In Amanda’s Friendly Friday Challenge she takes us back to the ’70s and recalls childhood days in Australia. Looking back, she asks: If you lived through the sixties and seventies, what stands out for you?
Aside from Beaches, Bananas and Harry Belafonte, my birth country of Jamaica is known for Bob Marley, Reggae music and Ganja. All three were associated with Rastafarianism, with Bob Marley being the most famous proponent.
When I was growing up, reggae and dub music was always on the radio. It was the local sound, intermittently displaced by the imported tunes of Motown, R&B and Pop. I don’t recall liking reggae much. I was more likely to sing “ABC” by the Jackson 5 than “I shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley. But it was Eric Clapton’s cover of “I Shot the Sheriff” that launched Bob Marley and reggae into international fame.
I didn’t realise how far reaching the music was until forty years later. I was travelling the backroads of northern Thailand when my guide popped in a CD with Exodus. Suddenly, I was transported back to my childhood. As we rocked to the beat, I looked out the window and thought this place looks just like the country roads in Jamaica. I had another jolt from the past when walking through Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. There, amongst the kitsch and sundry, I stumbled upon a stall dedicated entirely to reggae regalia.
Even more surprising was finding reggae in Shanghai. In this video, Chinese MC Jado does a great, if unexpected, rendition of Chinese lyrics sung to a reggae beat. It also examines the link between China and Jamaica, dating back to the early 1900s when people left China to work in the Caribbean. That’d include my people from my ancestral village in Guangdong.
Reggae has its roots in the poor and disenfranchised people of colonial Jamaica. It isn’t so surprising that the music resonates with other underprivileged people. In China, the Yunnan-based reggae band Kawa use their music to capture the words and chants of their Wa origins. Yunnan is the province that straddles the border of China and Myanmar. It is also the most ethnically diverse region in China, home to twenty-six different ethnic minority groups.
Nowadays, reggae is part of the international mainstream and Bob Marley’s music is considered classic. I instantly recognise the opening chords of Exodus, Buffalo Soldier and No Woman No Cry. I can even sing along. The songs of The Jackson 5 and Partridge Family? Not so much.