More support needed for July 1
Two weeks ago, I went to the 2015 staging of the International Reggae Day celebrations at Countryside Club, Half-Way Tree. It was a sound system style performance, with Ken Boothe, Andrew Tosh, Cherine Anderson, Denyque, Beenie Man, Bushman, and Ras Malekot, among the artistes. There was live performance of another sort, as Lloyd 'King Jammy' James mixed a few of the songs from his extensive catalogue on stage, punching the bassline in and out and adding reverb, among other effects.
I had a great time and, based on the general reaction of those around me, so did they. One of the good things is that there was no VIP section, so those who wanted to get close to the stage were free to do so. Some did.
Still, there is a curious thing about International Reggae Day. It long preceded Reggae Month; it is (as the name states) international in scope with this year's celebrations taking place outside Jamaica in (among other places) India, Hawaii, and the US.
It is in the 90 Days of Summer initiative that was announced last year; it is a combination of a serious conference, digital art, yoga and music for a total experience.
Yet, it has not gained the leverage and level of support which I have long believed it deserves. I am not comparing Reggae Month (which I have reported on and also participated in as a poet) with International Reggae Day - they are sufficiently distinct events to justify co-existence and are far enough apart on the calendar to provide the public with healthy doses of this music we stumbled on.
However, while there was a banner, or two, or three, at Countryside, International Reggae Day has not got anywhere near the publicity that Reggae Month enjoys. Neither does it have the media clout of Sumfest, which begins less than three weeks after International Reggae Day annually. It is a travesty.
I am sure that there are forces at work which I do not know about - and do not care to know about. When something is good it deserves support and International Reggae Day is a great concept around a superb music form which has gone global.
Many weeks ago, I wrote a Music and More column about what I perceive to be the current stage of the fractious interaction between the Jamaican society and homosexuality. In a subsequent column, I addressed in-part responses by Kei Miller and Afifa Aza and, in last week's column, posted the link to Miller's subsequent response in his blog.
Most of the reaction has been to my repeatedly calling a male cross-dresser 'it' at the start of the original column, which I addressed in the second one.
However, my argument that dancehall expressed the Biblical opposition to homosexuality in the violent language of the Old Testament and, after the church rally in Half-Way Tree last year, it is time that dancehall withdraws from the homosexual debate and let the church people and gay advocates go at it themselves, has largely been bypassed.
And, unfortunately, early in his initial response Miller proffered an unfavourable opinion on my poetry, which had no connection with the argument. To that, I questioned his intellectual integrity where the topic of homosexuality is a factor.
In all this, a good, relevant argument about Jamaican popular music which I raised (and will, again) has not been advanced.
Still, there are lessons to be learnt from what has transpired. In his initial response, Miller claimed to know me somewhat and like me. Fair enough. However, I find the same traits in him as I have observed in others who take issue with persons who express a view on homosexuality that is not immediately and clearly supportive.
The general pattern is a startlingly sudden and savage attack in which accusations of hate and homophobia (not that he has done that) are liberally thrown.
I suspect that on this subject there is an anger in Miller which precedes what I wrote and will remain long after this flash point has faded even further. So although he addresses me at one point as Dear Mel and at points could even be considered conciliatory, I remain unconvinced.
There is a term that Mortimer Planno used, polite violence, where most brutal of acts are performed with careful attention to good manners. It happens a lot in the academic space and, by initially responding to reasoning with a hint of ridicule, Miller opened the door for me to question his integrity in that space - something which is not done lightly. So sure, there are those who will giggle at what he said, but there are those of his colleagues, students, former teachers and the inevitable adversaries who will note my questions.
They may never say anything to him outright, but they will have noted and will not forget. I know how dem stay.
So it go. If I can't advance an argument with a viewpoint that may run contrary to anyone's without it being sidetracked into irrelevancies, I'd really rather not be liked in the first place. It was my attitude when George Bush the dumber was saying if you are not with us, you are against, and when hard line Jews try to pass off the repression of Palestinians and stealing their land as fighting anti-Semitism, it is my attitude towards that sort of response - however crudely or urbanely expressed - now and forever.
Next week: My first entertainment assignment was Reggae Sumfest 2000. I am going to look back at 15 years writing about entertainment, especially this music which gave me what Peter Tosh called Reggaemylitis before I was 10 years old.