Tue | Dec 11, 2018

Letter change spells new day - Standards, advocacy part of Ja Federation of Musicians' thrust

Published:Sunday | January 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Karen Smith
Rory Frankson

Only one letter - the last - has changed in the initialism for the broad-based organisation represents persons involved in the business of music in Jamaica. However, it indicates a new leadership as singer Karen Smith has replaced long-time president Desmond 'Desi' Young, and an expanded mandate, with the new Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union (JFMAU) pushing for standard and capacity building, even as it emphasises dialogue in insisting on its membership's rights.

The former Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliated Artistes (JFMAA) was started in 1958. Among the former presidents were the late Sonny Bradshaw and Hedley Jones. The revamped entity came into being at the end of May last year.

"This is the place," Smith said about the JFMAU to The Sunday Gleaner. "If you are an entertainer, if the challenges come, there is a body. The things you are saying to your employer, it may be a group of you having the same problem," she said. It also applies to broad-based legal issues, Smith giving the Noise Abatement Act and sound system operators as an example.

"Whatever are the needs and challenges of the music industry, we are here," Smith emphasised. "It is overdue, but we are here. It is not a flash in the pan ... It is a lot of responsibility, but this is the good fight."

The JFMAU has had meetings with Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange, as well as Minister of Tourism Ed Bartlett. The Ministry of Tourism handles the National Registry of Entertainment Practitioners, more commonly called the Entertainment Registry, and the JFMAU treasurer, Rory Frankson, said the organisation is projected to be involved in managing it.


Dialogue and relationships


But while the union will be acting in its members' interests, Smith emphasised that the approach would be through dialogue and relationships.

"People must be able to feel that you are reasonable," Smith said. We are a union in name, and we know what that means. But the perception must be that we are reasonable," she said. "You want things to change, but you want lasting and sustainable change."

And there is also the matter of building the competency levels of the JFMAU's members. A meeting was held at the St James Parish Church Hall last September and another is planned for Kingston shortly. At the 2018 general meeting, the membership as a whole will attend and vote. Vice-president Lowell Lawson reinforced the partnership approach and ensuring standards for members through training and capacity building.

"The expectations are so high. Whether it is good or bad, it is a reality," Smith said. And the JFMAU's executive has a vested interest in meeting the high expectations. "We are players in the industry as well. We are fighting for ourselves as well," Frankson said.