Reggae music in Jamaica is an amalgam of numerous musical influences, including earlier Jamaican forms as well as Caribbean, North American, and Latin strains, having originated within a cultural space that was home to marginalized groups, primarily in Western Kingston. In times, North American neo-African styles, soul and rhythm and blues, gradually transforming Ska in the Rock Steady, then in Reggae, were incorporated in the element. In 2018, it was inscribed on the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Initially the voice of the marginalized, reggae music is now played and welcomed by a diverse cross-section of society, including various genders, ethnic and religious groups. Its contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love, and humanity highlights the element’s dynamics as cerebral, sociopolitical, sensual, and spiritual. The music’s essential societal purposes – as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic exercise, and a method of thanking God – have not altered, and it continues to act as a voice for all.
Students are trained to perform the music in schools from early infancy to tertiary level, and reggae festivals and concerts such as Reggae Sumfest and Reggae Salute provide annual outlets as well as understudy and transmission for young artists, musicians, and other practitioners.