In the middle of the Caribbean, a tiny island barely bigger than Corsica has become an absolute exception in the history of music. Jamaica is the birthplace of one of the major musical currents of the second half of the 20th century, there is far more to Jamaica than reggae and its universal icon Bob Marley, and its complex history extends far beyond music.
The branches of Jamaican music reach as widely as those of jazz or blues, and its roots dig deep into the days of slavery, tracing back to traditional forms of song and dance inherited from the colonisation of the 18th and 19th centuries.
What many people don’t know is that since the 1950s, inventions in Jamaican music—born out of the “do-it-yourself” ingenuity pulsing through the ghettos of Kingston—have laid the foundations for most modern-day urban musical genres, giving rise to such fixtures of todayʼs musical lingo as “DJ”, “sound system”, “remix”, “dub”, etc.
Often blurring the lines between distinctions—spiritual or nonreligious, rural or urban, a soundtrack for Rastafarian wisemen or rude boys from the ghetto—Jamaican music is anything but one-dimensional. Often placed under the heading “World Music”, it is so popular around the globe that it could be called the “World’s Music”.
The Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition seeks to acknowledge this history, reconsidered through the prism of the postcolonial conflicts and encounters that led to a unique and universal movement—a virtual “sound clash” between Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lee Perry, King Tubby, Studio One, the Alpha Boys School, Haile Selassie I, Marcus Garvey, etc., through musical styles as varied as burro, revival, mento, ski, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall.
Jamaica Jamaica! brings together rare memorabilia, photographs, visual art, audio recordings and footage unearthed from private collections and museums in Jamaica, the United States and Great Britain. Also providing a platform for young Jamaican artists, the exhibition is a loudspeaker for the voice of a people—a powerful wail that has been ringing out internationally for decades through its music.
Exhibition’s curator: Sébastien Carayol
Scenography: Encore Heureux
Graphism: Agnès Dahan Studio
Dub It Yourself: an interactive sound system
In Jamaica, sound is not heard, it is felt. In partnership with the British arts organisation Let's Go Yorkshire, Jamaica Jamaica! presents a true sound system experience.
Step inside this room and take your turn as the selector. Turn up the volume and feel your own sound delivered by a world-class sound system custom built by sonic master Paul Axis. This majestic wall of sound is a clear invitation: Are you ready fi rumble?
Jamaica DJ sets
Every Friday (7pm-9pm) until 13 August, Jamaica Jamaica! will feature DJ sets by top French selectors on the Dub It Yourself sound system.
Danny Coxson’s street art as the common thread
In Kingston, music is not just heard; for decades, it has also been painted on the walls of the city, transmuting miles of decrepit concrete into maps of the musical heroes chosen by Jamaican street culture.
Mural artist Danny Coxon was born in Trenchtown in 1961. Since losing three fingers by machete in 1991, he has devoted his career to painting murals of Jamaica’s legendary singers, producers and sound engineers. Thanks to a grant from the Institut français, Danny Coxson has been invited to paint the walls of the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition, using his extraordinary talent as a street artist to create a work that is fully and eminently Jamaican.