Reggae music is perhaps the music genre that is, by general rule, the most associated with peace-building efforts. Its themes of envisioning a world in which ideological and personal differences and disputes do not interfere with and compromise the existence of peace and harmony among all of the world’s people are recurring in the songs of the genre’s most popular artists, such as Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, and others. Reggae music’s promotion of love as a tool for social reconciliation and ultimately growth is a testament to how music can influence people from all walks of life in a positive manner through non-violent communication.
The origins of reggae music can be found in the Rastafarian religion (Rastafarianism) and movement in Jamaica. This religion was created in the context of strife that the island had been going through for some time; enduring riots and major social unrest. However, even through this adversity, reggae music was created as a means of peaceful expression through which Jamaicans could speak about what they were experiencing, and call for social change through the beliefs of empowerment, spiritual/mental uplift, enlightenment and love.
“Why’s this fussing and a-fighting? I wanna know, Lord, I wanna know Why’s this bumping and a-boring? I wanna know, Lord, I wanna know now”.
In this short song Bob Marley discusses “Fussing” and “Fighting”. He is powerfully responding to all the negativity in the world and how we need to end that by continuing to love each other and live in peace and harmony. The lyrics seem as if Bob Marley is talking to God, trying to understand why all this hate, war and segregation exists and begging God to stop all of that.
Bob Marley was an extremely significant figure involved in the push for peace. As his home country of Jamaica was suffering high violence and crime rates, Marley never ceased to believe in the possibility of peace and change. A pioneer of reggae music, he touched millions of people in his quest for a more peaceful world. As a participant of the Rastafari religion, he incorporated spirituality in his music regularly in order to promote peace, love and equality. “My father had a true revolutionary spirit that continues to inspire and empower people of all ages and ethnicities,” said his daughter Cedella Marley, which many people around the world can wholeheartedly agree with.
Although there are many other examples of reggae artists who shared Bob Marley’s ideology and embedded similar messages in their music, Bob Marley is the most famous reggae artist of all time and so, as the leader and figurehead of the genre, we chose to highlight his personal messages, which also apply to the rest of the genre and its artists.
Lastly, we believe that music in general can have a tremendous effect on society and be a very positive force for social change through nonviolent communication. Music’s ability to touch people emotionally and really resonate with its audiences makes it a medium through which positive messages and ideals can be shared and spread around the world with great efficiency. Historically, we have seen genres like hip-hop, rock or soul music embed messages promoting change through nonviolent means into its songs, with great public assimilation of those messages and support for the artists. Reggae music is without question at the very top of the list in terms of music genres that call for social change through peaceful avenues, and it must remain that way as we move into the future.
Alejandro Dal-Ré, Brahim Kane, Ella Riah, Fernando Monserrate, Lou Nora
Saint Louis University-Madrid Campus