Jamaican Diaspora

By Kelsey Richards


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Jamaican music and culture are closely related and rely upon one another. The Jamaican diaspora in South Florida shares their Jamaican culture and their ancestral homeland of Jamaica (Bakan 17). For over 100 years Jamaicans have been coming over to America, with 70,000 Jamaicans in Broward County alone and many more in Dade County, and bringing their culture with them. The Jamaican diaspora has had many successes like having a State Representative among them and other city officials. The diaspora has influenced the state of Florida and America in all types of ways especially by setting examples.

There are many annual events that show the Jamaican diaspora to all event goers. These include the Jamaican Jerk Festival, Island in the Park, Caribbean International Multicultural Festival, and others. These events display the best of Jamaica’s music, religion, food and other things. While the Jamaican culture is abundantly seen throughout South Florida there are multiple known musical influences that have clearly come from the Jamaican diaspora.

Mento, ska, and rocksteady were all types of music that led to the genre of reggae music. Reggae music, which was formed in Jamaica, celebrated their Rastafarian culture and religion. Not only did the Jamaicans embrace this music, but so did the world including the Jamaican diaspora. While this type of music did not emerge till 1968, South Florida picked up on it in no time with the worldwide sensation of Bob Marley and the Jamaican diaspora.

While raggae music is still popular today Jamaican music did not stop with that. In the early 1970’s dancehall music became popular. This type of music is made when there is a track with instrumentals and percussion and then a DJ sings or voices over the track (Manuel). This music that was made for dancing became popular among listeners, especially the youth and young adults, because they were able to dance and it is somewhat like hip-hop. This music not only took off in Jamaica, but also in the United States. The Jamaican diaspora in South Florida holds dancehall festivals, dances, and competitions where people dance and enjoy the music. Every year there is even the South Florida Dancehall Reggae Music Awards to celebrate the music of Jamaica and the people of the Jamaican diaspora who partake in it in South Florida.

While dancehall music is one of the most popular things the Jamaican diaspora has brought, another is the influence on rap music. The idea of Jamaican toasting is what led to the idea of rap. Toasting is when the DJ would talk over the music being played. This idea started with short phrases and then the phrases began to get longer as time went on. These toasts began to influence rap. There are many common things between rapping and toasting like they both rely on prerecorded sounds, they both have a strong beat, the topics of their toasts or raps were similar, and they both spoke their words with the beat (Rhodes). Once rap began to take off there were many Jamaicans from the Jamaican diaspora of South Florida and New York who would toast and rap.

While Americans have gained a lot of influence from Jamaican music in South Florida and around the United States there are many other parts of Jamaican culture that the Jamaican diaspora brought with them. The Rastafarian religion was not widely known around America until the Jamaican diaspora began to explain it and show aspects of it. Another thing that has become known to Americans is the Jamaican food like jerk spices. While the Jamaican diaspora may not seem to be widely noticed in South Florida it has been doing a lot and influencing people in many ways whether it is music, food, or religion.


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