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With Whom Lies the Future of Reggae Music

May 11, 2001 marked the 20th anniversary of Robert Nesta Marley's death. Although this day isn't officially celebrated by Rastafarians, (they don't celebrate death) Rita Marley has also made a personal decision not to place much emphasis on this day. Marley's fans, however, are found all over the globe and many flew to Jamaica to commemorate his death. He is revered by some but remembered by all for his music which still brings peace to the most volatile of situations or to the stormiest souls. As his mother says, "Bob's body may be down below but his spirit is everywhere."

Okay, so we all know that there will be no other like Bob Marley? It is virtually impossible to transcend to his level. He brought Papa Eddie and Joshua together (symbolically at least) at the memorable One Love concert; he implored us to "get up stand up, stand up for your rights" in an era when political violence marred Jamaica's future?and yet that message is still applicable today when 7 can be killed in a "shootout" that fits neither eye-witness nor police accounts. His songs are filled with hope and messages for a nation that had just attained independence and was still struggling with internal strife, which was sometimes influenced by external forces. Time magazine named Exodus the album of the millennium. But where is Jamaica now? Have we taken heart from his music and stood up for our rights? We're still grappling with political violence, alleged police brutality, more interference from outside organisations, economic crisis - and no voice to put these conflicts into music; instead of trekking the path he forged to all four corners of the world, we have seemingly lost our way with no one to even try to take up where he left off.

Buju Banton, whom many thought at one time to be "the next Bob Marley", has reverted from the conscious atmosphere he displayed on Til Shiloh. The only person I remember being fairly vocal about his disagreement with this view was Bunny Goodison, and unfortunately he has been proven correct. Buju has not been able to maintain his popularity and sing about prevalent social issues so he gone back to the dancehall culture that made him popular. Is the scenario just that Jamaicans are consciously choosing to turn to music as a means of escape from life's every day problems? Is it that we don't want to hear any social commentary or about hope and peace?

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