Fri | Mar 23, 2018

Applying track and field lessons to J’can music

Published:Thursday | June 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Musician and educator Ibo Cooper speaks on the importance of structure and education in the music industry at the third annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture held at the University of Technology, Jamaica, last Wednesday evening.
Producer Michael Bennet

During the panel discussion segment of the third annual Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture held at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), Papine Campus, last Wednesday, two persons used track and field analogies in explaining their approaches to developing Jamaican popular music.

The lecture's theme was Mining Gold! How Do We Monetise Jamaica's Music Success?'

In emphasising formal music training (which inherently means understanding what was done previously), musician and music educator, Ibo Cooper, said the worst thing in a relay is not to drop the baton, but get it and run in the wrong direction. And music producer, Mikey Bennett, outlining the basics of a project at UTech to identify, recruit and develop a talent pool (which includes sound engineers), focused heavily on trust between coaches and top athletes, who consistently refer to their coaches. It is a bond he wishes to see replicated in Jamaican popular music.




No doubt, there are further lessons from track and field that Bennett and Cooper can apply to Jamaican popular music. However, picking up on the thread they ran between these two areas of Jamaican life which consume so much of our attention and passion, I will add two in areas that irk me tremendously.

1. Punctuality. The few track and field meets I attend at the National Stadium run like clockwork. Whether it is at the junior or senior level, they start on time and run smoothly to a scheduled ending time. The programmes have a running order which is adhered to, no matter how big or small the names and body sizes of the persons involved.

After attending so many music events which start late, I have concluded that saying the approach to staging events in Jamaica is often like running a patty shop is unfair. Last time I checked, the patty shops open on time. The bakeries open on time. Theatrical productions are sticklers for time. Banks open on time. Why can't so many live music events not start on time? Among the exceptions I have happily experienced over time are events involving the Fab Five Band, which start bang on time, and those run by Worrell King of the King of Kings outfit. I am encouraged that Sumfest plans to publicise a schedule for the upcoming staging.

2. Development meets. Not everybody is ready for the big stage. Some will never be, and that has to be accepted. It is unfair to the paying public to present them with acts which are not up to scratch in their delivery and deportment. In track and field, there are development meets where athletes have a chance to work on their events before they can graduate to the 'name brand' meets.

Of course, their progress is determined by distances and times, WITH which there is no quibbling. You run fast, jump high or far or throw far - that is that. In music, it is more subjective, so there is leeway for someone to determine who is good or not. However, you cannot fool the public for long. How many hyped-up stars have we seen come and go? Maybe audience members cannot verbalise off-key, but they know something is wrong.

Premium events should be like the Racers Grand Prix this weekend - top-flight athletes only.