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Grammy Foundation on board with plans to establish Reggae Hall of Fame

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2016 | 1:00 AMShereita Grizzle
State Minister for Tourism and Entertainment Damion Crawford (second right) and minister of transport, works and housing, and noted music afficionado, Dr Omar Davies (second left), listen attentively to producer of the ‘Legends of Ska’ documentary, Brad Klein (left), as he provides details of the 100 digital tapes containing priceless interview and concert footage. Also pictured is director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, Herbie Miller.

In light of several articles being published in The Sunday Gleaner in recent times regarding the issue of establishing a Reggae Hall of Fame in Jamaica, another industry insider has come forward to voice concern over the snail's pace at which the country is moving in developing the idea.

Elliot Leib of the Trade Roots Reggae Collections (TRRC) told The Sunday Gleaner that he has been associated with the Jamaica Music Museum for more than a decade and has been following the country's efforts in establishing a national museum to preserve Jamaica's musical legacy.

Leib revealed that the Grammy Foundation is on board with plans to establish a Reggae Hall of Fame and says that Jamaica has been dragging its feet on a matter that could bring huge benefits for the country.

"This [Reggae Hall of Fame issue] is surely an instance of 'soon come'," he said. "I first became aware of Jamaica's interest in establishing a national museum of Jamaican music over a decade ago. When this plan failed to gain traction, I was concerned that the entire endeavour might be in jeopardy."

Leib went on to reveal that he was so concerned about the plan failing, that he decided to take matters into his own hands.

"In 2008, I met with the late Barry Chevannes of the IOJ (Institute of Jamaica) and Herbie Miller, the then designated director-curator of what would become the Jamaican Music Museum (JaMM)," he revealed.

"There, I introduced the Trade Roots Reggae Collection preservation project, and suggested using the collection preservation project to help garner interest in, and to build momentum for, JaMM.

"In 2009, with JaMM and the IOJ as project partners, I received a grant from the Grammy Foundation (GF) to create a preservation plan for the collection. As a result, there is now a GF- approved plan to digitally preserve and disseminate material from the Trade Roots Reggae Collection."

JA RISKS LOSING REGGAE GRIP

Although Leib's move was a step in the right direction, he believes plans for the Reggae Hall of Fame are still moving too slowly and with the reach that reggae has in today's world, it is only a matter of time before the country completely loses its grip on the music it created.

"While there is an ever-growing consensus in Jamaica that a Reggae Hall of Fame or Jamaican music museum could provide an international showcase for the island's cultural heritage, a single plan of action has yet to emerge," he said. "Without a concerted effort to preserve and protect the core of its cultural heritage, Jamaica jeopardises its natural role as custodian of its musical legacy. The public and private stakeholders in the preservation of Jamaica's popular musical heritage need to coalesce around the hall of fame/museum effort before it's too late."

Leib believes that how the music is preserved and presented in one's country impacts greatly on the future of the music and its legacy.

"If Jamaica fails to create its own institutions for cultural preservation, it yields this responsibility to others by default. Does the Reggae Hall of Fame really belong in Las Vegas or Dubai?" he questioned.

"I recently made contact with the minister of tourism about the conservation plan involving the Grammy Foundation, and to date, there has been no formal embrace of the preservation project by the Government of Jamaica."

MOVE BEYOND MARLEY

Leib went on to say that Jamaica needs to move beyond the reach of Bob Marley and his legacy. He explained that reggae's recognition on the international level needs to involve other reggae artistes and he believes the Hall of Fame will help in that regard.

"Recently, the Bob Marley Museum became affiliated with the Grammy Museum. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum included Bob Marley as an inductee. These recognitions need to be expanded and extended beyond the singular legacy of Bob Marley and widened to include the broad panorama of Jamaica's music makers," he said.

"Many of the progenitors of the music during the ska, rocksteady, and reggae eras have either passed on or have been relegated to the proverbial back seat in Jamaica. There needs to be a public and private consortium of stakeholders, both local and international, to bring the effort to the level where a single plan of action emerges."

shereita.grizzle@gleanerjm.com