Entertainers said to give mixed signals ... As they show their 'colours' during this past election
When it comes to the business of politics, reggae/dancehall artistes are known to make their stance very clear as it relates to their disassociation with political affairs and politicians.
Social commentaries in Jamaican music are usually used as tools documenting poverty, political violence, broken promises, and are known to speak against support for politicians. However, with the general election now out of the way, in hindsight, the behaviour of several recording artistes did not mirror their lyrics condemning political support. In fact, several popular acts recorded songs in support of political parties, performed at political events or simply posed in photos with popular political figures or dressed in party colours.
With lyrics like "Well done Mr Politician man, yu did such a great job selling out wi country with yu business plan," by Kabaka Pyramid, and "Ghetto youth cyah find work every funds cut off ... government tek man fi Santa Claus" by Popcaan in mind, followers of social commentary lyrics can understandably feel misled. Especially when the latter was among the artistes who participated in the recent election campaign.
The Gleaner sought feedback on the matter from a few recording artistes, and while some acts condemned their peers for the not-so-common behaviour, others say they are providing a paid service, whether it is political party or a regular dancehall event.
Dancehall artiste Savage says artistes can be part of election campaigns, however, it should be for a greater cause. Using Bob Marley as an example, the deejay said Marley was not seeking to promote JLP or PNP, but to facilitate peace amid an atmosphere of political violence.
"When a artiste a par with a politician, it must be for a good cause, to promote a safe and clean election. Bob Marley held up Seaga and Manley hand because he stood for peace. So we can't be the man dem weh suppose to a wise up di youth dem, yet wi a lead dem astray," he said.
The artiste also told The Gleaner that he would not record a dubplate in support of a political party, since that decision could damage his fan base and confuse fans.
According to dancehall artiste Gage, recording artistes have a right to vote and share in the political experience like regular Jamaicans. The deejay also posited the view that dancehall social commentaries rarely speak against the actual voting process, but instead, tackles issues of political corruption and politically motivated violence.
"It's not like wi a sey don't go out and vote. We are telling the youths to be careful and we are encouraging the politicians to deal with the youths fairly. I am not sure if I would do a dubplate, but I would perform. But you wouldn't't hear me saying vote for this or vote for that, and mi nah guh tell yu who mi vote fah. Mi just a perform mi song and gwaan bout mi business," he told The Gleaner.
Curator of the Jamaica Music Museum in the Institute of Jamaica, Herbie Miller, says an artiste's decision to be a part of an election campaign is an obvious contradiction, especially if he or she sings lyrics which speaks against politics. However, the practice is not wrong, neither does he have a problem with it, once the decision to do so is sincere and made with objectivity.
Miller also pointed to the United States as an example of a country where recording artistes like Jay Z, Kanye West, BeyoncÈ, among others, were quite vocal in support of President Barack Obama. He said Jamaica, as a Third-World country, is not yet at the stage where citizens can freely express themselves. However, that is where it ought to be.
The veteran also highlighted that Jamaican artistes have been showing support for political parties from as early as the '70s. He, however, noted that artistes should not be biased with their messages regardless if they support a party or not.
Miller used iconic reggae artiste Max Romeo as an example, stating that the artiste was a staunch supporter of Michael 'Joshua' Manley's ideologies during his prime, thereby releasing the record Socialism, which gave praises to Manley. However, when Max Romeo was displeased with Manley's leadership, he also made his grouse clear with the release of another record titled No Joshua, which suggested that the people were unhappy.
Some of the entertainers who made their presence felt at political campaigns this year included the likes of Demarco and Mavado, who made dub-plates; Popcaan, Chi Ching Ching and Beenie Man, who performed; Mr Lexx, Keiva, Foota Hype and gospel artiste Omari, among others.