Global Reggae Conference – Call

GLOBAL REGGAE CONFERENCE

“DANCEHALL, MUSIC AND THE CITY”

FEBRUARY 9 – 11, 2017

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 Call for Papers

The Institute of Caribbean Studies and the Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus announce the fifth bi-ennial Global Reggae Conference  under the theme “Dancehall, Music and the City”. This conference is being staged at a time when we celebrate Bob Marley’s birth and the very foundation, the space – dancehall – through which the world has consumed seven distinct musical genres in mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, nyabinghi, dub and dancehall. This conference also comes at a time when Kingston celebrates its designation as a creative city for music by UNESCO in December 2015. 

The conference intends to open discussions about contemporary considerations for Jamaican music spaces, genres, cross-fertilization, production and economy using Kingston as a backdrop for discussing the foundational space of the dancehall as a main theme.  

The conference will also honour the work of Professor Carolyn Cooper, CD, founder of the Global Reggae Conference, Bob Marley Lecture Series and the Reggae Studies Unit. Her contributions to the field of cultural studies have paved the way for researchers and practitioners, often bridging the gap in research and practice for Jamaican popular music genres, reggae, and especially dancehall. 

Slated for Reggae Month 2017, the conference will provide a platform for timely updates on discussions, research and development in reggae and dancehall locally, regionally and internationally. GRC2017 offers academics, researchers, artistes, musicians, scholars, cultural practitioners, entrepreneurs and music lovers from around the world a warm and welcoming environment to share their research, experiences, perspectives and passion for Jamaican music. 

Chronixx

Conference themes include but are not limited to the following:

·         Researching the Dancehall: Lessons from Carolyn Cooper

·         Kingston: Creative Music City

·         Dancehall as Space and Place

·         Dancehall: From Then Till Now

·         Sound Systems, Sonic Innovations and Performance

·         Popular Jamaican Music and Economic Development

·         Creativity and Economy: Appropriation or Cross-Fertilization?

·         Dancehall, Social Media and Jamaica’s Influence

·         Dancehall, Sound Regulation and Entertainment Zoning

·         Dancehall Culture, Violence and Governance

·         Dancehall Music, Rites, Rituals and Celebratory Practices

·         Movement and Dance in Dancehall

·         Dancehall: The People’s Church?

·         Dancehall, Sexuality and the City

 Abstract Submission and Presentation Guidelines

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words for individual presentations. For pre-organised panels, include one abstract for each presenter. Each abstract should include the following information: name of author/authors; email address/es; name of associated institution; and keywords of presentation.

                        img_0254img_1365img_2002img_0672Shaggy

We welcome innovative uses of technology and creative session formats as well as traditional paper presentations.

DEADLINE FOR ALL SUBMISSIONS IS NOVEMBER 15, 2016.

NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE WILL BE MADE BY NOVEMBER 30, 2016.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION OF FULL PAPERS IS JANUARY 1, 2017.

All participants will have to register by January 1, 2017 in order to have their papers included in the final programme.

Contact the Global Reggae Conference 2017 Secretariat with queries at:

Institute of Caribbean Studies 

Email: globalreggaeconference@gmail.com 

Tel: 1 (876) 977 – 1951 |  970 – 6228

Did Sting Lose its Bite? Ninja Man, Gully Bop and the Politics of the ‘Clash’ 

Sting2014 poster

By Way of the Bible and a Little History

Let he who hath successfully planned and executed an annual show over 31 stagings on the same date, rain or shine, stand up now and cast the first stone! My remix of that well known biblical injunction is useful here because I’ve observed a ‘certain’ lack of sustained focus on Kingston’s entertainment product and the way, in a real sense, we forget the responsibility we all share for how that product is nourished and sustained. Though some would like to think otherwise, the fact is we as a people are far better at ‘casting’ stones than using them to build strong foundations.

I like to have the dust settle a bit after the usual news mongering and racing for quick stories. Afterall, I am not a reporter. I have over the last few years however written reviews of Sting, Jamaica’s premiere clash event, and for some, the ‘university’ from which every aspiring dancehall artiste must gain credentials. Well, after the 31st staging, I am yet to see a meaningful review of Sting which puts into context some of the questions I have raised over the years in different fora. Here is the OnStage review (December 27th feature) and the Gleaner’s report which has a few points that I clarify below.

There is a certain shortsightedness in the reviews I have read which I am addressing by way of some observation and history. How many of us recall that Sting, though it has developed a reputation of featuring the most virulent of dancehall clashes, has also promoted peace consistently and in some years there have been no clashes, but rather an emphasis on togetherness? Yes, clashes have been a staple of the event, but the early Sting years look like this in terms of clash highlights revealing that 36% of the shows were not billed as clashes:

Michael Palmer, Half Pint and Junior Reid – 1984
Papa San and Tonto Irie – 1985
NO CLASH featuring Tiger  – 1986
Four the Hard Way with Prof Nuts, Lt. Stitchie, Papa San and Admiral Bailey – 1987 (pulled 21,000 outgrowing the Cinema II venue)
Flourgon and Red Dragon vs Ninjaman and Jr. Demus, the latter being in Laing’s Supreme Promotions camp. Also Four the Hard Way with Sanchez, Courtney Melody, Conroy Smith, and Pinchers – 1988 (in a new bigger venue, National Stadium)
NO CLASH featuring Fat Boys and Jesse West, along with Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor – 1989
Ninjaman and Shabba Ranks – 1990 (an epic clash signalling Ninja’s rise as a deadly clash artist)
Ninjaman and Super Cat – 1991 
NO CLASH – 1992
Beenie Man and Bounti Killa – 1993
NO CLASH – Togetherness theme promoting peace with Garnet Silk, Luciano, Tony Rebel (in this year Silk’s tragic death came before the show which had moved to its current home Jamworld) –  1994 

And here are some of the memorable clashes, a significant archive afforded us by online platforms such as YouTube.

Papa San vs Lt. Stitchie

Ninja Man vs Shabba Ranks 1990

Mavado vs Vybz Kartel 2008

Kiprich vs Tony Matterhorn 2012

Kiprich vs Ninja Man 2012

Kiprich vs Rhyno 2013

Lady Saw vs Macka Diamond 2013

How many know that the Supreme Promotions outfit has consistently staged events beyond Sting, managed artistes such as Ninjaman, and has contributed to the building of Kingston’s and by extension, Jamaica’s entertainment product in a real way beyond clashes? And, how many recall that Sting’s first attempt at streaming was not in 2013 when focus on pay-per-view for international reach was facilitated by partnership with Downsound Records? How many of us know that Sting, like many other Jamaican shows, has not benefitted from government support in any sustained way? What I am highlighting here is that the event ought to be seen in a larger context of Kingston’s broader entertainment calendar and offering, not as a dancehall shooting star which disrupts our sensibilities once a year with the same ‘tired clashing narrative’.

So What did Sting Bring in 2014?

With some 74 acts, sound system selectors including Sky Juice (Metro Media) and Badda Bling (Flava Unit), dancing sensation Ravers Clavers, and celebrity MCs such as Nuffy and Wally British billed for the show, Sting 2014 raised some important and recurring questions for fans and myself. Chief among them were the quality of the show, that is, the line-up, choice of artistes, and the matter of the seemingly uncontrollable clash.

Ninja Kiprich ClashBeenie Bounti Clash

A show of this magnitude compared with other one night events inside and outside Jamaica has no rivals. Indeed, some may question whether the show isn’t trying to achieve too much in showcasing so many new and emerging acts alongside major stars within spectator-enticing arrangements such as tag teams, and four the hard way. I have commented in previous posts about the art of managing the line-up of a show such as Sting, within a context of volatility emerging often prior to the show in feuds and altercations. I have also commented on the need to manage the energy of the show from beginning to end in skilfully producing that needed climax, and the difficulty involved in such an endeavour. The fact is planning for the next staging begins at the end of each show. This also involves staying abreast of emerging trends, responding to them and making quick / necessary adjustments in the overall plan for the show. There is no simple answer to these concerns as the ever-shifting profit/performer-audience satisfaction/product/sponsorship equation is increasingly harder to pin down in an age of financial uncertainty.

I arrived at the venue around midnight to few patrons. This is characteristic of Sting as the ‘clashists’ know what they want and when to turn up.  I had to see Capleton who was expected to touch the stage at midnight. The show was running late and I arrived at just the right time. The reggae show was a hit, with smooth band changes, entertaining breaks and meaningful performances. I saw Nature, Ikaya, Kukudoo (with his signature line ‘you neva go a Obeah man from yuh born, hallelujah), along with Droop Lion, Exco Levi, Iba Mahr and Kabaka Pyramid who signalled that the reggae revival had infected even Sting. While some may see it as an insightful departure on the part of the Supreme Promotions team to have included a reggae segment, it also made good sense by virtue of trends over the last two years in particular, not just locally but internationally.

Then it was time for Badda Bling from Flava Unit who sounded the system straight to my veins with his selections from the Mighty Buju Banton, among hits from Kartel, Popcaan and more. I was pleased to see short band changes and the way the transitions were used to give space to advocates, dancers, and selectors to spice up the night.

Declaring he would be burning unconcerned, Capleton was next with a solid, fiery and energetic set including hits such as No Lotion Man, That Day Will Come, Jah Jah City, Everybody Needs Somebody, and Number One Pon Di Look Good Chart. With his own brand of pyrotechnics the fire man burned the stage for a day when good will be victorious over evil, and in him, the crowd was well pleased.

“Dem tink dem reach di ultimate but nuh reach no weh yet..Seh di wickid man will have to fall… a long time wi a warn dem an dem nuh waan listen…”

With declarations that he had plenty things to incinerate Capleton went about his set with precision calling on the crowd in standard dancehall ritual character to participate in the highest of (moral) purification touching all especially the oral sex ‘taboo’. Capleton is one of a dying breed because the truth is, oral sex is only taboo in Jamaica on a dancehall stage occupied by few, and one has to think hard about whether the performance translates into any kind of reality nowadays.

“I will never stop always keep the fire burning “

Tarrus Riley did it for me too. My favourites – Push it to the Limit, She’s Royal, My Day, Good Girl Gone Bad, and One Drop – were skilfully executed with the backing Black Soil Band. Riley declared “we naah rush, we a sing over Sting.” And that he did.

Weh Gully Bop Deh?

Well, the Sting crowd is one of the most rabid so whispers of ‘a weh Gully Bop deh’? could now be heard. The clash fever was rising and the crowd was getting impatient. As excitement backstage built with anticipation front stage around 4.00am artistes such as Sean Paul and Elephant Man rolled in to witness the bite of Sting as did members of the Downsound team. There were still performances from Japanese duo Ackee n Salt Fish, Kalado, Ishawna and Demarco who touched the stage around 6:00 a.m. With Puppy Tail and Good Book, Demarco represented but it was the backstage fracas about which he will be most remembered. While he was not directly involved, members of his entourage clashed with those of Masicka’s leading to gunshots and stampeding.

Demarco

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Later on it was time for Gage and Tommy Lee. This is what Curtis Campbell of The Gleaner reported. 

 “After that melee, so disappointed were the patrons and even some of the other artistes that Tommy Lee Sparta and Gage decided to cancel their highly anticipated clash and called for peace. Both acts embraced onstage and performed songs from their budding catalogues, in an attempt to show their supporters and critics that recording artistes possess the ability to co-exist without animosity.”

Black Rhyno vs Kipprich and Tommy Lee vs Gage 

http://youtu.be/Xz4_ZGX0JeQ 

This needs clarification. Sting’s Intention to call for peace in 2014 was not publicised (same in other years) and it needs to be revealed at this juncture in light of the history I mentioned previously. Ninjaman’s pull out was a spoke in the wheel of a plan on the part of the organisers to call for peace with artists Tommy Lee and Gage in particular. I was in the process of interviewing the Sting boss and was part of the discussion about the show on Tuesday, December 23rd at the Pegasus Hotel when Junior ‘Heavy D’ Fraser and Isaiah Laing revealed the plot twist that would turn the anticipated clash at the end of the show into a call for peace. Gage and Tommy Lee had agreed to do exactly what they did and it was not precipitated by the backstage happenings which only provided an opportune moment.

The plan came out of a concern for the high rate of violence leading to Jamaica being named the 3rd most murderous country in the world. The team explained that Sting could be a platform to bring peace to Jamaica using artists who have a powerful influence through music. In other words, while seen to be flirting with volatility of clashes, the organisers have consistently been concerned about the social ills manifesting in for example violence and have tried to promote an internationally appealing product without profanity, hate lyrics or violence from musical clashes on stage.

In the end, it was the altercation between Kiprich and Black Rhyno which ended the show prematurely, and for which the critics gave their harshest words.

Video of altercation between Rhyno and Kip Rich

http://t.co/qDj20LlVvs  

Beyond Gimmicks

gullybopatstingD20141227AMFirst of all Gully Bop emerged as a star, in fact the fastest rising internet sensation in the history of Jamaican music. Having been in the dancehall, experienced addiction and falling from grace, the story of Gully Bop’s rise is phenomenal, and just the novelty that Sting needed to ride the media waves. Indeed, not only did Gully Bop rise but he exhibited his love life and attracted attention for the dental care he is badly in need of. 

@Muta_baruka: Gully bop inna real life is base pon dah breada deh inna boondocks rasta cause a cartoon ting him deh pon http://t.co/AMpgKAUTxP

However, Gully Bop is the envy of many as his minimalist catalogue (only 3 recorded songs) has received attention from major producers such as Major Lazer and Walshy Fire who have released an EDM remix of Bop’s Dem Nuh Bad Like Me recording here

Who could have guessed that a toothless gully wonder would be the highlight of Sting? Well, this is Jamaica we’re talking about. A place where people dream on fumes of hunger and the unexpected larger-than-life emerges. Let me put in context for you how Gully Bop is seen. One patron was overheard saying this:

“Him name Gully Bop, mi name Gaza Bop, and mi a guh gi him a Baby Bop.”

MC Nuffy did not spare any words in introducing Gully Bop

“People, di brethren rise, first dem a call him seh him a mad man..can a mad man find a man to threaten anedda sober man?…This sound like seh somebody running and somebody forwarding…oonu a wait upon dis…him can freestyle, him know weh a gwaan…Let’s welcome the fastest rising international champion…”

Declaring Ninjaman “last year’s bad man” Gully Bop rode the riddims provided by Ruff Kutt band all the way into the hearts of those who were waiting to experience all the toothless freestyling prowess he promised fans leading from the hype social/ media facilitated.

This is not just gimmicks. And neither is the disrespect that Ninjaman explained to me in a telephone conversation on December 24. How could he consent to clash with a man they’ve taken from the gully? According to Ninjaman, Supreme Promotions hasn’t given him the ratings he deserves as a recording artist and one of the best clash artists Sting, and Jamaica have seen. In this regard, I hesitate to pass judgement on Ninjaman’s feelings which some may add could easily have been dealt with if he had resolved to demolish the ‘non-entity’ of Gully Bop. But alas, a man’s conviction is not something to take lightly. Ninjaman has had concerns for sometime about his place at Sting which has been documented in the media. Further, there is nothing to suggest that a veteran artist such as Ninjaman could be afraid of Gully Bop who needs to be advised now that the clash is over to leave the ‘gimmicks’ behind.

@boomshots: .@RealGullyBop tells @ReshmaB_RGAT “Ninja Man fraid of me bad bad bad” http://t.co/oPs7dcAoy8 

With a successful debut at Sting, based on the number of forwards received from the audience as he freestyled his way into solidifying a moment of fame, the toothless one, hurled lyrical insults at Ninjaman, Black Rhyno and Alkaline who was not present at the venue. This is what Gully Bop said of his performance:

“It was a nice experience performing at Sting. Ninja Man run and Black Ryno love run up on stage but him never try that with me because him afraid. The people dem love me and for 2015 Gully Bop career will stand tall. Mi have nuff nice songs and mi nah talk about slackness, mi a talk clean music. A true some a dem song here a dem mi buss wid mi a gwaan do them.” 

Gully Bop at Sting 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=368lj6MKIqs

And the Critics Spared No Words

Harsh criticisms hurled at the show via social media in particular could be seen during the morning of the show and into the day. Some of the comments include the following:

@yardlink254 #Sting2014 101 If You’re An Artist And Nobody Listens To Your Music Pay Laing  And Have A Great Artist Like Capleton Curtain Raise Fi Yuh.

@AllianceJamaica Sting made itself irrelevant this mawnin, thats sad.

@NinaRaZziPR Laing has to.go back to the drawing board and do a complete overhaul and revamp next. Tummy tuck, breast &b*TTY lift.

@DalkeithDawkins Rasta nuh fi mix up in a Bangarang. #MagnumSting2014

@BullyRingo #GullyBop about 25 years late & him still far better than the 4 alleged artist they put on  the late morning together

@MarvinSparks Sting was worse than I thought it would be. Its the lack of professionalism and man taking on the war ting too far that kills it

@MarvinSparks …Instead Laing gives us reggae artists, Capleton > EDHM > Tarrus > nobodies > clashes > nobodies > Demarco > Gully Bop > dead clashes

@MarvinSparks I’m pretty sure Ninja didn’t take kick and box for Sting to be this shit

@7thletterja So both Joe and Ninja abandoned Laing…

@NinaRaZziPR Laing need fi know when Buju a get released and pudding a 3 mill or so and pree book him.

@slunchice1 Gully Bop is NOT another Rosie or Cliff twang.

@1RealMarkus Both clashes were a bluuurrrr

@DJPAULMICHAEL Ima go listen to Shabba tunes right now so I can still love dancehall

@Masakrah #sting2014 The greatest one night chaos on earth!

Let’s be clear, it is not easy to manage the unpredictable nature of what has been at times a highly volatile dancehall arena. We all recall some of the major clashes and how Supreme Promotions has benefitted and in some cases stoked the marketing flames around clashes billed for the show. The anatomy of the show, akin to the anatomy of the dancehall clash as a performance mode, is highly complex.

There have also been extremely positive comments especially in relation to the ‘two shows in one’ concept which saw a battalion of fire-chanting, capitalist-burning reggae acts alongside younger dancehall performers chosen as headliners over traditional and expected veterans. This contributed to the reduction of profanity throughout the show. As one person commented, ‘a nuh big name act mek show’. According to Sting’s management, the event pulled its largest audience in five years since 2008’s highly inflammatory and anticipated epic clash between the feuding Gully / Gaza factions represented lyrically by Mavado and Kartel.

Where Do We Go From Here?

First of all, Sting will continue to be a staple on the Jamaican dancehall calendar for some time. Congratulations to corporate sponsors such as Magnum for consistently associating with dancehall as an authentic Jamaican product. While there is far to go to get to perfection, many have struggled to maintain events with little support from the apparatuses of the State we have called home.

While it was really tempting to quote myself especially on the moral grandstanding I highlighted in last year’s review as a major issue surrounding dancehall, Jamaica’s entertainment culture, and the role of government in this product being availed an enabling environment, I resisted. The role of government as a facilitator in the equation is of paramount importance but we are all ultimately responsible. Whether you believe this or not is another matter, but for the moment, trust me on this. Also trust my intrinsic awareness that the location of cultural response is a critical matter, one dependent on a multiplicity of ‘resources’. Further, one’s ‘location’ determines one’s ability to respond, a matter I touch on in this interview here.

Let us not allow politics, class or creed to occlude our vision and prevent us from playing our part in the music foundation we have built as a nation.

Finally, let me end with this question: Do we have a smoking ban in Jamaica or not?

(Credits: Photos of Demarco, Masicka, and Gully Bop courtesy of The Jamaica Gleaner.)

Delivered!: Sean Paul and the ‘Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’

Sean-PaulSumfest delivered!IMG_0052

After a 10 year absence from the Reggae Sumfest stage Sean ‘Dutty Paul’ Henriques returned as the proud prodigal son showing all and sundry that he had indeed worked on his craft, made hits, been charted with consistent international radio play, and with sales figures to show for it!

The self-styled ‘Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’ (we won’t go into that label in this post!!!) had indeed won with the decision to have Sean Paul perform on the 2014 line-up. If any one was in doubt that patrons turned out to see the Grammy Award-winning star, here is what I overheard as I settled into my spot after Future’s performance on International Night II:

‘I’m so pumped for Sean Paul right now, like my blood is pumping (breaks out in song… ‘Temperature..shelter you from the storm”‘)

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I literally smiled to myself, first with understanding and also with glee. By 3:00 am the Catherine Hall venue was filled with patrons who hadn’t arrived for Sanchez’s 11:30pm entrance to the stage. In fact Sanchez’s performance was a bit premature and sent the artiste into a *drops mic* sudden departure from the stage. He eventually returned with some coaxing, but it was clear he was peeved because the organisers apparently insisted he ‘open for Tessanne’, so to speak. I digress however. Let me get back to Sean.

Just gimme di light..

Sooooo, I could really relate to that patron even though my blood wasn’t boiling. Well, maybe just a little. I was sufficiently hyped that I drove to the second city to see Sean Paul and to hear ONE song. I was excited about that Major Lazer feat. Sean Paul track which had become a hit in my heart. ‘Come on to me’ has the stamp of one of the hottest pop production ‘corporations’ this side of the Atlantic. I use that word ‘corporations’ advisedly but you can see for yourself what I mean at www.majorlazer.com.   

Major Lazer – Come On To Me ft. Sean Paul

To my delight, the music gods felt my need for excitement and insisted that it be immediately satisfied. How could my night have gotten any better? Not only did he perform ‘Come on to Me’ but it was the opening song for a 40 minutes set which included successive hits –

      COME ON TO ME          GET BUSY        GIVE IT UP TO ME‎

              GOT 2 LUV U    BABY BOY          HEY BABY       INFILTRATE

 DEPORT DEM‎        NAH GET NUH BLY   HOT GYAL TODAY‎    

LIKE GLUE              GIMMIE DI LIGHT‎       WE BE BURNIN’         RIOT     

OTHER SIDE OF LOVE    WANT DEM ALL        SHE DOESN’T MIND        

         TEMPERATURE‎ 

Hot Gyal Today

Leading up to the Sumfest appearance, a host of social media posts and promotional interviews appeared including OnStage with Winford Williams who asked questions about the artiste’s ‘relationship’ with his fans. In a ‘Full frequency’ state of mind the grammy kid made it clear on OnStage, and the Sumfest stage, that his fans are crucial to him as one who has had a burning desire to be a dancehall star from early school days.

As dancehall and the wider Jamaican audience have held performers to high standards, there had always been a question about whether Sean Paul is really a dancehall artiste. The question was based on longstanding sentiments that Sean Paul’s absence from the Jamaican music and performance scene was based on lack of respect for his dancehall credentials which have been questioned in the face of massive sales numbers on singles such as Gimme Di Light and Temperature. While his international currency rose, his Jamaican currency seemingly diminished over the years.

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Paul has been clear to underscore the hard work he has put in, waving the Jamaican flag which is always visible up front and centre on the stage when he performs. He has also been clear about the source of his support:

“The girls always support my career so I give thanks from year to year..” 

Returning with his Badda Banz, sizzling dance routines, electrifying visuals, mic man, pyrotechnics, confetti, and an international show after 4 album releases, the Sumfest crowd went ‘snapping’ (Nigerians use this instead of photographing sometimes), videotaping, and rising to their feet to the end of the set when everyone stood there without a need to go anywhere, unable to move, after the world class performance.

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“Live and in living colour!”

I was clear that the Sumfest stage had been proverbially demolished as Sean Paul tomahawked his way into the hearts of many Jamaicans who doubted his depth and breadth. 

Afterall, tomahawking ain’t easy! We must collectively remember that the path to greatness is not for the swift, but for those who endure. 

Read more on Sean Paul’s Sumfest performance here.

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Rude Boys: From Marley and Cliff, Shanty Town to Savile Row

When will the Rude Boy be valued in Jamaica? When I came across the article entitled ‘Rude Boys’ written by  published in the Guardian, it brought me back to the days when I served as a board member at the Institute of Jamaica’s (IOJ) Museums Division. We had the mandate for securing and exhibiting the national collections. To my surprise, a large portion of the materials in the national collection had never been exhibited, including a substantial African Collection bequeathed to the nation by a diplomat posted in Jamaica after a sojourn in West Africa.

I had the privilege of seeing the entire national collection, and many artefacts representing indigenous Jamaican material culture were absent. As a member of the Board, I was constantly appalled for example at how there was never an exhibition on Rastafari, Jamaican fashion or that there was even a significant music collection showcasing the indigenous music birthed in Jamaica. Yes of course, we have a Jamaican Music Museum but its collection is at a crucial embryonic stage and with no permanent home. And yes, we have only recently opened an exhibition on Rastafari because I was a key player in engaging the Smithsonian Institution (Museum of Natural History) regarding the possibility of their exhibition ‘Discovering Rastafari!’ travelling to Jamaica, as well as the UWI’s Rastafari Studies Initiative, a key partner in its Jamaican staging. I could go on and on about the national collection, or about how there is no national consciousness about the need for a significant national collection showcasing our indigenous material culture. But that is not my aim.

Now, here comes word of another exhibition to be opened in London which has not been conceptualised by or for Jamaicans. ‘Return of the Rude Boy’ begins at London’s Somerset House in June. Has there ever been such an exhibition in Jamaica? Perhaps the idea has entered the mind of some persons but never came to light. Regardless of the situation, I am clear that there are two challenges posed here. First, many Jamaicans don’t see their indigenous culture as important enough for archiving, research or preservation. Secondly, where there is a consciousness about its importance, priority afterall (some would say) should be placed on more pressing issues such as various forms of crime and violence, grave economic challenges, moral decay, and so on. There is little consciousness of the link between culture and identity formation (personal / national), preservation of culture and education, or even, national culture and creative industries.  These are two critical challenges facing us as a nation as we seek to chart a path toward sustainable development through creative industries. The link between heritage, tourism and sustainable development through creative industries ought not to be missed.

I leave you with some of the article, and hope that the Institute of Jamaica considers seriously the possibility of having this exhibition travel to Jamaica.

“The rude boy has come a long way from his origins in Jamaican subculture, as shown in a new photography exhibition celebrating the movement’s distinctive style.”

IMG_0257

The tailor Sam Lambert shows off his rude boy style.

UROY

It was towards the end of 1963 that the Wailers released their first single, Simmer Down, on the legendary Studio One label in Jamaica. The song was written and sung by an 18-year-old Bob Marley, the lyrics intended to placate his mother, Cedella, who was worried about the company her son was keeping in the Trench Town ghetto of the Jamaican capital, Kingston, where they lived. Simmer Down was aimed directly at the often sharply dressed young men locally known as “rude boys”, who were making headlines in the then newly independent island with their violent and antisocial behaviour. “Simmer down, oh control your temper/Simmer down, for the battle will be hotter,” sang Marley over a frenetic rhythm by the studio’s stellar house band, the Skatalites. Produced by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Simmer Down was not the first song to address the rude boy phenomenon. The previous year Stranger Cole had released Ruff and Tough, produced by Coxsone’s rival, Duke Reid, a song now recognised as the first rude boy anthem. Simmer Down, though, had an urgency that caught the edgy, increasingly unruly atmosphere of Kingston’s mean streets. It was also an early example of what, as the fast-paced, jazz-inflected thrust of ska gave way first to the slower “bluebeat” and then to the even slower, but deeper, bass-heavy rhythm of reggae, would come to be known as “sufferer’s music” – a song voiced by, and for, the oppressed, who ordinarily had no voice in Jamaican society.

“The figure of the rude boy with his swagger and casual disrespect for the law harks back to older archetypes like the semi-mythical Stagger Lee character in black American folk blues, the bad man who seems invincible,” commentsPaul Gilroy, academic and author of several books on the politics of race, including There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack. “That kind of figure also appeared in various guises in the imported Hollywood western and gangster movies that young Jamaicans lapped up. But the emergence of the rude boy at this particular moment also marked out the acquisition of a new self-confidence and sense of self-reinvention among the young and disaffected that was related somehow to Jamaican independence in 1962. The rude boy was a recognisable, if culturally complex take, on an archetypal bad-boy figure.”

Since then, the rude boy has recurred throughout the history of popular music both in Jamaica and Britain. His sartorial influence – sharp suits, pork-pie hats, shiny shoes – was felt in both the early mod and, more problematically, skinhead movements of the early and late 60s, as imported ska and bluebeat singles from Jamaica ignited the hipper dance floors of London and beyond. It was revisited, too, for the 2 Tonemovement that emerged out of the Midlands and London in the wake of punk in the late 70s, when bands such as the Specials and Madness reinvigorated Jamaican ska.

Now an exhibition of photography called The Return of the Rudeboy is about to open at Somerset House in London. Curated by fashionphotographer Dean Chalkley and stylist and creative director Harris Elliott, it aims to “depict a collective of sharply dressed individuals, who exemplify an important yet undocumented subculture …” With live events, DJs, merchandising and even a rude boy barber shop, as well as screenings of fims such as The Harder They Come – perhaps the ultimate depiction of the lawless rude boy lifestyle – the exhibition will, say the curators, “document the life, style and attitude among a growing group of people that embody the essence of the term”

What, though, is the essence of rude boy in 2014? For many young people, the term is now synonymous with the 2011 single of the same name by Rihanna, the reigning rude girl of sexually suggestive R&B. “Come here, rude boy, can you get it up/Come here rude boy, is you big enough?” she sings, rendering the term reductively literal and blatantly stereotypical.

I put it to Harris that, in their interpretation of the term, the rude boy also seems to have travelled a long way from his edgy ghetto roots, shedding his anti-establishment tendencies to become simply an arbiter of a certain kind of post-modern urban style in which the past is rifled and recontextualised, and, in the process, stripped of real meaning.

Return of the Rudeboy is at Somerset House, London 13 June-25 August

Read the entire post here.

JAMAICA’S STATE OF MUSIC – University of the West Indies to fill research gap

IMG_0257UWI, Mona, February 3                   Jamaica’s music industry consists of several properties ranging from the intangible and recognizable ‘sound’ to the more tangible products, services and intellectual property, among other key areas. The industry is able to generate a range of economic activities through live performances, manufacturing, education in music and production.

Shaggy

Jamaica’s music has a competitive edge and if packaged in a meaningful way can offer several opportunities for a wide range of stakeholders. “This can only be achieved if the efforts on stage combine effectively with the boardroom to maximize earnings,” according to Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Senior Lecturer, University of the West Indies, Mona.

Those issues among others will be discussed at the State of Music Symposium, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, March 1 & 2 at the JAMPRO Business Auditorium starting at noon both days.

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The symposium has been designed to capture information and create a working document for consideration by members of the fraternity. The key discussions will look to focus on the markets, major players and partners who are significant in growing the music industry. The involvement of the University of the West Indies is to “fill the gap in research to ensure that the correct data gets out on the business of music in Jamaica,” noted Stanley Niaah.

Among the topics to be discussed are the state of music education, the rise and fall of studios, the changing business models, the state of music and film and other key areas.

The Symposium is a partnership to include private and public sector presenters and will involve post graduate students from the UWI to capture, collate and present information within a 90 day period. Along with the UWI, JAMPRO, Jamaica’s export and investment promotion agency have so far offered support.

Chronixx

‘Reggae for a Cause’ as Shaggy and Friends Put Children First!

Image   There are various ways in which reggae and its sister genre dancehall have played significant roles in advancing the human race. With originary scripts solidly vibrating around liberation, human rights and revolutionary impulses, reggae’s reach into charity and social movements of various kinds is known. Beyond Marley’s contribution to the articulation and achievement of liberation in Zimbabwe, and Peter Tosh’s war against Apartheid, if you can’t imagine what I mean then the event ‘Reggae For Climate Protection‘ which has been staged in New York, USA since 2011 is perhaps one of the best modern examples I’ve come across.

“Inspired by an appreciation for our environment, Reggae for Climate Protection was created by Leslie Pieters to bring together risk takers, melody makers, earth rakers and policy makers… Reggae for Climate Protection celebrates our environment, our society, and brings people together to understand the relevance of our carbon footprint and its impact on the world around us.”

The evidence suggests reggae has done more for human rights, various freedoms, social, environmental and spiritual consciousness outside Jamaican shores. But, who can objectively qualify / quantify the effect / affect on inspiration, spiritual fortitude and revolutionary impetus bequeathed to local creators, perpetuators and consumers?

Enter ‘Shaggy and Friends’

The January 4 event which is being reported as a tremendous success (side note: there are some who were disappointed) by one of its sponsors drew attention from scores with its star-studded musical cast headlined by The Voice champion Tessanne Chin who received a heroine’s welcome on her December 20 return home. Image

The Grammy-winning, Platinum-selling celeb Shaggy, established the Make A Difference Foundation which is invested in raising money for the Bustamante Children’s Hospital (the only one of its kind in the Caribbean), a focus of which is the new Cardiac Ward. The final figures on the level of support received are unavailable but organisers are hoping to top the successes of 2012 (US$370,000 or $32 million), 2011 ($27 million) and 2010 ($30 million). Concerns over the amount of complimentary tickets given away was a sore point which earned mention by many performers. It is estimated that some $15m in complimentary tickets was lost to the charity effort. All indications are the event was a huge success and the number of patrons present far exceeded what I remember seeing at the first event I attended in 2009. So with the slogan ‘1 ticket = 1 life’ in hand, children for generations to come will be beneficiaries of the worthy ‘reggae for a cause’ initiative.

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Shaggy and His Friends on Show

So what did the show bring and why were some present and viewing at home feeling short-changed? Beginning with national anthem, drumming and prayer at the dot of 8pm, we were spared no time in getting the ball a rolling as Shaggy took his hits to the stage. Then came Pinchers, Admiral Bailey, and Admiral Tibet who enticed us with foundation dancehall hits such as ‘Della Move’, ‘Bandelero’, ‘Serious Time’ and ‘Leave People Business Alone’.

Admiral Tibet Leave People Business Alone

Carlene Davis paid a timely tribute to ‘Winnie Mandela’ along with her well loved selections of ‘Going Down to Paradise’, and the timeless Abba original ‘The Way Old Friends Do’.

Abba -The Way Old Friends Do

Then it was time for the Mighty Diamonds who did not disappoint. Patrons were then treated to a session on the proverbial ‘bun’ with Christopher Martin who on the one hand asked God not to let his girlfriend catch him cheating, and Macka Diamond on the other, teaching the crowd how to cheat without being caught. Frankly speaking Macka who got the least love on that night was making a comeback from clash obscurity where she was sent after a dismal performance at Sting 2013. You can read my review of that event here.

Jump forward to Konshens who has been on my dancehall mind for some time. Oops.. I’m jumping the gun just a bit but what the hell… Did you see him? Catch the footage? Were you there?? Let me say up front that my night was made because of the three appearances by Konshens to which patrons were treated. He was dapper, mature, freshly titillating and tantalising in performances befitting the description – stellar showmanship. Yes indeed. 

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Let me get back to the line-up. Elephant Man’s energy is waning somewhat and his set seemed very much like the one he did in 2009. We were thrilled with dance hits including ‘Higher level’,  Revival infused ‘Bad Mind’, and ‘Signal di plane’. The sell off moment came with the phone call he accepted from Buju Banton while segueing into Gargamel’s lines ‘…strange this feeling I’m feeling…’ from the Til Shiloh recording.  The biggest forward came when he characteristically invited a child on stage to be taught the ‘signal di plane’ moves.

Comedic duo Ity and Fancy Cat came to do the ‘moonwalk’ and its cousin ‘one drop’, along with a hilarious telephone call from the PM congratulating Tessanne as she was being questioned about the controversial ‘frequent flyer’ status while ‘werking werking werking’. Naturally this caused an uproar of vigorous laughter that confirmed the duo’s well earned place at the apex of comedic innovations and industry in Jamaica. Joined by the shining star Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley we were treated to a report on his need to battle with a Sketel backstage whose concern was that Tessanne should have pursued the Duttyberry dubbed ‘Tessless’ one in the form of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, ‘the sexiest man alive’. Let’s just leave that one alone.

Wayne Marshall who brought his son to bring down the house while performing his single ‘Stupid Money’ thrilled the audience.  Joined by Assassin on that recording, we were taken down impersonation lane when vocalising Junior Reid, Eddie Fitzroy, and Buju Banton’s interpretations on ‘Stupid Money’ made for a refreshing twist to the set. Marshall’s ‘Go Hard and Dun’ was the big hit though, performing again with Agent Sasco aka Assassin and joined by Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley whose welcome to Jamrock hit became the sound track of his set. Marley then exited the stage making way for Sasco to take it away with selections such as ‘Hand Inna Di Air’ and ‘Hand to Mouth’. I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed that set!

Kes out of Trinidad  took the levels to Soca with the R n B twist around 11am when some nine acts including Konshens, Sean Paul, I Octane, Tarrus Riley and the Voice herself Tessanne Chin along with guest Matthew Schuler were still left to take the stage.

Riddim up to Konshens’ set. When Konshens hit the stage with the soulful ode to making a life for his daughter – ‘as long as she’s happy…long as mi baby have suppn’ – the voice that has thrilled Jamaicans at home and abroad since he blossomed on the scene with ‘Winner’  had touched down in fine style. Many females were then enticed with the challenge of living up to Konshens’ desire for a ‘gyal weh bad bad bad’ because ‘wi nuh like gyal weh soft and weak inna heart…wi nuh love gyal weh easy fi frighten’.

Konshens – Winner

Konshens – Bad Gal [Official HD Video]

The mega hit ‘Gyal a Bubble’ put patrons in a real party mood as Konshens asked ‘how da party yah look suh?’. It was all uphill from there with selections such as ‘Drink ‘n Rave’, ‘Couple Up’, ‘No Hesitation’ and ‘They Say’. Did I say the showmanship on display was off the chain? Memba mi told you.

International recording artiste Neyo who currently shares the track ‘You Girl’ with Shaggy on his ‘Out of Many, One Music’ (2013) album brought excellence to the stage with dance, harmonies and hit songs including ‘Let Me Love You’ and ‘Ms Independent’ ushering in what has now become the famous ‘rompin shop riddim’. He was then joined by Shaggy as they both delivered their recording ‘You Girl’. Shaggy was also joined by Rayvon to deliver their hit single ‘Angel’. 

As MCs Ms. Kitty, Debbie Bissoon, Christopher Daley and David Annackie ushered the show to crescendo proportion we observed the love for patrons being displayed in many forms. Neyo threw his towel while Konshens threw his Jacket, Shaggy his cap and Matthew Schuler sparing no time in both showing love for Jamaica while asking the crowd to indulge him in a ‘selfie’ recording the audience cheering at his first international performance.

Time for ChinitaGoodaz! Afterall, this was her homecoming and stage to shine.  Walking right off the backs of so-called ‘dutty Rastas’ such as Marley who paved the Jamaican music path through persecution and indignation giving way to One Love, Tessanne Chin came to the stage after the Dutty Berry introduction around 12:22am. With formidable composite of a band, backup singers, and stage visuals befitting a star, Tessanne spared no time (amidst sound challenges) in telling Jamaica ‘The Reason Is You’, ‘Underneath it All’. Dipping into ska dubs and rock grooves, and through a wardrobe change, we ended up in Tessanne’s secret but highly supported ‘Hideaway’ after ‘Redemption Song’, ‘Many Rivers to Cross’, and medley of her songs including ‘When I’m with you’, and ‘Messenger.’ If no one has told Tess yet, it is now time to rerelease ‘Hideaway’ and send it into the musical stratosphere where it belongs.  

Introducing Matthew Schuler took the show to another level as he wowed the audience with charm and hits ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’, and ‘Hallelujah’ which brought a deeply spiritual, moving moment that elicited a hearty applause from the audience.  He also gave the audience a surprise with the performance of Wayne Wonder’s ‘No Letting Go’ on the Party Rhythm to boot.  Tessanne returned with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and new single ‘Tumbling Down’ whose second verse was infused with her own reggae rock musical sensibilities. She ended her set  with Whitney Houston’s ‘I have Nothing’ and the crowd was immensely pleased.

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A compendium of Jamaica’s excellence in music, the stage was then cleared for Chronixx and his Zinc Fence Band which opened its set with what is easily a popular anthem in ‘Smile Jamaica’, followed by hits such as ‘They Don’t Know’, ‘Here Comes Trouble’, ‘Warrior’, and ‘Odd Ras’. Tarrus Riley brought his ‘Lion Paw’ confidence to the stage with characteristic showmanship exhorting the fact of good winning over evil every time, even seeking Higher powers to walk with him in ‘Never Leave I Jah Jah’ all the way through hits such as ‘Hurry Up’ (one of my personal favourites), ‘One Drop’, and ‘She’s Royal’. Tarrus and Konshens teamed up for the hit ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ with the brilliant segue into Robin Thicke’s ‘good girl’ from the mega hit ‘Blurred Lines’ being just as good my third time around experiencing it.

photo 1 photo 2Grammy winning, platinum selling, Sean Paul’s return to the Jamaican stage at Shaggy and Friends was epic. The Badda Banz roared into action for the penultimate act of the night with hand clapping vibes for the first selection ‘Got to Love You’, making way for ‘Other Side of Love’, and with Junior Gong joining the indomitable Dutty P on stage for nothing short of a musical ‘Riot’.

Sean Paul at Shaggy and Friends

Konshens’ third appearance for the night came as he joined Sean Paul for the snazzy single ‘Want Dem All’.  ‘She Doesn’t Mind’,and ‘Temperature’ sealed the deal for a spectacular return to the hearts of Jamaicans, many standing in awe as they watched riddim, rhyme, moves, flow and energy.

Chronixx Neyo Shaggy

Sean Paul made way for I Octane who once again closed a major show. ‘Everybody clean and straight’ had to ‘Buss a Blank’, and show ‘respect to all who sell bag juice’ (‘Suffer Too Long’), as well as the ever mentioned ‘Mama’. The catchy and honest ‘Gyal a Gimme Bun’, preceded ‘We Love the Vibes’, and ‘Happy Time’ (it’s an Holiday), all contributing to an overall winning performance by I Octane as patrons made their way out of the venue. The die hards stayed though, making it clear that some attended to soak up all the energy, talent and stardom on display.

I-Octane – “Gyal A Gimme Bun” (Official Video)

Show quality, harmonies, short, seamless and entertaining band changes with solid acts – well perhaps except Macka Diamond – was what many present and watching live via Facebook , CVM Television and The Gleaner got from the Shaggy and Friends show. Of course, the irony is that Shaggy and Friends is one of the things that’s good about Jamaica, but it took place in a venue that brings stark reminder of some of  what’s frightfully challenging about Jamaica and it’s leadership which resides in the well decorated offices at Jamaica House. Quite frankly my only regret is that there were no police officers combing the grounds for those who insisted on smoking in public despite the newly introduced smoking ban. 

There is no doubt that complaints about the packed line-up fade in comparison to positive comments about Shaggy and Friends. It was a superior production, and a fine example for many Jamaican events to follow. Spare no time in consuming this short video review of a well produced ‘reggae for a cause’ production. 

Video Review – Shaggy and Friends 2014