Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Subdivided music less than sum of its parts

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Andre Hugh Sutherland aka Popcaan performing at Rebel Salute 2017
Derrick Morgan performing on Night Two at the 2017 staging of Rebel Salute
Patrons getting down at a Pepperseed party held at the Pulse complex
Patrons having fun at one of the Yesterday's party dubbed: 'Best of the 90s' at Mas Camp, National Stadium Parking Lot.

In just over half century, Jamaica has produced a quantity of popular music, both in terms of genres and sheer volume, which superlatives fail to give justice to.

With this has come the opportunity to package it to specific tastes for collective consumption through live performance, recordings and even radio broadcast. It makes for well-targeted events, where parameters are set and expectations met, but I wonder if we are losing connections between different genres of Jamaican popular music and also the generations of people who have created and enjoyed it, through compartmentalisation.

It is like an apartment building, where people are physically close but emotionally distant from the people they share a wall with.

So there is the free event, Pepperseed, at Pulse's Trafalgar Road, New Kingston, each Wednesday night, which caters to music from the 1990s. And the name, taken from the Pepperseed riddim (think Things a Gwaan (Spragga Benz) and Loving Excess (Wayne Wonder and Don Yute), automatically specifies dancehall. The retro music party Yesterday has a 'Best of the '90s' tag line, there is another party with a 'Best of the '80s and '90s' slug, and it is understood that the peak periods for retro music parties is '90s dancehall.

This is established, but then recently there was a Y2K party which promised only music from the 2000s. Even before that, there were a couple parties with 'Strictly Addi' only Vybz Kartel's music (which makes for an even more intense focus on Jamaican music made after 2000), with the Alka-Vybz event with only songs by Alkaline and Kartel added to that. In these instances an overwhelmingly very young audience is expected to attend.

There was the first annual One Love Ska and Rocksteady Festival last year, so those early Jamaican popular music genres are specified and the age of those attending is likely to be 'up there'. At an event like Rastafari Rootzfest, held in Negril, Westmoreland, for two consecutive Decembers, the line-up reflects the event's name - Rastafarians doing roots reggae music.




IRIE FM has maintained its all-Jamaican music programming and there is a lot of scope for variety within that. But even within that there is, for example, a presenter like GT Taylor, who is also known as the Dancehall Master. Naturally, his show's content would be guided in large part by that title, although there are other shows on the Ocho Rios-based station which are very heavily dancehall oriented.

These are but a few examples of segmentation of Jamaican popular music by time and genre for public events. They are, of course, not the only fare offered to the public, as there are others which serve up a varied fare.

A recent example is Saturday's Night Two of Rebel Salute 2017 at Grizzly's Plantation Cove in Priory, St Ann, where the ska of Derrick Morgan and Strangejah Cole rubbed shoulders with the differing dancehall styles of Agent Sasco and Andre Hugh Sutherland, with the lover's rock of Sanchez, a peak moment in the 13-hour event.

The audience showed appreciation for it all.

We stand to lose a lot of the valuable cross-pollination of music genres and ages which facilitates creativity when we bracket music with targeted events.

People are inspired to create by what they are exposed to, and in my experience, it is the select few who will take it on to themselves to explore, rather than simply imbibe what is served up to them. We also help foster segmentation by age the youngster is noticeable at a vintage event, the 'elder' is out of place at a 2000s music party. And in this case, the elder can be 30 years old.

So what nurtures the creative types and an audience which has the sensibilities to appreciate the genesis of something new, influenced by what has already been?