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UNIT 25: Global Popular Culture

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Reggae Music: Out of Africa

During the twentieth century, music was an important avenue for the globalization of popular culture. This segment looks at one musical form, reggae, and the ways that it both influenced and was influenced by diverse cultural traditions around the world. Reggae had its roots in the slave rhythms of Jamaica and in the early twentieth-century Pan-African vision of Marcus Garvey, which encouraged many Jamaicans to look to Africa as the Promised Land.

In the 1930s, many Jamaicans came to believe that the newly-crowned Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie (originally named Ras Tafari) was the Messiah. This belief was translated into a new religion, Rastafarianism, which spoke to the pain and suffering of poor Jamaicans. In the 1960s, the introduction of American musical styles — especially R&B and soul — led Jamaicans to adapt and transform those styles in new and different ways. One result of this musical cross-fertilization was reggae.

Reggae's most powerful prophet was Bob Marley, whose band The Wailers blended this new hybrid sound with the spiritual message of Rastafarianism and a political message of resistance. Through global tours and the established channels of the mass media, Marley's reggae sound was spread around the world. Its particular blend of rhythm, politics, and spirituality struck a responsive chord in audiences from a wide variety of cultures, and it demonstrated clearly that globalization is a multi-directional phenomenon.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Vivien Chen, MAROON DRUM PLAYER (n.d.). Courtesy of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Anonymous, PORTRAIT OF EMPEROR OF ETHIOPIA HAILE SELASSIE (1963). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.


Adrian Boot, BOB MARLEY (n.d.). Copyright Fifty-Six Hope Road Music, Ltd.

John Canoe, JONKONNU, JONKANOO DANCERS, JAMAICA (1837-1838). Courtesy of the Library of Jamaica.



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