Global Reggae Conference – Call



FEBRUARY 9 – 11, 2017


 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. 


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.


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




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 


Tel: 1 (876) 977 – 1951 |  970 – 6228


The Changing Role of Jamaican Radio: My Two Cents

I started taking note with some anxiety a few years ago, regarding the changing role of radio in Jamaica and the fact that many didn’t seem to understand the major implications for our music business. I attempted to have some discussion on this at the first State of the Music Symposium (SOMS) in 2014 but it didn’t quite go as I had envisioned it. By year two of the SOMS, the matter was again raised but we remained on the outskirts of the issue while speaking from the perspective of the disc jocks who today are themselves producers and promoters.


A few days ago while listening to a particular station, I had to ask – who is the programme manager?!? I received a response and decided for the first time to air my concerns which I have expanded here.

For the purposes of confession, let me state here that I am an academic, have been involved at various levels of research on Jamaican music and culture and now serve in various capacities within government run entities based on my expertise. It is important to confess all this because, as many of you may have realised, in spite of all that, I use this blog (and social media accounts) as a space to say it as I see it, unencumbered even by my academic / social image and biases. So here we go.

When I was growing up, radio was a huge part of my experience and pattern of music consumption. It was radio that introduced me to Tappa Zukie’s ‘Rocksteady’, Half Pint’s ‘Greetings’ and Air Supply’s ‘All Out of Love’. As I grew older and delved into the history of radio in Jamaica the following became clear. Access to radio period was limited and stations from the USA were periodically available so much so that U Roy told of listening to disc jock, ‘Jocko’ Henderson from whom he learned a few announcing techniques. Further, Jamaican music didn’t always have a space. Producers had to buy expensive radio slots to have their music aired. By the 1980s therefore when I became a real consumer and began listening to favourite artistes such as Madonna, Michael & Janet Jackson, Peter Tosh and Whitney Houston, we had entered a different, and more democratised radio era.

But there was something important about what was and was not being played on radio. In the period around the early 1970s to 1980s there was little opportunity to hear on radio Jamaican music which had not made its mark in a dancehall first via live performances. Whether it was U Roy, Yellow Man, Josey Wales, Lt. Stitchie, Shabba Ranks or Lady G, touching the dancehall stage and making a mark there was important success for transitioning to radio. Radio disc jocks therefore played music which had currency inside the dance and therefore among the populace. My grandfather’s shop with the Juke Box he bought after returning from England was one such space, redubbed Shanty Town soon after the song ‘007’ made Shanty Town a popular nomenclature. Records cut were acquired and played ad nauseum inside the shop as patrons came to dance and celebrate. This was before radio became a space of consumption for Jamaican music which still had not received the respect it deserved by the 1970’s.

Shanty Town (1967)
With that as a simple background, there is a huge difference in what obtains today. I tune in periodically and get discouraged like many others from listening radio. First, what plays on radio comes directly from an artiste or his/her team to the disc jock and often these tunes go unvetted without any intermediary to determine their suitability for radio. This is what results in complaints to entities such as the Broadcasting Commission, Jamaica, which has been making attempts to regulate the anomalies  of radio. But let’s focus on the intermediary for a moment and ask why such a person/s would be necessary. Many stations operate without programme managers. Where there is a programme manager, that person is unknown or does not have a substantial role that he/she can hold any sway in the organisation with disc jocks. Programme Managers often exist as de jure operants while de facto disc jocks are in charge walking in when slated with laptops afforded by the technological shifts which have made playing the domain of an individual and not a radio station.

Secondly, there are no repositories systematically organised for accessing selections, or playlists used by disc jocks, and where they exist access to them can take months. This has become such a challenge for rights holders and collective management organisations such as Jamaica Music Society that software is used to determine play in order to fairly calculate royalties for rights holders. I have identified a problem in the management around radio play and the way in which music is accessed beyond the domain of a ‘dancehall tested’ system. That is not all.

On occasion I have during particular slots tuned into radio and heard consistent play of anywhere from 6 – 11 tracks from one artiste as if there was an attempt at promoting such artistes while in some cases using tired playlists repeatedly, same format, no variation. Most critically, you can’t hear or develop an appreciation for what is being played because it is not announced or back announced, and as I explained earlier in some cases already removed from the dancehall because the radio disc jock has been entrusted with the task of breaking the tune.  This makes for radio that is not even as useful as a YouTube mix, and certainly not one which is interested in the promotion of Jamaican music.

Radio’s distinctiveness is partially defined in the ability to communicate with an audience, take them on a journey through music or whatever means. To achieve this it cannot become monotonous by repeating playlists and playing certain artistes without even as much as meaningful interaction around what is being played and why. Where did the possibility for engaging with the audience about the provenance, distinctiveness or quality and reach of a song go? This is the 21st century. Not all disc jocks use the same style but whatever the hour there is just as much potential for engagement of an audience. That is radio’s effect. I dare say it is not being effectively used in Jamaica. I might as well listen to a YouTube mix. 

While there is an understanding that radio is about a particular sound, number of spins and making of hits today, with structured playlists determined by strategists who are interested in increasing appeal consistent with the business of music of which they are apart, Jamaican radio which forms the source of my concern because it highlights so much of what is currently wrong with radio, has to rethink its role. Radio has taken over as a space for artistes to ‘get a buss’ whether through payola or not, for some artistes to be promoted over others, instead of a space for sharing the rich repertoire of music available from Jamaica first and then elsewhere. Radio has eclipsed the dancehall as the space to break artistes and their music, while disc jocks are sometimes the very persons producing such music. 

Sadly, there are destinations inside and outside the Caribbean such as Bermuda where Jamaican music which is not played in Jamaica, somewhat forgotten or not accessed by our disc jocks, is heavily consumed. This is a travesty considering the seemingly unlimited repertoire of Jamaican music, even before we get to pop generally, which is available to disc jocks. These and other challenges also explain why within periods such as Reggae Month visitors to Jamaica wonder if they have landed in Malibu or Kingston.

I was the chair of the subcommittee that worked on the submission to UNESCO for Kingston to be designated a creative city for music. That application’s success had less to do with the application than with the facts about Jamaica’s contribution to a global music landscape. Kingston was already on the map and assessors had to contend with other city presentations  that used reggae even while Kingston was a contending city. The projects within Kingston’s submission did not identify radio but it is no less significant in the scheme of Kingston’s entertainment culture. Something is wrong if people are choosing to consume music via YouTube while radio stations continue to push at the limits of what is viable in an era made for millennials who are not interested in radio.  What we do with music on radio and elsewhere is of great concern to me especially because we are the nation that has given the world seven distinct genres of music in the latter half of the 20th Century.

We must get it together and the ball is certainly not solely in the regulator’s court.

‘Putting Music First’: Etching Jamaica’s Road Map to a Viable Industry

By Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Ph.D.

Steppin Razor Book Cover

Did you know that Jamaica is the only country to have given the world eight distinct genres of music in the latter half of the C20th? I move around my home country asking this question in a variety of fora and many still don’t know. ‪Did you also know that there is no genre of music since the 1960s which has not been influenced by Jamaican music? ‬It is awareness of the enormous wealth of Jamaica’s musical contribution through mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, nyabinghi, dancehall and EDM, buttressed by aesthetics and technological innovations of the sound system (Jamaica’s national instrument), which has sustained my intent to educate people about this musical legacy. Regrettably, the investment in the preservation and development of this musical wealth is in direct opposition to the way in which Jamaica has stamped its creative work in music on a global scale. There are serious challenges therefore, and Jamaica cannot truly say it has creative industries. Rather, it has creative sectors which have at various points competed on an international scale. These include film, fashion and music. But there is much more to be done. 

In March 2014, I had the opportunity to speak to industry insiders at a University of the West Indies (UWI) shaped initiative under the theme – State of the Music. The inaugural symposium was organised and well attended by music sector professionals. It was conceptualized based on a number of conversations over the past three years with Jamaican music business insiders about development of a music industry based on an urgent need to address negative factors including emerging music and artistes, lack of standards, lack of an effective governance structure and current research. The time has come for Jamaica to put music, its most impacting and largest export, first. The need for key players to be involved in the process of charting a course and building a vision for this sector was therefore seen as crucial. The rationale for staging the symposium, and the proposal for a ‘Way Forward’ based on presentations and discussion over two days, are thus documented below.


Additionally, the State of the Music symposium was conceptualized as a means by which to identify and document the current status while highlighting clearly the markets, players and partners to grow the music industry. As an annual two-day event to close the Reggae Month calendar for reflection, visioning and forecasting, the State of the Music Symposium is intent on bringing private and public sector to the same table, ultimately toward capacity building and transformation of the business using the workshop model. The organizers acknowledge that growth has to take place based on solid local efforts with a focus on generation of research, dissemination of information, education, and partnership, without stifling creativity, and while nurturing income generation. UROY

While the Caribbean Export Development Agency, International Labour Organization, Inter-American Development Bank, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, among others have funded projects for advancement of either the Jamaican or Caribbean music industries, there is much more funding and work that is needed. One immediate goal is the update of research done by Witter (2002) and Nurse et al (2006)[1]. More importantly some of the lessons learned from past initiatives include the fact that there has been inadequate follow up on many projects which has led to frustration and fatique among stakeholders; lack of a coordinated and sustained approach taking intersectoral linkages to sectors such as tourism and education into account is lacking and compromises the success of vital initiatives; as well as the legal and policy frameworks lag behind real developments in the business of music thus reducing the capacity for developing an enabling environment.

Among other things, the dialogue over the course of the State of the Music Symposium revealed that a holistic approach is vital. Comments on best practices from other sectors have lead to inquiry about whether initiatives within the sporting industry can offer building blocks or solutions for music business development. For example, what’s stopping Jamaica from having ‘music championships’ that draw on primary and secondary school talent? Could a combination of the early talent shows such as Vere John’s Opportunity Hour, Jamaica Festival Competition, Teenage Dance Party, Rising Stars and the Tastee Talent Show give Jamaica a viable model for implementation of music appreciation / participation as a key component of the education system? Could music become a catalyst for social transformation, purging a crime-ridden society of the ‘gun over girls’ mentality? Can Jamaica replace guns with musical instruments in the minds of Jamaica’s youth? One of the strong sentiments from the Symposium was the need for censorship the content produced important especially for youth. Why don’t we have a music industry for the youth in Jamaica? Could artists be seen as mentors for youth instead of a bad influence?

We identified in that Symposium key components of a way forward:

1. The Jamaican Music Economy (Old/New Creative Economy Initiatives)

Need for Research – On what basis do we put Music first?

  • Demonstrating the importance of putting music first requires research and the use of existing research to generate new research. Studies such as that of Witter (2004) and Nurse et al (2006) need to be updated as a matter of urgency.

The variables to add to the value of Research

  • Sales
  • Festivals and Events
  • Market Share for and of Jamaican Music
  • Geographical Distribution and Spread
  • Corporate Investment
  • Viability of the product as it relates to heritage, economic value, social value

The Role of the Interpreter

  • Bridging the Gap between the Creative Worker and the Policy Maker
  • Distinguishing between the viability and the crucial indicators
  • Identification of the differences and the gaps

Collate existing documentation from, among others

  • Vanus James
  • Sonjah Stanley Niaah
  • Donna Hope
  • Dennis Howard
  • Carolyn Cooper
  • Keith Nurse
  • Michael Witter

2. The State of Music Education

Development of a music business in Jamaica needs to be buttressed by solid music education. While the music business is much more than playing music, there is need for support in the form of dedicated music teachers at the primary and secondary levels, as well as the focus on music being used to mobilize community arts centres throughout Jamaica, alongside in-service training for music students.


  • Use of Jamaican Music Forms to teach
  • Activating systems of apprenticeship
  • Additional research into Musicology
    1. Defining periods
    2. Defining genres
  • Curriculum Development generally and around audio engineering and sound technology specifically.
  • Greater music integration into school curricula mandatory in early education
  • Innovation
  1. Professional Recording Facilities, Home-Studio Technology and Music Production –

The Studio as a living space

  • Studios are living spaces, each having their characteristic ‘sound’. Among factors such as audibility and decipherability, a major challenge has been sound engineering which has impacted the quality (among others) of music productions. There’s a space for, and continued relevance of, traditional recording studios. There is a difference in tools used across studios.
  • There is space for both professional and home studios, and with recording now democratized, processes of apprenticeship have been somewhat removed while appreciation and experience have been severely compromised.
  • It is believed that the instances of artistes sending sub-standard products, including demos, which are not properly recorded or mastered, will be reduced, and ultimately record sales would be impacted if the role of studios, apprenticeship as a fundamental training mechanism and quality sound engineering are understood and / or achieved.

Representation for Studios

  • As a music business, studios have no associations and are not strongly represented in any degree, in the current music associations including JAVAA, JACAP, JARIA and JFM which all need a stronger voice to be effective.

The Multi-format Person

  • The multiformat person is now most suited for music as a zone of work. The value chain for activating a song is vast, hence the need to fully understand the creative process around social authorship, primacy of the instrumental riddim or beat, pursuit of the hit, and a ‘singles’ oriented market.

3. The State of Legislation: Media and Music

Who is responsible?

  • Everyone is responsible for ensuring that the content of music produced is disseminated via appropriate channels and the vulnerable are protected.

The Effect of Payola

  • Payola is of great concern, a matter on which artistes are divided, but ‘pay to play’ is generally not seen as right. Payola affects the industry in many ways including in the making of hits. Based on billboard data Jamaican music is selling in large quantity from mature, overseas and deceased musical acts from Jamaica and not young or emerging acts. Radio station standards are also compromised by pay for play. Fines beginning at JA$5 million have been proposed by the Broadcasting Commission, Jamaica (BCJ), reflecting the seriousness with which they think this phenomenon should be treated.

Legislative reform / other recommendations

  • The preparation of playlists to be made available for collection by the regulator, and rights collection agencies.
  • Management of all music played on air being facilitated through a music library from which music is properly assessed and approved for broadcast.
  • A mechanism for establishing charts should be available for inspection.
  • A quota system for local music to preserve music and reverse outflow of royalty payments.

Does criminalizing payola really help?

  • There is a view that ‘pay for play’ without disclosure is the real problem and that criminalization of payola will not solve the problem. There is need for sensitization about the role of radio as it is not for selling songs made by artistes but rather advertising as a major revenue stream.

4. The Business of Music Events, Festivals and Promotion

Concept, Budget, Team

  • Festivals are expensive ventures which need facilitation from government in respect of venues and funding. Sponsorship is an area that has become increasingly challenging in a context where no good festival, costs anything less than $20 million.
  • Promotion of live events has to be seen as driving force in the music business and Kingston has taken a leading role with Kingston Music Week and other initiatives around locations such as Wickie Wackie, Countryside and Puls8. As a means to drive employment, live music needs to be seen as central generating its own calendar and culture for renewal in the music business.
  • There is need to focus on live music as part of music tourism and heritage tourism.
  • Corporate sponsorship is crucial, as much as roles of event managers, and promoters, in maintaining integrity of event and sponsor brands.

5. Artiste Management and Music Business Personnel Development

  • The artiste is not an individual but a corporation. Personnel and product development are therefore important, as well as managing the artiste as product for consumption, which needs to be packaged.
  • The business of artiste management is about understanding the artiste as selling not only a product but a way of life, a brand, and therefore a need to manage and develop personnel holistically.
  • Understanding ‘who consumes reggae and how do they consume?’ becomes an important part of the equation in the product development.
  • Management team cannot be haphazardly chosen, it is a hub with various dimensions including the business manager, artiste manager, booking agent, tour manager, lawyer, publicist, accountant etc. The manager is leading a team.
  • Some artistes have made themselves unmanageable and this is also an area of concern. There is need for training and development in the area of artiste management.

6. Operations and Associations: How to make them more efficient and effective?

Organizations need revitalization to gain a strong voice

  • Organizations such as JAAMS, JACAP, JFM, JARIA, JAVAA, JIPO, and RIAJAM now defunct all implicate music. JARIA for example arose as a call from industry insiders to deal overall with industry matters.
  • Public education is necessary in terms of relevance of organizations as people are ignorant of the laws which exist, either to protect them or for sanctions in relation to the music business.
  • It was strongly felt that the time has come for us to stop discriminating against the five indigenous music forms we have created at international standard and which are internationally accepted. When compared with Europe which has only produced the waltz some 100 years ago.

7. The State of Music, Film and Publishing

  • There is little protection for people in film. Understanding Issues around rights and legal ramifications are crucial in order to move forward. For example, there is need to resolve the issue of rights where filmmakers get nothing from play of music videos in perpetuity.
  • The fact that Jamaica doesn’t have a film school challenges the capacity of the country to produce highly skilled filmmakers.
  • Paucity of local content, especially entertainment at the turn of the millennium led to the emergence of entities such as Hype TV when Television Jamaica’s ER was the only solid 30mins of entertainment journalism on local television.
  • Online platforms are open for exploitation and organizations such as engaged in digital distribution of the music experience give people the service and train people to do this themselves. They are also launching a new app as well as games through which artistes and their products can be distributed via such platforms.
  • Music memoirs are selling very well but there is a disparity because there are 100,000s produced internationally versus 3000 for Jamaican bestsellers. It is important that we begin to tell our stories especially as many of the pioneers have / are transitioning.
  • Artists are brands who don’t have books as products and this is an area to be exploited.

8. Creation of a template for structure – Hybrid Template

  • An organic structure currently exists but needs infusion of a relevant structure;
    • One which identifies ways and means to get into an arena that isn’t traditionally ours, but will allow us to shine;
    • One which develops ways and means to do what it takes to be functional in an international context;
  • Creation of standards at all levels –
    • Production
    • Writing
    • Sound
    • Marketing
    • Promotion
    • Publishing

Some clear programmes which are to be initiated –

  • Professional and Extended courses on
  • Sound Engineering
  • Music Production
  • Music Business
  • Digital Production
  • Packaging and Marketing the Music Product

There are some additional topics to be explored to solidify some of the work already done –

  • Corporate Support of Jamaican Music
  • Venue Assessment and Needs
  • Changing Business Models
  • Role of Radio
  • Payola and the streamlining of broadcasting legislation
  • Roll of other media forms
  • Media Regulation and Broadcasting
  • Role of the recording Studio

What should emerge from this for continuity?

  • Immediate update of the studies done on Jamaican music by Nurse et al (2006) and Witter (2002)
  • Professional Training / Workshop Series on writing / singing / performing / sound technology / digital distribution and promotion, artiste development among other areas to move to at least three other locations islandwide
  • Talk Series – telling the Jamaican stories
  • Legacy of Jamaica’s Music
  • State of the Music Book Series
  • Support for establishment of an artiste registry / artist guild and certification of artistes
  • Support the work of the Jamaican Music Museum and its drive to establish a formidable Jamaican music collection / archive

Target Audience

  • Performers
  • Entertainers
  • Technical Personnel
  • Promoters
  • Producers
  • Marketers
  • Attorneys
  • Agents
  • Programme managers
  • Radio disc jocks

The way forward has to be engineered through partnerships including JAMPRO, the UWI, JARIA and the Government of Jamaica more broadly. The implementation phase will see the development of a State of the Music Talk Series as well as intervention regarding music education and capacity building within studio spaces and formal programmes developed by partner organizations.

References / Additional Reading

[1] See Witter, Michael (2004). ‘Music and Jamaican Economy’,, and Nurse, Keith et al (2006). ‘The Music Industry’, in ‘The Cultural Industries in CARICOM: Trade and Development Challenges’, pp. 28-52.

Who Was The Real Rhyging? Heather Augustyn Tells.

As one interested in Jamaican culture, its creative products and popular culture more broadly, I was pleased to see an expose on Rhyging (more popularly rendered as Rhygin), a legendary Jamaican badman. Rhygin was immortalized as a result of Ivanhoe, the character played by Jimmy Cliff in the film The Harder They Come. Read more below as I repost Augustyn’s extensive and informative entry.


The Real Rhyging

Jimmy Cliff as Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin in the classic movie "The Harder They Come," 1972.

The movie “The Harder They Come,” written and directed by Perry Henzell in 1972, made popular the story of Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin, a fictional character played by Jimmy Cliff which further solidified his iconic status in Jamaican music. Ivan may have been fictional, but was largely based on the real-life Ivanhoe “Rhyging” Martin who lived from 1924 to 1948. Rhyging, sometimes spelled Rhygin, was born in 1924 in Linstead and through his gunslinger, desperado, rude-boy-on-the-run image, he became a folk hero—the subject of not only Henzell’s movie, but referenced in Miss Lou’s poem “Dead Man,” Bim and Bam’s comedy show “Rhygin’s Ghost,” Bob Marley’s song “Keep On Moving,” and plenty of other lyrical forms that celebrate the working man, the wronged regular guy, the rude boy.

The real Rhyging

Here is a four-part series that ran in late 2000 in the Jamaica Gleaner, written by freelancer C. Roy Reynold that reveals the real Rhyging.

C. Roy Reynolds writes in the November 3, 2000 Jamaica Gleaner:
Seldom in the history of Kingston has there been such a time of acute fear and tenor as in early September 1948 when the infamous Ivanhoe “Rhyging” Martin was shooting his way into legend. He was indeed the city’s first gunman desperado. But before rehashing his exploits as chronicled by The Gleaner, a little explanation is in order.

The word “Rhvging” does not appear to have been a noun as much as an adjective. In fact it was a distant forerunner to the latter-day “irie,” and was used to describe someone or something stylishly out of the ordinary or daring. So the name really meant Ivanhoe Martin who was rhyging.

Like many other killers who were to follow his footsteps, Martin was an escapee from the General Penitentiary. He had escaped by jumping from one of the windows of the prison in early April. He had been serving a five-year term for burglary and larceny; and in spite of an island-wide manhunt he managed to elude the police until that fateful night of August 31 when acting on a tip, the police thought they had at last cornered their man in the Carib Hotel on Regent Street, Hannah Town. According to The Gleaner of September 2, shortly after 10:00 o’clock that Tuesday night a group from the Criminal Investigation Department went to the hotel to make the arrest.

The two detectives, Earle and Lewis, must have been surprised when they were greeted by gunfire which they returned arid the fugitive was seen to fall to the floor. Before they could take cover there was another burst of gunfire.

The fugitive then emerged from the hotel, his two guns blazing away in a scene The Gleaner described as reminiscent of “Chicago gangster days.” Though he managed to escape into a block of tenements bounded by Regent Street, Trinity Lane, Blount Street, and Dumfries Street, police were confident that he would not much longer elude them.

After he had escaped from the hotel wearing only, an underpants and ‘barefooted,’ how far could he get! A bullet also struck an ex-Sergeant Gallimore who had been roused from his bed to give assistance. The three, policemen hit were taken to the Kingston Public Hospital but for Sgt Lewis it was too late.

The police cordoned off the area and continued their search into the morning but the fugitive had eluded them and his reign of terror was just beginning. While the police were pursuing ;their empty hunt the gunman had already taken another victim.

According to reports he had reason to believe that an erst-while friend, Eric Goldson. Had informed on him and he now sought revenge. At about 1:30 a.m. he managed to enter a home at 257 Spanish Town Road where Goldson lived. Goldson’s friend Lucilda Tibby Young answered a knock on the door and was confronted by the gunman. She informed him that his quarry was not there, where upon he is alleged to have declared that, if he couldn’t get Goldson he would get her. He fired a bullet in her chest killing her on the spot.

Now the whole city was in a state of fear and the police intensified their search, especially after they received a letter purportedly written by the desperado in which among other things was a declaration that he “had ten bullets left and would make at least nine of them count.” The letter also declared that “I have made crime history,” and went on to name a number of detectives he intended to kill.

As if to lend credence to the police assertion that he had been hit the letter ended: “I am hurt in the shoulder, and I can’t write anymore. Detective Sgt. Scott of the Half Way Tree police created much apprehension among the police to the extent that one office in the station barracks and alleged that he had been awakened by martin who turned the light on and spoke to him, then turned off the light and disappeared. Speculation was that this was all a dream or a hallucination.
But by then many including the police had come to believe that Martin could do almost anything. He had escaped from the Carib Hotel when police had occupied several of the rooms adjacent to his and according to The Gleaner his daring escape from that secondary storey room was even more dramatic than had been his escape from prison.

Almost- simultaneous with the alleged letter from him to the police was a phone call purported to have come from him. In that call made to the Espeut Avenue home of a Government minister Martin was said to have threatened the life of both him and then Chief Minister Alexander Bustamante.

Daily Gleaner, September 5, 1948

ON SEPTEMBER 9, 1948 the beleaguered police thought they might have their man at last, (it wasn’t due to any direct action by them but by then they would welcome assistance from any source. Rumour ran through the city that the dreaded Rhyging’s body had been found in Hunt’s Bay. Dead or alive it wouldn’t have mattered and for a police force which had faced off with the fugitive before and come up short, dead would have been a more welcome state.

But, as The Gleaner of September 10 reported “Upon discovery of the body sub-inspector H.M. Wellington and CID fingerprint experts rushed to the scene took fingerprints and comparing them with those of the wanted man found that the dead man was not the two-gun killer for whom the police and volunteer vigilantes have been looking for since last week, Tuesday. Thus while height and other physical features of the body matched the dreaded Rhyging James Baker of 170 Spanish Town Road had not found the body of Rhyging as was so fervently hoped for.” Whatever Ivanhoe “Rhyging” Martin might have been, he also seemed to have been a man of letters, and be used the medium to give his alleged side of the story.

On September 12 The Gleaner published the contents of a letter supposedly sent in by him. The letter was addressed to The Gleaner Office, Kingston. That letter contained a chilling warning for several people including Eric “Mosspan” Goldson who Martin alleged had betrayed him to the police; Detective Sgt. R.L Scott Selvin Maxwell and a photographer named Brown who was alleged to have furnished the police with a picture of the fugitive.

The letter said. ‘Sir, I have all kin’ of statement in your paper. I just seek to let the public know what has taken place on 31.7.48. I went to the hotel. I reached there 920. At around 10 I saw a flashlight from the other room over the gablin. I called out who is that and the answer was the sound of a gun. I called again. Another shot was fired, still no answer. I then know what has happened. I decided to make a dash. I ran to the door with my pistol in my hand. I did not even have time to reach for my close [sic.]. I looked outside. I heard the sound of another shot- I see the men mean to make the end of me tonight, but I intend to carry someone with me. At that time I only had five shots with me. I can’t say which hand but I took them out of my pocket and put them away. I put myself outside. I was hit on my right shoulder. That did not mike much. I made my way for the airway. Reaching there I saw a lot of people. I just could not say if they were men or women ([Gleaner]Editor’s note: Some of the detectives present at the Carib Hotel had been dressed as women). One shot fired from the crowd struck the gun butt of my gun. I fired back.’

The letter went on to give the details of the escape. The letter was judged to have been authentic, either written by Rhyging himself or by someone under his dictation since it included details that were not hitherto made public. But though police followed up this and many other spurious letters the situation settled into what The Gleaner of September 6 had called “a war of attrition.”

That war was to continue into the month of October. The fear might not have subsided but press coverage of the extraordinary police effort faded from the day to day news for the rest of September and into the first week of October 1948. Then on October 8 The Gleaner carried the story of how the fugitive barely escaped the police at the Ferry River swamp. He had been tipped off, the story alleged by “tree top lookouts.”

The story said: “Ivanhoe “Rhyging” Martin, two-gun killer at large for six weeks now flashed back into the news yesterday morning when he barely squeezed through a police cordon which was closing in on him in the treacherous, swampy lands that abound the Ferry River on the road to Spanish Town. When the police reached his lair they found only his provisions and camping gear. He had fled. The desperado escaped in the nick of time, but all through the vigilance of one of his team of spies who was believed to have passed the word around while the police operation was in progress… A man named Clarke and woman have been detained by the police.”


Daily Gleaner, 1948

From the December 4, 2000 Gleaner, C. Roy Reynold writes:
NEVER HAD the security forces been under such pressure. Never had they been so frustrated in their effort as that first week in September 1948 when the diminutive Ivanhose “Rhyging” Martin held the people of Kingston in fear and terror.

As sighting after sighting in almost every area of the city failed to yield positive result by police checkout the legend of his seeming ability to appear and disappear at will mounted. He now appeared possessed not only of a murderous malevolence but of supernatural powers.

Among the claims being made to the police was that now instead of a bicycle he was going around in an Austin car. The implication was that nobody in the city was therefore beyond his reach.

According to The Gleaner of September 6 he ‘skulked’ underground most of yesterday. “But he hardly seemed to have been “skulking” by other accounts. Other reports put him in the Tower Street/Fleet Street area wearing ‘iron blue’ trousers, shirt, a black felt hat and a shoes.” And “in a motorcar attended by four women”.

Another story put him in West Kingston and in a 1937 Ford car without licence plates. But frenzied scramble after frenzied scramble by the police turned up nothing.

Suspicious characters
An idea of the mood of the population can be gleaned from a paragraph in The Gleaner of September 6: “Yesterday householders kept round-the-clock watch for all suspicious characters. Telephones in city stations jangled unceasingly as many leads were turned in, some false, some well-meaning. But bypassing no calls police fanned out east and west to Mountain View Gardens, Denham Town and Jones Town. Carloads of detectives and constables combed the crime-haunted west end all of last night slipping through the maze of mean streets and cactus-lined lanes where the gun-mad killer might be hiding out.”

As the magnitude and intensity of the police effort rose they were hard put to find enough vehicles and private citizens tried to meet the deficiency by loaning their cars to the lawmen.

In one operation some 300 policemen cordoned off Springfield Gardens in eastern Kingston while water police craft patrolled the adjacent water. But no Rhyging.

According to The Gleaner, “Another report is that the ever-spitting 5’5″ slayer visited the vicinity of the home of Detective Sergeant Scott on Friday night. Martin is purported to have threatened the life of the officer in a letter received by the police. He did not attempt to enter the house.” The terror quotient had been ratcheted up still further!

Citizens who could, armed themselves and The Gleaner reported that “armoury stores have been broken out and brand new Webley revolvers issued to most of the rifle-armed constables. All leave passes have been cancelled and all stations alerted”.

But apparently Rhyging was not the only threat to the citizens of Kingston at that time. A city clerk travelling on the Stony Hill Road reported having encountered another gunman, but managed to disarm him and took the weapon to the police. Even more ominous was a Gleaner story of September 8 headed: “Underworld Shelters Rhyging, Police Hampered”.

Criminal elements
According to this report the 200 pounds reward offered had brought no result and “the whisper went the rounds in Kingston’s west end yesterday that criminal elements of the city’s population had declared war against the police and were actively aiding the two-gun killer in evading the police.”

Acting on this assumption there was a police round-up of several suspects who were taken in for questioning. Then, as now, the police was reported to have had no co-operation.

All day on September 7 the police were kept hopping from spot to spot as they followed up tips.

But if the fugitive had been lying low the reports did not reflect this. The sporty little man was reported to have been visiting several places of entertainment, including a movie theatre. Some of the sightings were remarkably detailed. For instance he was said to have been sighted along Waltham Park Road one early morning, standing by a shiny chrome-plated bicycle at which time he had been spoken to by a friend of his who was supposed to have told him: “Keep it up Rhyging. Don’t let them catch you.”

Then as now gun crime in Jamaica seemed to have had an American connection. Reports carried by The Gleaner said that since escaping prison Rhyging had been in the habit of emerging from hiding at night and only coming out in the mornings to buy a Gleaner and at times an American detective magazine “and reading up on police and crime methods in the United States.”

Piece by piece the police were building a personality profile of the dreaded ex-blacksmith little terror. But finding him seemed impossible.


On December 7, 2000, C.. Roy Reynolds continued:
AS SEEN in the last instalment, on October 7, 1948 the police again failed in their attempt to apprehend the escaped criminal Ivanhoe ‘Rhyging’ Martin, in the Ferry swamp where he and a few cronies had taken shelter. A Gleaner report the following day said the fugitives had been warned by a lookout in time to make their escape before the police moved in. The story suggested that Rhyging and company had made it out of the swamp and into the hills in the Ferry-Caymanas area, where they first took refuge in a cave and eventually made their way through the Red Hills area, to Molynes and finally to Greenwich Town.

Then the story took a strange twist, according to The Gleaner, and especially in the light of today’s police attitude… The police, it said, had been observing Rhyging on the night of October 9 in the vicinity of the Greenwich Town bridge, together with a character the newspaper identified only as “The Gleaner’s special photographer-reporter undercover man”.

The story went on: “No attempt was made to hold Rhyging then as the police were under instructions to the effect that Rhyging must be caught but no other person was to be killed or injured. It was dark also and it is difficult to capture a dangerous criminal in the dark.”

Intelligence reports said that Rhyging would have been taken to a cay outside Kingston harbour and from there attempt to board a boat which would take him out of the island or to someplace on the south-western coast of the island. But the police now had a clear drop on their quarry, and as we have already seen the next morning it was all over.

Before the body was buried in a plain pine wood coffin in a pauper’s lot in May Pen cemetery people besieged the mortuary in a bid to get a last look at one who must have been Jamaica’s most resourceful violent criminal. Among those blamed for his downfall was Eric “Mosspan” Goldson. According to The Gleaner, Goldson insisted that he wanted to see him dead, no doubt to satisfy himself that the police had got the right man and he was no longer in danger. The report said that after seeing the body Goldson remarked: “The race is not for the swift. Rhyging you gone at last!”

Then a small detachment consisting of two constables: R.A. Lindo and V.C. Morrison, undertaker Madden and his assistants set off for the cemetery with their grim cargo. To head off the vast crowd at the cemetery the party announced that they were heading for Spanish Town with the body. The body, clad in the same clothes in which he had been killed, was quickly interred without benefit of ceremony and with only a number to mark the spot.

Later, giving his account of the last hours of the chase the so-called “Undercover Gleaner Photographer-Reporter” said that after escaping from the police at Ferry they had crossed the Spanish Town Road into the hills above from which they were able to rest and observe the police activities. They made their way back to Kingston to Cockburn Pen where they separated with Rhyging going in search of a new hideout.

According to this account Rhyging’s friends managed to secure a canoe called “Gloria Again” to take him to the cay. “The boat was drawn up two chains west of East Avenue, Greenwich Town, but on arriving at the beach Rhyging had the boat removed to face East Avenue so that he could see up the street. Rhyging was undecided whether he should take the trip as he thought it would have been difficult for two men to row so far. He remained at the spot for some time not knowing that four pairs of eyes were focused on him.”

In the aftermath of the grim finale, the question on everybody’s lips was, who was Rhyging, this little man who had mocked the efforts of the entire police establishment for so long and who had either coerced or inspired so much loyalty from his friends. Was he truly “rhyging” in terms of the meaning of the word or just an over-dramatised character? The Gleaner would try to answer these queries.


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”‘)


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   

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


LIKE GLUE              GIMMIE DI LIGHT‎       WE BE BURNIN’         RIOT     



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.


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.


“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.



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.”


The tailor Sam Lambert shows off his rude boy style.


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.