George Graham

Jamaica Has a Lot More to Offer Than Reggae Music

In case, you don’t notice it, I want to call your attention to a comment on my blog about Kipling’s poem, “If.” I said the poem reminds me of Barack Obama’s demeanor, and a reader named “Samson” commented:

I have a feeling you got locked in your garage and had to listen to that Cocoa Tea song over and over until you lost your mind.

I don’t know what prompted this response but my guess is that this reader has no respect for English culture and sees Jamaica only as the home of reggae. I have news for Samson. Bob Marley was certainly a musical genius and I have only praise and gratitude for his contribution to Jamaica, but there is a lot more to my homeland than dreadlocks and reggae.

Many Jamaicans are accomplished musicians, painters, writers and sculptors, and many more are distinguished professionals. For example, I knew a Jamaican girl who could play Bach, Brahms and Beethoven when she was very young. As a teenager she was featured on the radio – ZQI, I think the station was called. She went to England and had a successful career as a concert pianist and then returned to Jamaica to teach music.

That’s just one example. The story is repeated many times over as Jamaicans excel in mainstream cultural pursuits. And guess what, Samson? They don’t do the weed thing, and they don’t have long, matted hair and scraggly beards.

Jamaica has a diverse history. And Jamaicans have inherited a rich legacy – from the Taino/Arawak people, the Spanish settlers, the Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition, the Chinese, East Indians, Syrians, Lebanese, British… as well as the African culture that produced reggae.

cocoa teaThat diverse legacy is worth celebrating. But having said all that,thanks for prompting me to listen to Cocoa Tea’s song about Obama (photo at right). I liked it a lot. And I agree completely with his sentiments:

This is not about class nor color, race nor creed

It’s about the changes, what the Americans need

As for your observation that I must have lost my mind, well, what can I say, Samson? I think Billy Joel said it for me:

You may be right,  I may be crazy

But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for

Turn out the light

Don’t try to save me

You may be wrong for all I know

But you may be right.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for