Season's spirit lost in song
When Easter, Independence and summer roll around each year, some entertainers grab the opportunity to pen lyrics that match that particular time. Barrington Levy's I Saw Mommy Kiss A Dreadlocks (1981), Jacob Miller's Natty Christmas (released in (1978), and Carlene Davis's Santa Claus (Do You Ever Come To The Ghetto) are examples of how entertainers would put their own creative spin on popular Christmas songs.
Tomorrow, the world celebrates Christmas Day, but, although the festivities are at a peak, there have been very few Jamaican artistes releasing Christmas projects. Tosh Alexander, one of the few to have done so in the EP An Island Christmas with Tosh and Friends, attributes the absence to entertainers and music lovers in general, losing appreciation for culture, and with it, their zeal to celebrate.
"I don't think it's just Christmas and it's not just our artistes here in Jamaica alone. For whatever reason, I think we as a people are trending away from culture," she said. "A lot of us are not realising just how important culture is and how important seasons like these are, and so we don't care enough to do things in recognition of these periods. Back in the day, at this time of the year, we would be hearing Christmas carols everywhere from the beginning of December. We would feel the Christmas spirit, and artistes would be gearing up to do songs in keeping with the season. That's not happening on a widespread basis anymore, and I think it's simply because people now think culture and doing things like these have become 'uncool'."
Alexander believes that the music industry could go back to the place where it appreciated seasons like Christmas if entertainers were to use their talents to sway the tide. "I mean, if you remember, even at Festival time, how people would just get excited about Independence, at the leaps we made as a country. That was because artistes used to sing about these things in Festival songs, and we used to hear them so much on the streets and on the radio. If entertainers would engage more in these things, then so would the people. We cannot underestimate the power of music."
Alexander fears that if the songs are lacking, then so will the Christmas spirit. "Throughout the year, life is happening so fast, and when these holidays come up, they remind people to just enjoy life. We as entertainers should recognise how powerful music can be in getting people into a particular mood. Songs spreading love, joy and cheer can only help to make people more pleasant during the holidays."
"That's why it was so important for me to do my Christmas EP. I remember growing up and loving Christmas carols and songs about the season and how they made me feel, and I wanted to give people that same feeling through my music."
Artiste manager Shelly-Ann Curran pointed out that local entertainers embrace the things they will get recognition and support for. She said that over the years, artistes have released Christmas projects, but pointed out that there are contrasts with the type of music being released during the Christmas season.
Curran said that the Christmas remixes with messages about gun and sex are usually more popular, as they get more attention from the media and the general local music landscape. She believes this is the reason more entertainers who want to release projects about the true meaning of Christmas are hesitant.
"Tosh Alexander did a beautiful Christmas EP that features Christopher Martin and Romain Virgo. It is a well-produced Christmas project, so the real question is, why aren't the media and local disc jocks supporting it?" she said. "We seem to still be glorifying the gun tunes, and the truth is that an artiste will not want to do projects that are not embraced. We have very few visionaries in the entertainment industry locally, and we only look out for the quick pay-out projects."
Curran said that the nation has got its wires crossed about what to embrace, and there has been a decline in the appreciation for culture and quality music, while songs that impact the society negatively are embraced.