The Jamaica Music Museum was established in 2000 and came into operation in 2009.
Since then it has acted as the archive, research facility and exhibition space for reggae and other Jamaican musical forms. Its exhibits showcase an array of formats – from rare musical recordings and oral histories of reggae, Jamaican music greats, and the lesser-known figures – to musical scores, photographs, films, research files, business records, personal correspondence, and musical instruments that once belonged to eminent Jamaican musicians.
We have mounted four exhibits, including:
- The Music of Jamaica: People, Voice, Song: the theme of the first exhibit mounted by the museum, which highlighted Jamaica’s music history from that of our island’s first inhabitants, the Tainos to dancehall by our current artistes.
- Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change: Album Art is the main medium used in this exhibit which is squarely focused on Peter Tosh’s life and career. Film, voice and music clips also feature heavily in this collection.
- Call and Response: Masques, Spirits, and Drums: meant as a companion exhibit for the Riddim Across the Atlantic: Di Drum in Africa and Its Diaspora Grounation series of 2015.
- Curating Music: Building a National Collection: our current exhibit delves further into the influence that West African music has on Jamaican traditional and popular music.
In addition to its fixed and moving exhibits, the Jamaica Music Museum hosts a number of public lectures and events that are meant to analyse music in relation to the sociological, political, and cultural climate in Jamaica throughout its history. The most prominent of these is our Grounation series which commemorates both Black History Month and Reggae Month. The lecture series has examined a number of topics, including:
- Seeing Sounds and Hearing Images: African Aesthetics In Popular Jamaican Culture
- Riddim Across the Atlantic: Di Drum in Africa and Its Diaspora
- Ungle Malungu Man: Musings on Don Drummond
- Mento: Is Ow De Music Sweet So
- Garvey’s Ghost: Muse, Cultural Arts, Music, Freedom Sound
- As Free as We Want to Be: Dancehall, A Liberating Ethic
The Jamaica Music Museum engages in historical, anthropological, and musicological research into the various forms of Jamaican traditional and popular music, with some emphasis on music from the African diaspora. Specific topics that we have addressed include mento music, the connection between African kalimbas and Caribbean rumba boxes, the life and career of Jamaican opera singer Mercedes Kirkwood, and the connection between African and Caribbean popular music in the 21st century.
The musuem’s work is published in journals
such as the Jamaica Journal and 76 King Street. It is also often published in
the newspaper, most notably in study guides for students in the Jamaica
Observer. This research has also been presented at various conferences
and symposiums, and used in the artefacts in the Jamaica Music Museum’s