From left, Ernest Ranglin and Dr Olive Lewin.
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
When the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA) celebrated its fifth anniversary in July this year, the young organisation "dedicated to the preservation of Jamaica's musical heritage ..." also opened the doors to its 'Jamaica Music Hall of Fame'.
Of the 12 initial inductees, two were on hand to hear their official citations read and there was very strong applause from the large audience in the Gardens of the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, for Dr Olive Lewin and Ernest Ranglin.
Derrick Morgan is still alive, as are some original members of The Skatalites and one Wailing Wailer, while six - Lord Flea, Vere Johns, Count Ossie, Louise Bennett-Coverley, Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd and Arthur 'Duke' Reid - are dead.
So is Sister Mary Ignatius, the revered mother figure at Alpha Boys' School, cradle of many a standout musician.
The induction, though, was far from being a dead affair and JAVAA's chairman, Frankie Campbell of Fab Five Band, pointed out that in these early stages of the Jamaica Music Hall of Fame "we made a concerted effort to give it to the older people, because once our generation dies out the memories may fade".
The footsteps of an unusually large group echoed in the hall this year, and Campbell points out that subsequent batches of inductees will be smaller, consisting of about four to six persons. He estimated that in a few years "we will catch up with the 1970s".
With a talent show producer (among many other pursuits) in Vere Johns, an ethnomusicologist in Lewin, and someone known much more for poetry and drama than music (Bennett-Coverley) mixed with the vocalists, instrumentalists and producers, it is clear that JAVAA's intention is to encompass more than those whose voices and rhythms have been imprinted in Jamaican history.
"We specifically did not want it to be a reggae music hall of fame," Campbell said. "We have to look at people like Miss Lou ... That way, we could include gospel, mento and so on, anything that is Jamaican."
The 12 inductees were culled from 40 candidates, and Campbell said that the panel which made the final decision "had many fights and arguments. There were another dozen who could have been in, but they will be shortly."
The Jamaica Music Hall of Fame came out of JAVAA's quest to always look for ways to preserve and promote Jamaican music, and it does not end at the stage. Campbell said that JAVAA has got permission for images and bits of information about the inductees to be placed prominently near the ticket booth in the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre, as "The aim is to have it somewhere where the young people will have access and can be inspired to do research themselves."
He points out that for one to be inducted into the Jamaica Music Hall of Fame, one would have to not only be a significant contributor to Jamaican music, but "would have had to be in the business for a very long time.
"You find that people like Stevie Wonder had to wait until years after the height of his popularity," Campbell said, drawing a parallel with the United States.
He said that the current downturn in the worldwide economy had put a dent in long-established plans to establish a physical museum, which JAVAA executive member Michael Barnett said had been intended from the organisation was established at Osbourne Road, St Andrew. The intention had been for performers to donate items, Barnett saying that he would have contributed from his extensive music collection, with various rooms of the museum named after standout performers. So there would have been the Slim Smith Room, the Bob Marley Room, the Delroy Wilson Room and the Tommy McCook room, among others.
He emphasised that "it is not a JAVAA Hall of Fame, it is the Jamaica Music Hall of Fame. It is a national institution. This is what is going to perpetuate the work of our pioneers and those have come along since the pioneers. It will perpetuate their music, their works, their memories".
Barnett pointed out that generations are passing, as when the idea was being formulated people like Alton Ellis, Brent Dowe (of The Melodians), Roy Shirley and Byron Lee were still alive. And he said that "in America you have the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"The R&B Foundation selects an artiste who has fallen on hard times and gives them US$100,000. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts people. In my estimation the Jamaica Music Hall of Fame would be a combination of both," Barnett said.