Cover Photo: Joey Clay Photography
As a tool of cultural resistance, Reggae music was born in Jamaica alongside Rastafarianism in the 1960s. Its calls for unity and love have led to widespread introspection over the years, specifically through the rise of one of the cultural figureheads, Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley. The iconic performer has garnered fans across the globe, with his music known by people of various classes, races, and creeds.
During this current period of heightened black consciousness and advocacy for justice and equality for black people throughout the diaspora, the impact of this genre — created to protest injustice and protect against oppression — is worth constant re-examination. We asked the son of the legend himself, Julian Marley, some questions to aid in our analysis of reggae as a vehicle of resistance and hope in the 21st century.
The issues that we’re discussing today are not new for Marley or reggae. The younger Marley has a new single, with Junior Reid called Mother Nature, inspired by current issues, such as racial injustice and climate change. The music video showcases picturesque environments in Jamaica, undoubtedly reminding viewers of our duty to protect the earth. Marley states that environmental justice isn’t new for the Rastafarian Community.
Marley believes that the message of reggae music runs the risk of being lost in its growing popularity. With the increased recognition of the genre, it may lose its potency as a form of protest. Although he thinks the message of reggae has diluted over the years, the root of the message, he says, can never be lost. Marley says that reggae artistes should use this as an opportunity to look within.
This music that we all know and love was not as widely as accepted as it is now. Since it criticized the system that dehumanized people of African descent, many believe that the government tried to stifle the natural growth and acceptance of the culture. Marley, known as JuJu Royal by his peers, comments on the fact that his father’s music couldn’t air on radio stations during his time. Ironically, today, some of the same politicians that have looked down on anti-system music such as reggae and dancehall use it in their political campaigns. Despite this, Marley says he can’t see a reason to oppose the use of songs that encourage love and togetherness. Instead, He sees hope in this generation, saying, “we have a new generation of businesspeople, a new generation of artistes who see the change and who want to make a change. So that’s a good thing but as I said we don’t want [the message] to be watered down no matter what”.
Mother Nature is an uplifting song amid all this cultural indecisiveness and social inequality. It reminds us how connected we are to the earth and encourages us to dream of a better future. Marley paints a chilling image through his words and that of Junior Reid, who he calls “Uncle”:
Let’s look towards a future where there’s unity among the human race and between mankind and nature.
Mother Nature is available on all major streaming platforms.