A panel discussion at the Jamaica 50 Jubliee Village inside Independence Park discussing the history of Reggae Music ended the way it began. Among the panellists were former prime minister and record producer Edward Seaga; Dr Dennis Howard, lecturer at The University of the West Indies and former Third World band member and chairperson of Jamaica Reggae Industry Association Michael 'Ibo' Cooper. Seaga gave a lengthy lecture on the developmental process of the local music industry. He shared the view that Jamaican genres were created without prompting.
"Reggae is only what you hear and think is reggae," Peter Tosh pronounces at the beginning of Heartland Reggae (1980)—and a lot of what sounds like just that is playing at BAMcinématek during the long-weekend program Do the Reggae, which ends on the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. Concert documentary Heartland Reggae, to give one essential example, is an effort to record the music's Woodstock or Wattstax, cherry-picking performances from 1978's One Love Peace Concert, arranged to squash beef between Jamaica's then-warring political parties. Homecoming headliner Bob Marley is supported by Tosh, performing an interminable "Legalize It," along with 11-year-old dynamo Little Junior Tucker, doing his best James Brown, and exuberantly shirtless Jacob Miller, antagonizing the police presence with a wielded spliff. (Miller died in 1980, while his bandmates, Inner Circle, later found running-dog fame with "Bad Boys," the theme song from COPS.)
Robert Nesta Marley is the most famous figure this country has produced. (Though Usain Bolt might be usurping him in places like China and India.) Mention Jamaica, and foreigners who scarcely know in which hemisphere the country is located will cry in recognition, "Bob Marley!" He is increasingly becoming to Jamaica what Robert Burns is to Scotland - most famous son, national bard, and symbol of cultural identity. The parallels between the two great Roberts are uncanny. Both were born to humble circumstances in a small country with a few million inhabitants. Both were free spirits who praised the intoxicating pleasures of ganja and whisky respectively.