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Jamaica won't lose its music to foreigners - Industry Insiders

Published:Thursday | August 3, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small
Cristy Barber
Tony Rebel
Gentleman, performing during the 2012 Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium.

Many decry the 'culture-vultures' cashing in on indigenous Jamaican music without acknowledgement of its origins, but there are those who see the benefit of the sound rumbling across the globe.

Entertainment consultant Jerome Hamilton, founder of Headline Entertainment, is one such person who considers international adoption of local music by overseas superstars as advantageous. In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Hamilton said, "We have to make note of the fact that music, internationally, doesn't have as much boundaries.

"The strength and attraction of the music of Justin Bieber, Drake, and Ed Sheeran show that others are benefiting from and exploiting our local music. Our music will die if this adoption is not seen as a window of opportunity."

Hamilton said that at the beginning of their careers, many veteran Jamaican artistes covered popular American songs.

"We should do something like an American would or collaborate with them and put it in the marketplace and see if there would be some attraction. Coxsone Dodd took American music to cover songs with the Jamaican sound with the voice of people like Ken Boothe. They weren't stealing it. They were exploiting it. We are not doing the same to them," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

"I actually like when pop artistes take on to our music and get involved. I'm more disappointed that we're not trying to benefit with direct effort. We allow other people to benefit and don't make a concerted effort to do the same," he continued.

Acknowledging that local music has and can still go international, Hamilton believes that with the current treatment, it will not. He opined that producers are more concerned with local consumption, "so there's no attention on the foreign market or intent to make, for example, a direct two-week campaign in America," Hamilton said.

He also pointed to the lack of record companies in Jamaica, asserting that most successful recording artistes have the power of a major label behind them.

"We don't have the public relations organisation typical to what an American will have. We will lose if we don't jump on the chances."


Can't lose


Patrick Barrett, better known as Tony Rebel, who spearheads the annual Rebel Salute concert, holds a similar position. He believes that Jamaicans may be better served positioning themselves for the global marketplace rather than resisting foreigner's adoption.

"We can't lose that which is ours, which we have created. History cannot be removed, but what we have to do is deal with the sustainability. We won't lose the music, but what we are losing is the drive to compete in the global marketplace. Our quality has diminished, and others who are actually imitating us are doing a better job than us," Barrett told The Sunday Gleaner.

"When you are competing out there, people who are consuming the music - they are not thinking of Jamaica - they are thinking of the music," he continued.

Sharing sentiments similar to Hamilton, Barrett commented on the streamline structure of international record labels in the focused promotion of music. From those channels, the veteran artiste expects that reggae music from any space could evoke the same effect as music produced in Jamaica.

"If somebody in Australia is putting out better music than us and having it distributed and promoted properly, then people out there are going to accept it, even just thinking that it's Jamaican music," he said.

"We need all relevant authorities and institutions to continue to let indigenous music be a part of our society. Let it be in the school curriculum, in advertisements. Let it just be Brand Jamaica continuously instead of adopting the North American ideas and philosophy. We will continue to go forward with the help of ourselves," Barrett continued.

American Grammy-nominated producer Cristy Barber has spent the better part of the last decade on an unofficial recruitment campaign for the Recording Academy. Following Morgan Heritage's 2017 Grammy win and the surprise inclusion of up-and-coming reggae star Devin Di Dakta, Barber is not alarmed by a decline in Jamaica's attention.

"There were three nominees last year that were Jamaican, so I don't see Jamaican acts on a decline being nominated in the future in the Reggae Album category. Reggae is the most popular genre in the world, so it was only a matter of time before the category would be shared with reggae acts outside of Jamaica. But it is important for artistes to understand the submission process to ensure their music is considered," Barber told The Sunday Gleaner.