February conjures a mixed-bag of offerings. The shortest month of the calendar is Black History Month here and in many countries which adopted the Carter G. Woodson tradition. However, in Jamaica February is regarded as Reggae Month.
There, a wide variety of cultural activities herald the global reach of Jamaica’s home-grown music style known as reggae. The theme this year – “Growing up Black under the green and gold” galvanizes solidarity within the cultural fraternity and the total community.
The first day provided an opportunity to reflect on the birth and life of Denis Brown, the revered Crown Prince of Reggae.
Five days later, Robert Nesta Marley received accolades and international platitudes for taking reggae music to the pinnacle of success. Born Feb. 6, 1945, the king of the genre is annually celebrated with music, dance, prose, poetry and commentary that probably would have made him blush. In Jamaica, a birthday tribute was held at 56 Hope Road where the legend resided and recorded.
Four generations of Marley offspring attended.
Rita his widow who resides in Ghana, Africa did not attend. She was reportedly there on the continent where the 57th anniversary of independence will be celebrated next month.
Had he lived, Marley would have been 68 years old on Feb. 6.
Four days after the anniversary date, the 55th annual Grammy awards served up a prime-time tribute dedicated to the acclaimed first Caribbean superstar.
Although critically denounced as tepid and somewhat inadequate, performances from Barbadian Rihanna, England’s Sting, Hawaii’s Bruno Mars and Marley’s eldest and youngest sons — Ziggy and Damian — reprised his “Could You Be loved” recording to a new generation and perhaps new audiences.
Promoted throughout the music awards by host LL Cool J, the all-star tribute to the reggae legend started with Mars performing his own song “Locked Out of Heaven.” Bearing no lyrical or musical affiliation to the genre, his appearance claimed a presence that could only represent the diversity and inclusiveness engendered by Marley’s music.
Later during the tribute, fans relied on Sting to inject the hard-driving beat that defines the music. But like Mars, the former leader of Britain’s Police rendered his own “Walking On The Moon.”
Since his May 11, 1981 passing, Marley’s message and music presumably willed to seven of his children has earned as many nominations to each and reaped more than a dozen Grammy victories. Although neither Kymani nor Julian have been nominated for Grammy honors, neither have stood in the winners’ circle. Stephen heads the high-scoring family with six; Ziggy four, Cedella and Sharon, three, and Damian, two.
Along with matriarch Rita, a family tribute might have delivered a more homogenous and fitting tribute to the monarch.
That Jimmy Cliff won the solitary category devoted to the genre could also have enhanced the controversial effort.
His “Rebirth” won him a second gramophone and shut out the hopes of four worthy Jamaican contenders — Sly & Robbie, Toots & The Maytals, The Wailers and Sean Paul.
Cliff won his first Grammy in 1986 when he scored with “Cliffhangers.”
He was a favored choice since the airing of his “Get Happy” song featured in a commercial during the Superbowl game.
Reggae Month is foremost on the calendar for commemorating the progress, pitfalls and achievements of singers and musicians who have contributed to the genre. Numerous cultural activities commemorate significant achievements with free forums, outdoor concerts, documentaries and radio and television presentations.