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Ibo seeks to set the record straight

Published:Friday | April 10, 2015 | 1:30 PMDavina Henry

Ibo Cooper, lecturer at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and former member of Third World, is seeking to set the record straight on comments made by famed producer Clive Hunt in The Sunday Gleaner last week.

During his interview, Hunt, who was speaking about his new venture as a VP Records-signed producer, said that "Edna (Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts) trains persons, but they are not reggae musicians. They don't have any roots teachers. My job is to try to educate the younger players about these things, because I believe our music can survive another 40 years. I don't see why we should let it die. Reggae has been beneficial to Jamaica just as much as, or even more, than the sand and the sun."

According to Cooper, he, as well as officials at the college, were quite taken aback by Hunt's statement.

"It has sort of upset the principal, vice-principal, directors and several members of staff, so they have asked me to address it because I am not only the academic staff representative on the board, but I am also the primary person, for the last 16 years, responsible for the very thing that Mr Clive Hunt says is missing," Cooper said.

Misinformed opinion

Cooper went on to say that Hunt is a great producer, a friend and someone he respects. However, on this occasion, he got the facts wrong.

"First thing, there is no need to criticise other institutions. We should try to strengthen each other. So for him to single out the Edna Manley College in a disparaging way is unfortunate; it was not necessary, it does not assist his interview in any regard. Furthermore, he does not have the facts, and the facts are these ... artistes like Jimmy Cliff, Junior Lincoln, Sly and Robbie, and the people from JaRIA have all come to the school and spoken to the students. There is a course called 'The History of the Development and Evolution of Jamaican Popular Music', which myself and Mr Michael Dyke are responsible for all through these years. The Edna Manley College now offers a degree in the performing arts, including popular music and jazz. In other words, it's the only place in the world where you can get a degree in reggae."

Cooper told The Sunday Gleaner that he was asked to be a lecturer at the college because of his reputation as a pioneer in the industry and an expert in Jamaican music history. He noted that Hunt could have been one of the persons he would have invited to speak to the students, had he been available.

According to the college's website, the school began training professional musicians in popular music, music education and Jamaican folk music in 1972. The teaching of jazz was introduced for the first time in 1974 with the establishment of a new Department of African-American Studies, under Melba Liston of the United States ... the school upholds the high standards necessary for its graduates to compete in the global market.

Experienced teachers

Cooper supports this statement, telling The Sunday Gleaner that the music teachers employed have all significantly contributed to the industry.

"On staff, we have myself, 16 years, Devon Richardson, who is one of the drummers who played so many songs for Dennis Brown, he had been a drum teacher for the last 15 years. Derrick Stewart, who is still active with artistes like Bunny Wailer and Jah Cure, Israel Vibration, etc, and has been on staff as a drum teacher for the last 15 years. Mickey Fletcher, bass man from Shaggy who is now responsible for what I was doing. Michael Harris and Mickey Dyke, in addition to the guest lectures we have periodically."

Cooper added credence to this by listing several of the artistes and bands who are past students of the school of music. He noted that the alumni of the school is stretched far and wide. They include C Sharp, Raging Fyah, Chronixx's Zincfence Redemption Band, Di Blueprint Band, who went to London and won Battle of the Bands, Pentateuch and Wayne 'Unga' Thompson and Jason Welsh of Notis Productions (formerly Further Notice and Notice Productions).

"All of these bands and artistes came out of the Edna Manley popular music and jazz programme over the last 15 years, so mi nuh really know wha Mr Hunt a say. Me nah beat him down, but I just want the record to be set straight. Everything I say is facts and I can be quoted ... Mr Hunt's statement is totally erroneous and unfounded. We have exams in music business, history of Jamaican popular music and they have to pass the exams. Our students know everything from mento to dancehall. It's part of the course. People have been coming from overseas for our expertise," Cooper said.

Furthermore, Cooper added that when industry players speak without finding out all the facts, it creates a problem for the entire industry.

"What I want to address, more than even Clive's personal statement, is something that consistently happens in the music industry, and I think it's the weakest problem of the industry and it's creating every problem for the industry. The players in the industry do not research and they do not talk from a point of fact. They speculate and then they allow the speculation to become rumour and then the rumour becomes accepted. I am encouraging that we stop that because it is holding back our industry."