A Country of Culture Reflected in its History and Music—Jamaica

A Country of Culture Reflected in its History and Music—Jamaica



In our April 2022 issue, we featured H.E. Shorna-Kay RICHARDS, the Jamaican Ambassador, and received an overwhelming response from readers expressing their interest in Jamaica. This time, we will introduce Jamaica, including its relationship with Japan. 

2022年4月号でジャマイカ大使、ショーナ・ケイ・M・リチャーズ(H.E. Shorna-Kay RICHARDS)さんをご紹介し、ジャマイカに興味がわきましたという声が読者からたくさん寄せられました。今回は日本との関係を含めてジャマイカをご紹介します。

Jamaica is often associated with the “fastest man in the world,” former sprinter Usain Bolt, who has become a legend in the world of athletics. His remarkable speed has etched the image of Jamaica as a “track and field powerhouse” in the global consciousness. Japanese spectators were in awe of the speed of Jamaican athletes during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, particularly in the 400-meter relay final.



The Jamaican team, including Bolt, won the gold medal by a wide margin over second place. The Japanese team came in second at that time. None of the four Japanese team members could run the 100-meter dash in under 9 seconds. Nonetheless, they showcased their exceptional baton passing skills, setting an Asian record and winning Japan’s first silver medal in a track event. It’s intriguing to note that the leadoff runner for the Japanese team was Asuka Cambridge, who has a Jamaican father and a Japanese mother, creating a fascinating connection between the two nations.



Another significant aspect associated with Jamaica is the emergence of reggae, which originated in the late 1960s. Reggae is a popular music genre that incorporates elements of traditional Jamaican instruments with the guitar as its base. Bob Marley’s “One Love” became a global hit, contributing to the worldwide recognition of reggae. Reggae entered Japan in the late 1970s, underwent Japanese-style arrangements, and gained widespread acceptance, evolving into “Japanese reggae” or “JapaRege,” “J-reggae.”

もう一つ、ジャマイカで思い浮かぶものと言えば、1960年代後半にジャマイカで生まれたレゲエでしょう。ギターをベースに民族楽器が加わるポピュラー音楽です。ボブ・マーリーの「One Love」は世界的に大ヒットしました。レゲエが日本に入ってきたのは1970年代後半です。日本風にアレンジされて広く受け入れられ、「ジャパニーズレゲエ(ジャパレゲ、J-レゲエ)」として発展しました。

The roots of reggae are said to be a fusion of African-American music from the southern United States and traditional Jamaican folk dances. This can be attributed to the fact that the majority of Jamaicans today are descendants of people who were brought as slaves from Africa. Reggae and hip-hop became a means of addressing social and political issues such as racial discrimination. The history of reggae intertwines with the history of Jamaica’s independence.


The history of Jamaica, an island nation in the Caribbean, was significantly influenced by its “discovery” in the late 15th century during Christopher Columbus’s explorations in the Caribbean Sea. The first invaders of Jamaica were the Spanish, who enslaved the indigenous population (the Tainos) – subjecting them to harsh treatment and exposing them to novel diseases that claimed the lives of many. With the significant decline in the indigenous population, the British, who later colonized Jamaica brought enslaved Africans to work on sugarcane plantations established across the island.



During this time, Spain realized that there were no expected mineral resources such as gold, leading to a decline in its colonial ambitions. On the other hand, Britain, aiming to expand its own interests, occupied Jamaica and eventually drove out the Spanish after a conflict. In laying claim to the land, the British cited the liberation of the indigenous peoples and the spread of Christianity as their main reasons for doing so. From this time onwards, rebellions by escaped black slaves (called Maroons) started to occur in various regions, but they were suppressed by British forces. Jamaica became a British colony. Drawn by the promise of riches, many privateers began to appear in Jamaica, and the city of Port Royal also became a base for pirates seeking bounty.



British colonial rule lasted for about 300 years, but from the mid-18th century, slave uprisings began to occur frequently. The movement against slavery also gained momentum within Britain, and in the early 19th century, Britain prohibited the slave trade. Subsequently, prompted by major slave uprisings, slavery was finally abolished in 1833.



However, even after being freed from slavery, black people remained impoverished. With the influx of cheaper labor through immigration (Indians and Chinese), society continued to be dominated by white figures such as plantation owners. An incident sparked riots led by black people. The riots were suppressed by Britain, and the system of colonial governance for people of color was subsequently abolished.



In the 1930s, the Great Depression led to an increase in labor movements in many countries, including Jamaica, where there were numerous worker strikes and riots. Subsequently, political parties were formed by leaders who led these movements. In 1944, a parliament was established in Jamaica. Through elections, a two-party system was established. After 150 years of Spanish rule and 300 years of British colonialism, Jamaica finally began its path to self-governance. In 1957, it gained autonomy from Britain, and in 1962, Jamaica became the first independent nation among the Caribbean colonies.


In 2012, during the 50th anniversary of independence, various events were held in Japan. During this time, an album titled “Out Of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music,” which can be considered a history textbook of reggae, was released. The title “Out of Many” embodies the idea of Jamaica as a multi-ethnic nation, symbolizing the sentiment of “Out Of Many, One People” –  Jamaica’s national motto –  to become one nation beyond race. It also signifies that reggae music has developed by drawing strength from various races, including the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the West.

独立50周年の2012年には、日本でもさまざまなイベントが行われました。このとき、レゲエの歴史教科書とも言えるアルバム「Out Of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music」が発売されました。題名の「Out of Many」には、多民族国家であるジャマイカを体現するもので、ジャマイカの国是である「Out Of Many, One People」(人種を越えてひとつの国家になろう)という想いが込められています。また、「レゲエ」がカリブ海地域をはじめアフリカ、アジア、欧米などのさまざまな人種の力を借りて発展してきた音楽だということも意味しています。


Reggae, which has developed alongside Jamaica’s history, can be seen as the core of Jamaican culture. Art, crafts, dance, theater, cuisine — all of Jamaica’s culture has blossomed largely due to the influence of reggae. Reggae is the backbone of the Jamaican people.


Jamaica Pavilion / ジャマイカパビリオン

ジャマイカ大使 × 画

Jamaica – a Country Full of Energy and Hope



The Jamaican flag is composed of black, gold, and green. The black represents the strength and creativity of the people, who have overcome difficulties, the gold for the wealth of the country and the golden sun, and the green for the lush vegetation and hope of the island.




In this work, Blue mahoe, a national tree with flowers similar to hibiscus, and the national fruit, Achy, are growing lively, the national bird, Doctor Bird, is dancing, and the national flower, Lignum vitae, is blooming prettily amidst the energy of these three colors.



The national emblem reads, “OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE.” Today’s Jamaicans are carrying on the strong will of their predecessors, such as Granny Nanny, who once led maroons (fugitive slaves) to win freedom and peace for Jamaicans.

国章には 「OUT OF MANY, ONE PEOPLE 」と記されています。現在のジャマイカの人たちは、かつて、マルーン(逃亡奴隷)を率いてジャマイカ人の自由と平和を勝ち取ったグラニー・ナニーら先人の強い意志を引き継いでいるのです。


This year’s work is an anthem to the unwavering hope for the future, encompassing all the souls of Jamaica’s present, past, and future. BUNTA iNOUE painted this work with the heart of “One Love, One Heart,” thinking of all that live on earth.

今回の作品は、ジャマイカの現在・過去・未来すべての魂を包み込み、未来に向けての揺るぎない希望への賛歌です。井上文太氏が地球に生きる全てを想い、「One Love, One Heart」の心で描きました。

(C) Buta Inoue

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Unlock the captivating allure of Jamaica’s rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, and fascinating history.
And immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Bunta Inoue’s dynamic paintings of Jamaica.
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是非、誌面でジャマイカの歴史と自然、そして画狂人 井上文太氏の絵画のエネルギー溢れる浮世絵のエネルギーに触れていただきたいです。本誌のお求めは、Amazon、大手書店もしくは、こちらのリンクからどうぞ。

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