Describe the social impact reggae music has had on life in Jamaica.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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We can argue that reggae music has had an important social impact on life in Jamaica because it has given a voice to the frustrations of the lower classes.  On the other hand, we can argue that it has had no real social impact because the lives of the people in the lower class are not significantly better than they were before reggae music was developed.

Reggae music can be seen as music that gives a voice to the frustrations felt by the members of Jamaica’s poorer classes.  Singers like Bob Marley wrote songs that protested police oppression (“Rebel Music”) or racism (“War”).  They wrote songs that expressed the anger of the poor and their desire to strike back against those who, they felt, kept them down (“Burnin’ and Lootin’”).  By singing these songs, and by making them very prominent in Jamaican culture, reggae musicians allowed poorer Jamaicans to feel that someone understood their plight and was willing to speak up about it.

On the other hand, the fact that someone now speaks for the frustrations of the poor does not necessarily mean anything has changed.  Jamaica still has a huge population of poor people, with a rate of poverty above 40% by some measures.  It has, by the GINI coefficient, a more unequal distribution of wealth than even Haiti.  These sorts of statistics show that life in Jamaica has not necessarily been impacted in important ways by reggae music even if that music has given the poor a voice.


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