Jamaican music is catalyst for social change



After gaining independence from British rule, Ska was one of the first truly Jamaican music to be recorded. According to John downing in his article Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media, “Ska reflected the optimism of the young generation that grew up with the hope of casting off the colonial yoke and building ‘the new Jamaica’” (Downing, 2011). Since the inception of Ska, Jamaicans have been using music to represent the voice of those unheard, who were usually poor inner city citizens. Jamaican music has been used as a catalyst for social change and in colloquial terms “Killed two birds with one stone” acting as a message and the medium through which this message is delivered.



Through the earliest forms of Jamaican music such as Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae, Jamaicans made it clear that they were not pleased with the hegemonic behaviours of the political leaders. Other messages in the music were the discomfort of their economical status and concerns about the upsurge of violent killings. Songs such as Rivers of Babylon (Reggae) and Cry Tough (Rock Steady) are perfect examples of the music used to advocate for social change. Emphasized by the Rastafarian movement and their adherence to reggae, music is one of the most effective mediums that can be used to get a message across. Etched into the music, a message of love, unity and hope for a better life was spread across Jamaica through times when political violence was at its peak. Jamaicans knew they needed change; their message was clear but usually unheard due to efforts of the more powerful upper class. Realising the influence of music, artistes began to write about social injustice knowing it would reach the ears of everyone including persons overseas. In conclusion, from the emergence of Ska the Jamaican people knew they had the attention of the world like never before. As the music transitioned and evolved into different genres they used it as a medium to “up the ante” on social reformation.


Downing, J. (2011). Encyclopedia of social movement media. London,UK:Sage Publications,Inc


Out of many one Jamaica; we are Jamaicans

“Jamaica’s apparently peculiar position is usually explained along lines somewhat like this: We are neither Africans though most of us are black. We are neither Anglo Saxon though some of us would have others believe this. We are Jamaican! And what does this mean?” (Nettleford, 1998 p.23)

out of many 1 people1Jamaica is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean and the world but the variety of races which make up our people, far encompasses the size of this rock we have grown to love. Long before, and after our independence, Jamaicans struggled to find a single term that could represent us all. With no success, the Jamaican motto “Out of many one people” was carefully crafted; these words ideally captured the true picture of the Jamaican citizens. Dr. Rex Nettleford in his essay National Identity and Attitudes to race in Jamaica highlighted that this desire to define ourselves still exist among our people today, and it is the word “many” that persons pay close attention to in the motto ignoring the idea that we have become one.

The quotation portrays the idea that though some Jamaicans have accepted that they are descendants of one or more race that were taken here during slavery, there are some who firmly believe that they are nothing but Jamaicans. I too share the view that many races have become one and we are Jamaicans. Although heavily influenced by the Africans and the British we have still found ways to acquire unique characteristics that set us apart as a people. Jamaican creole and Reggae music are two examples of such characteristics that define us, our foods and the crops we cultivate are other factors that have helped to mold us into an independent people.

Presently the Caribbean looks to North America, Canada and England as the guiding nations that influence and define us. They affect our media, how we dress and what we eat. Even though most of the countries are under the same influence they can still be individually identified because of their originality. We are black, but not Africans, neither are we Anglo Saxon: Out of many, one Jamaica. We are Jamaicans.


Nettleford, R. (1998) Mirror, Mirror. Identity Race and Protest in Jamaica. 2nd edition Kingston, LMH Publishing p. 16-33