Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Politicians get on the beat

Published:Friday | February 26, 2016 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Olivia 'Babsy' Grange
Former Prime Minister PJ Patterson.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Seymour ‘Foggy’ Mullings.
Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga.

While the use of Jamaican popular music in the country's general election campaigns through recordings and live performances is deeply entrenched, it is rare for performers to actually contest for a seat in Parliament.

One of the few is recording artiste Christopher Irons, a teacher at Ascot high school in Greater Portmore, St Catherine, who unsuccessfully contested a South West St Catherine by-election. He represented the Marcus Garvey People's Political Party (MGPPP) against the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament Everald Warmington. At the time Irons took on the political system with his latest recording, Artiste and MPs, which took a swipe at corruption in the political


On the other hand, there are several instances of Parliamentarians or hopefuls who have made significant contributions to Jamaica's music.

Seymour 'Foggy' Mullings, who served as deputy Prime Minister to PJ Patterson in the 1990s into early 2000s, was an accomplished pianist who had regular gigs at Jamaican jazz concerts. An uncle of reggae artiste Tony Rebel, during the 1980s Mullings held piano lessons for those who wanted to learn the art. Retiring from Parliament in 2002, Mullings was Jamaica's Ambassador to Washington until 2004. He died on October 9, 2013.

Patterson, once managed The Skatalites and was attorney for trombonist Don Drummond, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Anita 'Margarita' Mahfood on January 2, 1965.

JLP MP Olivia 'Babsy' Grange has long been an ardent ambassador for Jamaica's popular music, serving at the ministerial level in culture and sports. As part of Spec-Shang she has managed several top Jamaican recording artistes, including Shabba Ranks and Cobra,.

Dr Omar Davies, a firm supporter of Studio 1, has researched and published papers on Jamaican popular music. Among them is an unravelling of the story behind The Heptones' Book of Rules, published in the Jamaica Journal of August 2009. Davies was also involved in generating a compilation of the top 100 Jamaican recordings since independence.

Another former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, produced Manny, Oh (Higgs and Wilson, 1960), the first Jamaican hit record to be pressed on vinyl for commercial purposes, He set up West Indies Records Ltd (WIRL), which turned out a plethora of hits during the 1960s.

Seaga also credits himself as a main catalyst of the Jamaican recording industry. Sound system operators erased record titles to conceal them from their competitors, but Seaga imported many of those recordings, showing the correct titles and performers. Speaking at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, in 2002, he said this "forced sound system operators to find another way to get unique records which they could use exclusively to establish themselves as champions. To do so they would have to record and produce records for themselves. This became the impetus that drove the big sound system operators into major record producing and the Jamaica recording industry was born."

The Reggae Golden Jubilee 50th Anniversary Origins of Jamaican Music box set, which Seaga curated, was released in 2012.