Spread the niceness

Jamaica’s annual Reggae Month celebrations share February with Black History Month. Some of the signature series events on the Reggae Month calendar over the years include Reggae University lectures and workshops, Reggae Wednesdays concerts, Children of the Icons concerts, Reggae Films in the Park, and the Grounation Interactive Lectures, among many others.

Grounation Reggae Month Lecture Series

The Grounation lecture series became a Reggae Month staple in 2012, and has continued every year since. The open forum is the brainchild of The Jamaica Music Museum, and is one of many FREE events to the public during the month-long celebration. It addresses topics related to the impact of music on culture and community based on allotted themes.

Grounation : Reggae Month 2020 

The Reggae Month 2020 Grounation series is staged over 4 Sundays at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) Lecture Hall in downtown Kingston. The vibe is already appropriately set with red, gold and green fabrics enhancing the very front of the venue. Our motto ‘Out of Many One People’ on full display as various ages, shades, and subgroups greet each other outside the Lecture Hall while conversing and browsing through vendor stations.

Herbie Miller

The theme for the month is ‘Blackhead Chineyman: The Chinese Jamaicans’ Contribution to Jamaican Popular Music’. The 2020 discussion series recognises icons of that ethnic group such as Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Victor and Pat Chin of VP Records, Leslie Kong of Beverly Studios, and the Hoo Kim brothers of Channel One Studios.

Herbie Miller, Director and Curator of Jamaica Music Museum, noted that “Grounation will take a look at the role that the Chinese played in the early development of the music,” and “as businessmen and women they enabled many artistes, such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Lord Creator, among others, to make a successful early breakthrough in the music industry” (source: JIS News). The lineup of subtopics for discussion include:

  • Feb 9: ‘The Crane and the Hummingbird: Early Producers and Performers’
  • Feb 16: ‘Hookim Hook Dem: Channel One Cook Dem’
  • Feb 23: ‘Dragon’s Nest: Beverley’s, Dynamic Sounds, Top Deck’
  • Mar 1: ‘Randy’s’

Musical contributions of both past and present are highlighted in insightful presentations. I was shocked at not only how much I learned so far, but also how much I enjoyed it (because the word ‘lecture’ isn’t always associated with ‘entertaining’ lol). For example, did you know Bob Marley’s 1st released song was produced by a Chinese man? Better yet, have you ever heard his first released record (One Cup of Coffee)? I didn’t, until Grounation. 

The interactive lecture series isn’t just Powerpoint presentations however, it’s also musical selections, panellists, and performers who pay tribute to the cultural synergy. I was pleasantly surprised at the multiple anecdotes and witty humour sprinkled through Mr. Miller’s presentation, due to his seemingly-quiet demeanor. He inspires many laughs from the mixed audience and has open exchanges with individuals both during and after presentations.

Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar speaking on his Channel One Studio experience
(Photo by Jamaica Gleaner)

The Mighty Diamonds
(Photo by Jamaica Gleaner)

Significance of Grounation in the Rastafarian Community

Grounation Day (aka Groundation Day) is recognized by Rastafarians, an indigenous religious group, on April 21st to commemorate Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s sole visit to the island in 1966. He is regarded by them as the Messiah of the black race because of Marcus Garvey’s prophecy – “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer” – which was soon followed by the ascension of Haile Selassie as Emperor. During his visit, he was said to refuse to walk on a red carpet laid for him to a waiting limousine, and his preferred contact with the soil (ie. “groun”) reportedly inspired the holiday’s name – an iyaric equivalent of the words ground and foundation merged.

As a part of their rituals, Rastafarians would often meet at camps where they would discuss various topics of interest amongst other activities. During Grounation they would also enjoy music inspired by their roots and culture, eventually creating a form of music called Niabinghi. These sessions are believed to have heavily influenced other  Jamaican musical genres such as ska, rocksteady and reggae. This great impact inspired the Jamaica Music Museum to honour the Rastafarian contribution and use Grounation as a model for the annual Reggae Month celebrations.

Find information on this and more events (+ some live streams) on the official Reggae Month app on Android and Apple! #KetchDiRiddim

How do you feel about reggae and our month-long commemorations?