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The brains behind the frame: Young Creatives immortalise Jamaican artistes

Published:Monday | December 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMSade Gardner
Ashani Wright with Aidonia.
Yannick (right) with Protoje.
Ashani Wright had ambitions of being a professional athlete before a tragic incident changed his plans.
Yannick Reid missed his college graduation to go on a tour with Protoje.

Documenting Jamaican artistes on tour is not a new concept. Artistic director Neville Garrick became a close friend of reggae jewel Bob Marley, during the 1970s and 1980s, and often travelled with him, capturing some of the most prolific and repurposed images of the Exodus singer.

The birth of the Internet has provided more ways of documenting and sharing the life of an entertainer, and millennials are playing a pivotal role in the visual representation of some of Jamaica's most beloved acts.

Twenty-six year-old Yannick Reid has been Protoje's creative director since 2014, and recently directed and produced the documentary A Matter of Time, which explores the making of Protoje's 2018 album of the same name.

According to Reid, documentarians "turn culture from something intangible to something tangible". He told The Gleaner, "A lot of persons my age and younger were not able to see Bob Marley alive - we only have his music, videos and documentaries. The documentation of Bob has been so rich and extensive, that we can understand him as a person. This is the same approach we should take with artistes now, and with our culture overall."

A graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, Garrick never thought of being anything but a graphic designer. He received the chance to work with Protoje after a friend of his relinquished the role, and recommended him for the job.


Travel the world


"I missed my graduation ceremony to go on my first tour with Protoje in November 2014, and I have no regrets," he said. "I spoke to my parents, and my mom was hesitant because it was still a new relationship, and we didn't know what would have blossomed. I knew there would be just one graduation, but I still wanted to give it a shot - it was a huge offer."

Since then, Reid has toured with Protoje across the Americas, Africa and Europe, with responsibility for creative direction and content creation.

He encourages fellow creators to "be citizens of the world". He added, "Jamaica has such a village mentality sometimes, but it is good for you to travel and encounter other mentalities which open your mind to other possibilities. If you are in one place, you get too stagnant, and develop a limited view on what is possible."

Creative director and photographer for Aidonia, Ashani Wright, echoes this sentiment.

"Before me start travel, I used to view Jamaica with a tunnel vision - like from Portmore to Half-Way Tree. Going to different countries all over the Caribbean with Aidonia, like St Lucia and Guyana, I started to look at other things in those countries, which made me realise that other things are possible outside of Jamaica. It has really opened my eyes to be more creative and see things differently."

Wright is the director of Aidonia's VVS music video, and also coordinates his vlogs and photographs. He started working with the Yeah Yeah deejay more than a year ago, after being introduced to him by his cousin.

"I'm giving viewers a chance to see him (Aidonia) behind the scenes. Documenting artistes is important because it helps to promote music and gain fans," he said. "In this social-media age, people want to feel connected to the artiste, they want to know what they are doing, where they are and how they are with other fans."


Track dreams shattered


Like Reid, in college Wright had other ambitions. His success in the high jump while at Jamaica College earned him a scholarship to the University of Technology, where he was studying media. "I wanted to be a professional athlete, but in August 2015, I was stabbed when someone tried to rob me. Because of that injury I couldn't perform properly, and that interfered with my scholarship - so I had to drop out of college. I started playing around the camera afterwards, and that's how I ended up here."

He established Magical Studio in 2015, which specialises in photography, animation and videography. He has worked with other entertainers, including Tommy Lee Sparta, and says his affiliation with Aidonia is an invaluable career boost.

"A lot of people recognise my work because of my affiliation with him. I'm already in the industry I want to be in, just not at the level where I want to be. I want to shoot videos for superstars like Nicki Minaj. My goal is to not just be one of the best in Jamaica but one of the best in the world."

Reid said his professional prospects have also been inflated, being a protege of Protoje.

"He is well respected, so I get automatic respect and some leverage moving through the creative space. There's also the benefit of not having to explain yourself because people already know of your work."