definitely was.

The night was nothing short of eventful. As I stepped onto the lawns of Jamaica House, I was in complete awe. Taking over Reggae Month's Instagram stories, it felt so special to be able to share the night with everyone else. There were definitely a few moments throughout the night that I had to pinch myself and fully absorb and appreciate where I was and the company I was amongst.

It was an absolute privilege to be surrounded by, and even meet, influential Jamaican icons who have shaped reggae into what it is today. Being able to rock the night away to amazing performances from both upcoming and well-known acts - Julian Marley and Luciano to name a few - is a memory that I will cherish forever.

Six years ago, my life changed when I moved away to Canada to pursue further education. While reggae music was always an important part of my life, it wasn't until then that I understood how crucial it was to Jamaica. Without a doubt, every person that I met would associate my 'Jamaican-ness' with reggae music...specifically, Bob Marley. Reggae music quickly became a part of my identity and continues to impact how I feel represented and seen miles away from home.

Being able to travel and witness the positive influence of reggae, and learn about the role it has played on people's lives, has been so rewarding. Music is a force that connects us all, no matter one's place of origin, language, creed, race or sex, and one can't help but smile and sway upon hearing the opening melody of Bob Marley's 'One Love'.

More recently, I have been able to notice the effect of reggae music on my roommate who is currently visiting from Canada. Not only was she able to attend the Prime Minister's Closing Reception with me, but she was able to immerse herself into reggae's rich history and vibrant atmosphere while visiting the National Gallery's 'Jamaica Jamaica' exhibition and touring the Bob Marley Museum. Such a large part of her experience on our island has been shaped by our music, and we must continue to explore these areas of Jamaica within our tourism industry.

After all, reggae music is a large part of Jamaica's imprint and stamp on the world. Since its inception, it has impacted people from all walks of life globally, and undoubtedly has immense capability to continue to do so. As perfectly said by the Honourable Edmund Bartlett, "reggae is the heartbeat of Jamaica, so Jamaica will become the heartbeat of the world." This encapsulates why cultural events and endeavours like Reggae Month are so important.

Reggae is more than just a musical genre. This product has placed our likkle but tallawah island on the international stage, and holds so much potential to strengthen brand Jamaica. It has the ability to build our tourism industry but also strengthen ourselves as one nation.

Reggae is Jamaica, and Jamaica is reggae. I can't wait to see how reggae music, and most importantly Reggae Month, will continue to flourish across our island and the world.

This post is sponsored by Reggae Month Jamaica. As always, all opinions and ideas are entirely my own.


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