Selections back up speeches
Perhaps changing times had a lot to do with the party atmosphere that blanketed the island in the days leading up to yesterday's general election. Many of the mass meetings held across the island felt more like huge dancehall sessions, rather than political gatherings. With the latest songs blaring from huge sound systems, some of Jamaica's most popular selectors rallied support for the various political parties using a language Jamaicans understood well music.
Two of the selectors told The Gleaner what goes into synchronising the speeches and songs. Foota Hype, who has played at many of the meetings held on the recent campaign trail, said it is a huge deal for any selector. "Playing at these events is a great opportunity for selectors," he said. "The crowds that these meetings attract are larger than any dancehall event in Jamaica so the exposure is everything."
Foota Hype said playing music comes naturally and, as such, he has to do very little to prepare for the job at hand. "We nuh rehearse y'nuh; these things come naturally," he explained. "We are professionals, so we listen to the speeches and play from that. We draw on songs based on what is said and we try and play the songs that we know will generate a big forward from the audience."
He also explained that all the political meetings have a theme and so there are certain songs that have to be played. "The theme song for the party is a must, as well as some 'throw word' songs aimed at the other party. Those things help to build the kind of atmosphere that you want and get the crowd energised," Foota Hype said.
Ohene Blake of Starkade Sounds has also been popular on the 2016 general election campaign circuit. He told The Gleaner that playing at political meetings is an art.
"You have to prepare and rehearse for these things. You can't just go and play songs so. You have to know the politicians and the type of music they like. For example, there are certain songs that must be played whenever Portia Simpson Miller is on stage. You have to play all the 'Mama' songs as well as the songs that speak to woman power,? Blake said.
He also said at times selectors are given the politicians' speeches beforehand to help in their preparation.
Blake explained that the selectors should be knowledgeable about the party they are playing for " ... because you can?t go to a People's National Party (PNP) meeting and play a song like Ring My Bell or something like that, because you know that the bell is the symbol for the other party.?
Both selectors expressed joy at the change in Jamaica's political atmosphere and explained that the 'less violent' approach by Jamaicans has contributed greatly to them being able to pull of successful sets. "The ting tun up man. People nah bother wid the fighting again. A just pure enjoyment and dats why the ting look like a big party. Everybody just a enjoy themselves," Foota Hype said.