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No melody, no moolah! Seaga underscores problems with dancehall music

Published:Friday | June 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson
Former prime minister and cultural expert Edward Seaga delivers his presentation at the third annual Joan Duncan Memorial lecture series, held at the University of Technology Jamaica on Wednesday.
Entertainment attorney and music business consultant, Lloyd Stanbury (left) and Josef Bogdanovich (right), CEO of Downsound Records, were presenters at the third annual Joan Duncan Memorial lecture series at the University of Technology Jamaica on Wednesday.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga cannot whistle the melodies or dance to current Jamaican dancehall music which, to him, highlights a problem with its monetisation.

So when foreign "impersonators" learn the craft they can better earn from it, he reasoned in his address at the third annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture at the University of Technology on Wednesday.

"They become heroes," Seaga said, as one of a number of experts, technocrats and music investors who spoke at the forum.

Earlier this year, Canadian singer/rapper Drake released Views, a top-charting album that features cameos from local artistes and dancehall samples. The artistes Popcaan, Beenie Man and Serani will earn royalties from the album, but Drake, in his own lyrics, will earn enough money to buy another "US$1.5 million [Bugatti] and ... drive it five times".

"I do not hear anybody composing music that I can whistle to nowadays, and I do not hear anyone making rhythms that I can dance to anymore," Seaga said, adding that every day a new rhythm enters the market, presumably diluting the impact of the previous release.

"That is one of the reasons that the music is now fading. Too many composers, too many singers and three-quarters of them really have no tune. Three-quarters of them have no lyrics to offer," he said, adding that artistes can now easily buy studio time and promote their songs on the radio and after two hits start a "one-night stand" touring career.

He said it's "very hard to reverse" this trend, which he described as inimical to the growth of the industry.

Seaga was integral in supporting the formation of Jamaican popular music in the 1960s.

At the lecture, Minister of Culture Olivia Grange revealed plans to conduct a study through the Statistical Institute of Jamaica and the Bank of Jamaica to determine the economic value of 'Brand Jamaica', which includes the music industry.

Josef Bogdanovich, CEO of Downsound Records and another presenter at Wednesday's lecture, said solving the "crisis" faced by Jamaican musicians involves increased local patronage at live reggae concerts over and above all-inclusive parties. Bogdanovich recently purchased the Reggae Sumfest brand with an aim of growing that event held annually on the north coast.

The presenters, which included entertainment attorney and music business consultant, Lloyd Stanbury, acknowledged that individual Jamaicans are earning from the music, but not the collective industry.

Last year, Jamaican artiste OMI sold more than 8.3 million digital units of his hit single Cheerleader, which previously received minimal play in Jamaica then globally exploded in 2015, due in part to Sony Music's belief in the song. Following the lecture was a panel discussion led by music industry players, Michael Bennett, Paul Barclay, and K. Michael 'Ibo' Cooper. The panel discussion was moderated by musicologist Dr Dennis Howard.