Kingston Rock counters mixed CDs party feel
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Ai Irisawa does not define herself as a promoter, although she puts on Kingston Rock monthly.
She started Kingston Rock as a weekly live performance and party on Sundays in October 2010 because, despite the deluge of music events, a particular - in more ways than one - music market had nowhere to go.
"As foreigners, we don't have much places to enjoy music, feel safe, not listening to the same selections over and over again. We might as well stay home and listen to a mix CD. Even the uptown parties are the same," Irisawa said.
It is a disappointment, coming from their homes abroad to the home of a sound they have grown to love. "When we come to Jamaica we expect to hear roots reggae like we hear abroad, but it is pretty much R&B and the latest hip hop," she said. In true enterprising spirit, "we pretty much decided to create the party we wanted to go to".
So she started Kingston Rock at Studio 38 on the grounds of Pulse's Trafalgar Road, New Kingston, headquarters, centred around live performances in sound-system style. Among those who have performed are Admiral Bailey, Pinchers, Yelllowman, Stitchie, Triston Palma and Anthony B. The event has since moved to a monthly format.
Irisawa says the event attracts Americans, Bazilians, Japanese and Swedes, among other nationalities. Plus, she says, "I get messages from people overseas that when they get a chance to come to Jamaica they will come." These Kingston Rock wishes come from countries such as Colombia and Australia.
"They seem to be gravitating to the artistes we put on," Irisawa said. "You can't get up and go to a session and see Pinchers or Bailey (in Jamaica). And all of them are big overseas," she said of the persons who have performed on Kingston Rock.
She points to LUST member Lukie D as a prime example, saying that he is very popular in Hawaii and Japan. "I am not saying that people do not like him here, but the appreciation is different there," she said. She said when Strangejah Cole performed at Kingston Rock the Brazilians who were there sang along with him word for word.
Still, she says that when many Jamaicans hear the performers who Kingston Rock tends to present they recognise the material although they did not necessarily connect them to the artiste before. So Irisawa has started to put on upcoming artistes and performers who have more pull with the Jamaican audience, so that they see those with strong 'foreigner appeal' as well.
And, with that pull for non-Jamaicans, this summer Kingston Rock will be going to some of those who can't make it to Jamaica. Irisawa says the session will be put on in Holland, London and New York with a mixture of Jamaican artistes and performers from the area where Kingston rocks.
Facebook has been a major cyberspace marketing tool for the event, but Irisawa points out that her personal connections have played a significant role as well. "I used to live in London and had a record label. I know a lot of promoters. Once I send out email they start following," she said. And she notes that "foreigners are more sensitive about reggae and dancehall. If they see something they like they will investigate and get involved".
"Music is appreciated how it is supposed to be appreciated even more than here and it is a shame."
Irisawa says "Putting on Kingston Rock is fun, although it takes a lot out of you. When you are putting on something different it is better. People said that this is not going to happen and it is a Sunday night. By the books I did everything wrong, but it pays off."