Controversial debate over foreign acts entering local contests
With the Boom Sound Clash and the Magnum Kings and Queens (MKQ) of Dancehall competitions having recently concluded, with foreigners dominating the top spots, discussions about whether foreigners are held to the same standards as locals in these competitions have once again arisen.
Japanese sound system Yard Beat walked away with top honours ahead of Jamaica's Bass Odyssey in the Boom Sound Clash finals, and Japanese reggae/dancehall artiste Rankin Pumpkin, narrowly missed out on the Magnum Crown, but both have had to defend their entries in the competitions after their domination was met with questions about whether they had been judged fairly or given a free pass to the top based on their 'foreign status'.
In a STAR interview following their win, Yard Beat had to clear the air about rumors that they had to buy out the competition in order to win. Those same accusations began swirling again when Rankin Pumpkin reached the finals of MKQ and intensified after she won second place.
Following the recent conclusion of the MKQ show, Rankin Pumpkin released a statement via her Facebook page, outlining that she had been the victim of racism and alleged that she was constantly threatened during the competition merely for being a Japanese in the top spot.
"Many racist comments from audience and contestants. Also one of the judge of the competition. I was very surprise how I was treated as a Japanese citizen. It seems as if they don`t want any other citizens to be in their competition," she said in the post.
Following those revelations by Rankin Pumpkin and with the popular belief that the competition was somehow rigged in favour of the Japanese, Magnum also offered a statement on the matter. Executive producer Mark Kenny defended the voting system in his statements to the media and said that it was impossible to rig the competition in favour of any contestant.
With the situation still fresh in the minds of many, there have been calls from ordinary Jamaicans for the local competitions to be closed to foreigners.
When The Sunday Gleaner, spoke to Dr Donna Hope, she said that while foreigners seemingly value the Jamaican culture more than Jamaicans, there should be some form of criteria that restrict foreigners from entering local contests.
"Foreigners are very aware of the value of Jamaican culture unlike many in Jamaica. They invest resources (time, money, travel, etc) to hone their craft and get into the industry, but we are still operating in a paradigm where we feel so grateful that these 'good. good' foreigners would want to come all this way to hang out with us. Foreigners are usually given some form of privilege because Jamaicans respond to their 'foreignness'," she said. "We have failed to understand that these foreigners come here to win and get very high ratings so they go back to their countries as superstars because they win a Jamaican culture competition on Jamaican soil against Jamaicans."
However, Magnum judge Miss Kitty disagreed.
"I think that foreigners should be able to enter our competitions for the simple fact that we enter overseas competitions. If we are going to discriminate, or close out, or say that foreigners should not come, then how fair would it be for us to go to their country and participate in their competitions?" she said. "As long as they abide by the rules, they should be eligible. What people don't understand is that what they may regard as talent is not what someone else sees as talent. There are many artistes that we as Jamaicans don't rate or don't see as impressive that are touring the world. When they go overseas, they lock concerts, and the ones who we give ratings can't pass Harbour View roundabout."
Miss Kitty urged Jamaicans to be careful that their outcries and backlash for foreigners in local competitions doesn't send the wrong message to the wider world as the success of the careers of many Jamaican entertainers depends on the overseas market.
"We have to be careful about xenophobia and discrimination because people are listening and watching. When you hear a Rankin Pumpkin, obviously there is a language barrier, but there is also a language barrier when our artistes go to foreign countries," she said. "Many of our artistes go to Japan to release their albums and never release it in Jamaica. Our entertainers depend on the overseas market. Charly Black sold Diamond, not in Jamaica but over the Spanish-speaking part. When our artistes go to Japan, which language do they speak? They don't speak Japanese, but the Japanese people welcome them with open arms and love them up and embrace dem culture."
She also encouraged Jamaicans to take the voting process in these competitions more seriously. Using Donald Trump as an example, Miss Kitty pointed out that when all is said and done, it is the votes that decide the winners.
"Everybody took Donald Trump for a joke, and now he's the President of the United States. If yuh never take up yuh phone and vote, not even one time, den why are you speaking right now? You don't have a say."