Fifty years ago, not far from the day, Jamaica won independence from the UK, and the British are helping to commemorate it.
It's the least they could do, really. While it shouldn't have to be said, the music of Jamaica is more than frat-house kegs made of Birkenstocks dripping out date-rape.
The single best thing to ever happen to Britain's musical blueprint over the last half-century has been the massive post-war Caribbean immigration into the UK and its subsequent cross-cultural effect on everyone involved. Think the appropriately named two-tone or post-punk, but also acid house, jungle, Big Beat, ambient dub, garage, grime, dubstep, as well as the whole ever-widening arc of British pop music that encompasses both Ray Davies and M.I.A. Of course, the same influence is felt in the United States and other countries, but on a much milder level. There's something special about the West Indies relationship with the UK that sets it on an entirely different shelf.
When discussing Lily Allen, Simon Reynolds writes:
Reggae runs through UK pop music like jam in a Swiss roll — from Desmond Dekker's "Israelites" at #1 in the charts to the skank feel in 2-step like Doolally's "Straight From The Heart", via The Police's "Walking On The Moon", The Specials' "Ghost Town", Madness’ "Grey Day", Musical Youth's "Pass The Dutchie", and all those one-off reggae crossover chart-toppers that seem to happen every couple of years, at least when I was a youth — such that Jamaican music is simply part of any British person's pop birthright.
The best of them all, however, is DJ Crew Heatwave's astonishing run through of Anglo-Caribbean music, going for eclectic, historical Usain Bolt gold by combining the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Sister Nancy, and Shabba Ranks with Dizzee Rascal's "I Luv U" and Benga & Coki's "Night": "50 years + 83 tunes x 73 minutes = approximately five-million rewinds. These songs have been pulled up, wheeled, rewound, and replayed literally MILLIONS of times—in bedrooms, house parties, blues dances, nightclubs, and raves throughout the UK."
Jamaica's anniversary is also a reminder: the UK is lucky to have felt the impact of West Indies all this time, to have this running in their ever-growing multicultural blood for so long, and for the British to not only acknowledge it, but celebrate it, is one of the reasons why the nation, despite its flaws, despite its faults, remains musically more open-minded and ahead of everyone else.