My parents were born in Jamaica and came to England back in the 1960s. My father was born in St Thomas, home of Baptist deacon and activist, Paul Bogle. My mother grew up in St Andrews and claims to have seen Bob Marley playing football as a little girl – I still need to see a picture to believe this! My relationship with the island of Jamaica is disjointed. Although I have been there, the majority of my cultural references come from a UK context. They were passed on through grandparents, parents, wider family, friends and my Pentecostal church upbringing. These references range from food to music and stories. I was one of only a handful of black students in my primary school. But somehow, my year three teacher was ‘in tune’ enough to include the Anansi stories and Jamaican folk songs like ‘Moonshine’ as part of our lessons. Although many of my peers will probably not remember – those lessons never left me; thank you, Mrs Welsh.
I value the connections I have with my heritage, heavily filtered though they may be. Recently, there’s been a lot of conversation about gospel music in black British churches of the Windrush generation and its lack of cultural touchstone. It has struck me more than once that some critical elements are missing from public discussions. Especially concerning the Jamaican ‘sound’ aspect that might help push the conversation forward. So feel free to share with those who need it.
Before I proceed, I apologise in advance to all my non-Jamaican islanders who may feel snubbed by this post. The history is too nuanced and detailed to bring the other Caribbean islands into the discussion in this post. Above all, I am not claiming to be an expert, simply a learner. My intention is simply to contribute knowledge to the discussion, rather than become involved in some of the more detailed conversations about decolonisation and the whitewashing of black sacred music in the U.K. That is a separate and healthy discussion.