The academic appeal of Jamaican culture, particularly reggae music, continues to take root globally.
The University of Minnesota, located in Minneapolis in the United States, recently played host to an International Summer Institute for Reggae Studies. Participants were able to benefit from the experience and expertise of a number of master artists and scholars for seminars, ensemble rehearsals, and hands-on vocal and instrumental workshops devoted to the artistic practices and aesthetic development of popular music in Jamaica since its Independence.
The International Summer Institute for Reggae Studies also attempted to address issues that have confronted artistes, scholars, arts professionals, and audience members at all levels. These included artistic conception, repertoire, technique, technology, ensemble organisation, programming, and the post-colonial politics of race, class, and gender.
Among the local participants were Michael Fletcher and Ian Hird, both of the School of Music at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts; and curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, Herbie Miller.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange was on hand to lend her support. The university’s School of Music was honoured to host the event, the first International Summer Institute for Reggae Studies in North America. The programme’s head, Professor Scott Currie and other music professors welcomed Minister Grange, along with Marlon Williams, a senior education officer in the Core Curriculum Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and members of their delegation.
Grange stated that the action taken by the university to explore reggae music via an academic approach is similar to programmes established at The University of the West Indies in Jamaica, which has a Reggae Studies Unit. The institute at the University of Minnesota is the first such initiative in the United States. Grange went on to say that the contribution of reggae to Jamaica’s revenue and competitiveness on the international stage is well-documented but not sufficiently shared. She shared her hope that the University of Minnesota Institute will enhance and contribute to the body of knowledge about reggae, and notes the “outstanding economic contribution” of the genre to the world’s creative economy.