Appropriation or appreciation? The Global Impact and Influence of Reggae Music | Entertainment


The global impact and influence of reggae music cannot be denied or restrained. And even as this heartbeat of our people permeates the four corners of the earth, questions arise about the use and misuse of Jamaica’s music and culture by outsiders. While many reggae artists have publicly stated that foreigners who use reggae music are simply showing their appreciation for the culture, there are others who think the issues aren’t really that simple and also, there are has a rather thin line between appreciation and appropriation.

Musician, producer, broadcaster, DJ, Arif ‘Supa Coop’ Cooper of FAME FM, whose vast experience has made him wonder how much the local music industry benefits from what is seen as an appreciation of culture. Cooper is convinced that if there are no benefits, it is strictly about appropriation.

Pointing the spotlight at a few players on the world stage who have taken inspiration from reggae and dancehall music, Cooper questions how their use of music has advanced the local music industry. “Let’s look at Rihanna. We know that she enjoys reggae and dancehall, but no one locally takes advantage of it. She made the song To work, which was produced by Boy Wonder, who has Jamaican roots, but that’s about it. Diplo does it, and Khaled does it,” he said. The Sunday Gleaner.

On DJ Khaled’s recent release Asahd’s father album is a song titled Holy Mountain, with Buju Banton, Sizzla and Mavado. Much has been said and written about this song, but Cooper seems unimpressed with the supposed value of this collaboration. Highlighting that DJ Khaled works with established artists, he asked, “How did this song help Sizzla, Buju Banton or Mavado? Mavado is signed to Khaled, but what have we seen and heard from him since? He added: “They will get royalties from the song, of course, but would their career have been different if they hadn’t been featured on this song? I should say no.


Cooper believes the level playing field is not level when it comes to Jamaican artists and those from overseas, and this, he says, is stunting the growth of music. . They (foreign bands) have labels and budgets and can do press junkets, but you (Jamaican bands) don’t. And then it gives the impression that our product is inferior, but it really is not. We’ve seemed time and time again that songs can come together with little or no promotion, and that shows you the power of the material. Look at Charly Black’s party entertainment Ifor example,” he said.

Cooper, who has toured extensively, added that it’s often said that our artists and music get a lot of exposure when outsiders use it, but it needs to be clear that exposure works both ways.

“What we don’t often hear is the fact that there are places in the world where they play reggae and dancehall, but not hip hop, for example. There’s a club in Israel, the biggest club, where some of our dancehall and reggae artists have performed, but they play little or no hip-hop or R&B. They will play three hip-hop tracks and then go straight back to dancehall and reggae from all eras. In many parts of Africa it is the same. So it’s when the hip-hop artist does reggae that he becomes known in those markets,” Cooper said.

He repeated, “It becomes appropriation when there is no direct benefit.”


However, Disc jockey Kurt Riley has a different perspective. “Dancehall is such a rich culture, but if you’re not ready to do the job and someone else comes in and does it, then you shouldn’t complain,” he said. “It may seem like they (outsiders) are violating the business, but it really shouldn’t be viewed that way. These foreign artists will pack in a car with six of them and sleep three men in a room, but we don’t do that. What promoter can book a local artist and put two men in one room? he questioned.

Riley thinks the lack of structure, business approach and discipline within the industry, in general, is a huge deterrent. “A promoter books a selector to come at 8 p.m. and set the tone by juggling, but the selector doesn’t show up until 1 a.m.,” he cited as an example. “We don’t plow the soil and we put in the work,” he lamented.

Riley, who believes DJ Khaled has contributed greatly to the development of Jamaican music over the years, also spoke of the lack of marketing for local artists. “We need to market it better. One thing that Jamaica does not lack is talent, but we don’t have a system in place to cultivate it,” he said.

Reggae music industry expert Maxine Stowe says the issue of appropriation and appreciation is becoming a topic of discussion for the simple reason that Jamaican music and culture “are not protected”.

She said, “You can’t stop influence and people who want to imitate you. At first we copied American music, but because we know we don’t own it, it didn’t become a real problem. The problem is that when your product is unprotected, when people buy it, they think they own it. Can you imagine, you have an American band called Grounation. My group is my space, and when you take my name and culture, that’s the crazy part. If I owned my culture, this could never happen,” she said with a laugh.

She added that there should be well-defined terms and conditions regarding the use of Jamaican music and culture.

“Like Google, we’re open source, but we don’t have a framework to monetize all of that. We earn nothing from the hundreds of festivals held each year that use reggae and dancehall music as a selling point. There’s no no creative companies that invest in music and artist development When a company spends millions to create stars how much does it care or should it care that the stars succeed or not? And all that money that comes from those competitions has never made a dent in the music industry,” Stowe said.


Comments are closed.