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Welcome to Jamrock Cruise a lifeline for 'visa-less' artistes - Promoters implored to become more innovative

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2016 | 2:46 AMShereita Grizzle
Bounty Killer
Busy Signal
Popcaan
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Following the success of Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, several international media outlets have been dubbing the calendar event as the new way for Jamaica to provide a platform for its entertainers to reach their fans outside of the island. Both MTV.com and Billboard have written stories lauding the organisers of the cruise, as they believe it is a step in the right direction to providing further exposure for Jamaican talent; especially those with visa issues.

It is no secret that several of Jamaica’s top tier artistes cannot effectively tap into several international markets, as they are restricted from travelling to many of the countries where their music is reaping much success. On the most recent Welcome to Jamrock Cruise which concluded in January, artistes like Jah Cure, Popcaan, Busy Signal and Bounty Killer, were all a part of the show’s impressive line up. According to a Billboard article, in addition to delivering stellar performances, the above named entertainers had one other thing in common; their inability to travel to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom because of the lack of visas/work permits. The article went on to say that the Welcome to Jamrock Cruise, provided the entertainers the rare opportunity of reaching their fans from the U.S., U.K., and Canada without leaving the island.

“The Jamrock cruise organisers devised an opportunity to present four in-demand Jamaican acts that American, Canadian and British reggae lovers are unable to see in their countries,” the article read. “The artistes boarded the ship at the first port in Jamaica and disembarked at the second. The article also stated that for dancehall and reggae acts, concert dates are what have been generating the most income, a sentiment shared by industry veteran, Clyde McKenzie.

Though he was not commenting on the article directly, McKenzie’s thoughts were similar to those shared by the international media. He was speaking at a recent symposium held at the Bob Marley Museum, where he offered suggestions on what the music industry needed to do to ensure further development.

“We have to find more creative ways for our artistes to tap into the markets of the places they are unable to be physically,” he said while heaping praises on the Marley family for creating a new avenue to further expose local talent. “Most of our artistes make the bulk of their money on tours and the fact that many of our top acts are having a problem travelling, means we have to find other ways to give them the exposure they need. We have to be more forward-thinking.”

Jerome Hamilton of Headline Entertainment agreed.

He says, “The music industry has experienced tremendous changes over the years,” and explained, “In times past, tours were put together based on record sales, today it is the opposite, because record sales are now dependent on how much an artiste tours and how much exposure he gets.” Hamilton was also speaking at the symposium held at the Bob Marley Museum, and he too encouraged the key players in the industry to get more creative.

However, even while encouraging creativity, Hamilton pointed out that there is another major problem hindering the advancement of the local industry and the careers of the local talent by extension; disunity.

“We suffer from not having the ability to work together as a unit in this industry and that has hindered our development and the careers of our people even more than travel restrictions,” he said. “The unity in the music is lacking and that is working against us and will continue to work against us unless we come together and push the music as a collective unit.”

McKenzie agreed, as he says, “We still have the mentality of every man to himself in this business and even when we see that it’s not working in our favour, some of us are still trying to grab all we can for ourselves and not for the team... All aspects of our culture go together and therefore when the music is doing well, that aspect needs to take all other aspects of our culture along for the ride. Our dance, our food, our clothes; all these things need to take a ride with our artistes to sell our culture in a more holistic way.”

entertainment@gleanerjm.com