Songs are art forms that can serve many purposes. Some songs are intended simply to have catchy beats that make listeners want to dance. Other songs have deep meanings that make listeners think about the human condition such as love and life. Songs can be appropriate for weddings or holidays or even as a means of comedy (like the Weird Al parodies) but they can also serve as a way to get important messages across to the masses—even if those messages are bleak and even controversial. Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” is just such a song.
Damian Marley is the son of legendary Jamaican reggae singer, Bob Marley. Carrying on his father’s musical tradition, Damian Marley has released six albums and many songs. He is a renowned artist in his own right due to his clever lyrics and the socially minded themes in his music. One of Damian’s most famous songs is titled “Welcome to Jamrock.” Released in 2005, “Welcome to Jamrock” was the title of both a CD and a hit song that earned Damian Marley two Grammy Awards in 2006 (“Best Reggae Album” and “Best Urban/Alternative Performance” for the song “Welcome to Jamrock”).
The title track, “Welcome to Jamrock,” has a catchy beat with multi-layered and deep meaning lyrics. Specifically, “Welcome to Jamrock” discusses the serious and ongoing issues connected with poverty and crime in Jamaica. The song attacks the corrupt politicians who do nothing to aid the poor or stop the drug-fueled violence in the slums. The song also comments on how tourists who visit the nation fail to understand the plight that many of the country’s permanent residents face daily.
“Jamrock” is a slang term that Damian Marley uses to describe his idea of the “real Jamaica” instead of the tourist destination spot that most people perceive the country as being (in lyrics he occasionally also references the country as “Jamdown” as well). Needless to say, the Jamaica that Damian Marley discusses is one that is nowhere near as nice as those in the travel brochures—yet his criticisms about the country and its problems are warranted and real.
Jamaica is a beautiful country with a lot to offer both tourists and citizens. However, like all countries, Jamaica does have poor areas with high crime rates and a low quality of life. “Welcome to Jamrock” laments the fact that Jamaica can make so much money from tourism while a portion of the population lives in seemingly inescapable squalor. Damian also uses the lyrics to lament the high amount of crime and violence in the poorer parts of the country (Kingston is mentioned in particular). The song is written by a Jamaican man for other Jamaicans (although the song became widely popular in the U.K and U.S.A., too) so many of the lyrics are sung in a heavy Jamaican dialect/accent. Hence, the grammar in the lyrics might seem incorrect to British and American readers/listeners. However, the grammatical incorrectness of the lyrics only adds to the authentic feel of the song since the language that is used represents the kind of slang and dialect that is commonly heard on the very streets for which the song is written about.
There are many places in the world that face continuing strife and music like “Welcome to Jamrock” at least helps to raise awareness of this issue and decry their existence. By making the problems known there is automatically a heightened sense of hope for change and a better future. Furthermore, because many young people listen to reggae music, a song like “Welcome to Jamrock” has a lot of appeal. Although some of the lyrics talk about serious and depressing subjects (like murder and drugs) they are based on reality—which is far more upsetting and should raise concern and calls to quell these problems.
Parents who homeschool could analyze the lyrics in this song to use as a way to discuss social issues with their children. Likewise, the song is also a perfect example of how art can be political and how lyrics can have value when discussing dire problems and social injustices that must be corrected. Hence, in many ways, Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” can be used as a learning tool.
To listen to the song and see the lyrics, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q4IO19E8Kg
Below is a list of five of the issues that are discussed in “Welcome to Jamrock.”