Once reggae music became one of the main mediums for political and social remarks, how and why did it become a threat to the Jamaican government?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When a government presides over a mass of people who are generally in bad circumstances, any outside force that unifies the people and impacts their thinking can become a great danger to that government. 

Jamaica was and is a country that has a great deal of poverty.  There is and was much frustration with the government and its inability to control the country and to improve the situation of its people.  We have seen the relative weakness of the Jamaican government and the importance of poverty recently in the violence that erupted between authorities and gangs when the police tried to arrest and extradite drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke.

In the mid-1970s, Jamaica was poor and politically unstable.  Reggae was becoming a major influence on the culture and reggae musicians were important national figures.  Reggae had the potential to unite the people and to influence their political views.  This made reggae a danger to the government.  The fact that the government perceived this danger can be seen in the attempt by socialist-leaning Prime Minister Michael Manley to identify Bob Marley with Manley’s own agenda.  This is said to have led to the assassination attempt on Marley in 1976.  This attempt shows that the political opposition saw the importance of reggae and did not want Marley to be identified with the government.

Reggae became dangerous to the Jamaican government, then, because it was a force that could unify the masses of poor Jamaicans and could influence their political ideas. 


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