Jamaica Not Promoting Bob Marley Enough? Grammy Museum Director Thinks So

When most folks think of Jamaica or arguably its most popular cultural export, reggae music, it’d be a safe bet to assume that sooner or later Bob Marley will enter the picture. The Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter has become such an iconic figure in his home country, as well as the world beyond, and in the genre of music of which he is the most recognizable pioneer, that his name is as synonymous with either as Bob Dylan’s name is with 1960s Greenwich Village in New York.

Bob Santelli, director of the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum, is of the opinion that Jamaica doesn’t do enough to capitalize on its connection to Marley and promote its part and influence on the deceased musician’s legacy. In an interview with The Jamaica Gleaner, Santelli, who was in Kingston last week for a presentation at the Bob Marley Museum, criticized the lack marketing when it came to the Jamaican music legend.

“Although you have great beaches, when people hear of Jamaica, the first thing that comes to mind is not the beaches, it’s Bob Marley and reggae music,” he said. “Jamaica has such a rich music culture and this country needs to promote that more. You have such a wealth of music tradition and you are not promoting it enough.”

Santelli visited Kingston last week because the Bob Marley Museum, which is set up inside the former residence of Marley, was named the first official affiliate of the Grammy Museum. The general manager of the Bob Marley Museum, Marie Bruce, feels the move will only help further develop tourism in the area, especially now with the forthcoming arrival of some new Bob Marley artifacts from its new American partner.

“It is now about promotion and marketing and spreading the word. In fact the word has begun spreading already through our broadcasts on social media,” Bruce said.

Santelli feels positive about the new partnership as well, especially in regards to its potential for a tourism boost:

“The appreciation for Bob Marley outside of Jamaica has remained strong despite him not being with us for a very long time. So this house and what it can mean as a museum can be an anchor for cultural tourism in Jamaica.”

Plans for Bob Marley’s 70th birthday next year were also part of the reason Santelli made the trip to Jamaica. Talking again to The Jamaica Gleaner, he promised more details later in the year via a press release but did say that they “celebrate the relationship between the Grammy Museum and the Bob Marley Museum”. As part of the celebrations, a few of the interactive displays from the Los Angeles Museum will be transferred to its new Kingston counterpart.

“People are going to now learn what a reggae beat is. We have interactive drums and guitars that will take you inside of the music, even if you have never played drums before you are going to now be able to understand it,” he said. “When young people go through here, instead of just hearing the story of Bob Marley, they’re going to understand what made his music so great and that’s what’s going to be fun. The adults will love it but the kids will get it right away.”

Bob Marley’s status as a cultural icon and global symbol have only grown since the singer’s death from cancer in 1981, to the point that local parks are named after him and police still blame him for increasing marijuana use. The Grammy Museum plans to run its celebrations for Marley’s birthday next year the same week as the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, which will air February 8th, 2015. Bob Marley’s 70th birthday would have been two days earlier, on the 6th of February.