Audiences want more
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
There has been an obvious growth in live music events and this revolution seems to be appreciated by the players and their audiences.
Lloyd Laing, Reggae News Corporation chief executive officer, who also refers to himself as a live music activist, said there has been a definite increase in live music events and its following.
"Live music has grown tremendously over the last five years. There has been a tremendous increase in the interest in live music and an appreciation for it," he told The Sunday Gleaner, noting that he had also seen an interest coming from sponsors as well.
"It's a new generation of music. As we move into our future, we are going back to our roots. We are really bringing back the roots of reggae to the mainstream, not so much the in-studio-driven music that has stagnated the industry."
He said events like Jamnesia, which is held every other Saturday in Bull Bay, St Thomas, and Seh Sup'm have helped to inspire other people to do live music events. He said there were also other live music events held at venues like Heather's Garden Restaurant, Redbones Blues Café, Village Café and Christopher's Jazz Café.
This live music movement, he said, aims to give people a different musical experience, as "you can never be short-changed with live music".
As a community, he said, "We have been self-sustaining for the past five years, so we are looking for help from corporate sponsors who understand what the movement is about. It's not like we are changing the wheel, we are just adding something new to the tyre."
Laing said he wants the movement to grow so that aspiring musicians will realise that they can make a living from the industry.
Jamnesia, for instance, was started by Ishack Wilmot, along with his siblings Ini, Ika and Imani, three years ago. He said it was started by them as they had many friends who were musicians and surfers like themselves. Eventually, he said, it became popular and they opened it up to the public.
"I am kind of happy that the live music scene is taking over again. It has grown in popularity and I see other people coming up and starting live music events, so it's like it is picking back up," said Wilmot, noting that Jamnesia has had performers like Protoje, Keida, NoMaddz, poets, hip-hop groups and people who are friends of his musician father Billy Mystic.
Redbones Blues Café is a little different. Live music is not new there. According to Elona Williams, the café's manager, that type of entertainment had always been on offer. Christopher's has been open since 1996.
"We've been doing live music shows for almost 14 years. It is something central to Redbones. We've always done and will continue to host live music events," she said, noting that the café offered jazz as well as other genres of music like rock, funk, conscious reggae and world music.
While maintaining a commitment to live music at Redbones, Williams expressed that other places also need to offer it.
"I think it is unfortunate that there are not more venues in Kingston for live music. There are only a few venues in Kingston that are keeping live music alive in Kingston," she said.
One venue that paid attention to live music for most of the summer was Village Café, which hosted Italee, Quizz and Friends. It was started by friends Italee Watson and Carrie 'Quizz' Sigurdson, who form RPM Promotions. The first season kicked off on May 4 with performances from Juss Ice, Singing Sweet, Gabriel, Tami Chynn and Chino.
The season ended on July 27, and there were performances by other artistes like G-Whizz, Laden, Kimberly Main, Ras Penco, Marcus I, Wasp, TOK, Timberlee, Tifa, Natalie Storm, Chi Ching Ching, Terro 3000, NoMadzz, Alaine, Bramma and Italee.
Promoter for the event Italee Watson said she has seen where live music has gained popularity.
"It (Italee, Quizz and Friends) is creating a chain reaction. I hear a lot of other people wanting to start live music events," she said, noting that she has been called by another establishment to help start an event of that kind there.
It is also something she believes patrons enjoy based on how popular Italee, Quiz and Friends got in the a relatively short time.
"People love it, people want it and have been craving for it for a long time. People are tired of the synthetic. People are looking for music with a more organic vibe. People are enthused about it," Watson said, noting that the new season of the event starts on October 5.
Weynika Bent-Evans said she has been a patron at live music events like One Mic, Italee, Quizz and Friends, Seh Sup'm and Christopher's Jazz Café.
More value for money
"I love it, we need more of it. It is something that is lacking on the musical scene. It gives more entertainment value than a club, dance or radio. It is an alternative way of experiencing and enjoying music," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I rate the live shows better than the big stage shows. I prefer the smaller, more intimate setting 'cause you get more value for money."
Dancehall artiste Tifa performs mostly with tracks but she believes the patrons get a lot out of a live performance where she is accompanied by a band.
"The band gives off a different energy from the tracks, a nice energy. It gives more flexibility," she said.
However, she noted that there were not many live music shows available for her to perform on.
But Watson plans to feed people's hunger for live music even more with an RPM In The Street Tour, which she hopes to start by the end of August if she is given permission by the authorities. As part of this tour, she said there would be performances from Alex Marley, NoMaddz and herself, as well as invited guests. She said the event would be hosted in places like Half-Way Tree, Papine, Cross Roads, downtown Kingston and any park it could find.