Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
When the Jamaican leg of Global Battle of the Bands competition kicks off at the Redbones Blues Café next week, it will be much different from its first staging in 2005.
Back then, it was a big competition with 16 bands participating in the event that was held at Backyaad Entertainment Complex in St Andrew. Live Wyaa was the winner of the contest and they went on to make their mark in the world finals in London.
Fast track to this year, the competition will be held at Redbones Blues Café, 1 Argyle Road, New Kingston, on December 11, starting at midday.
National Director of the competition, Seretse Small said a lot has changed over the years.
"Everything is different," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We had no cash sponsorship in 2005. This year, we have cash from Red Bull and Scotiabank. In 2005, it was bigger at Backyaad. This year, we scaled it down, it will be smaller and more intimate."
There will also be a change in the judging process. In the last staging, there were seven judges who were mostly associated with dancehall and reggae music.
This time around, there will be international judges like John Baker and Ray Hitchins, as well as local judges like Mikey Bennett and Ibo Cooper.
"In that judging, there will be more of a balance and greater credibility in terms of the international market," said Small, who is also the CEO for Griot Music Limited.
Media coordinator for the competition, Michael Edwards, said there have also been changes in the live-music scene in Jamaica.
"The sound has kinda advanced with technology. The capability, in terms of reproducing music has advanced since 2005," he said.
While the bands will be playing music, they will not be allowed to do any cover versions of songs. Instead, they will be required to enter the competition with original music.
"No covers, everything has to be original. What we want to get away from is the notion of the band backing an artiste. We want to show the band being the artiste," Edwards told The Sunday Gleaner.
On the day of the competition, each band will be given two separate stints of no more than 10 minutes to showcase their material.
And, there will be no limitations on the genres of music that they will be allowed to do.
"The more the merrier," Edwards said.
Meanwhile, Small said there is no set number of bands yet, as some people are still registering. So far, he said Irie Connections is the only band that has formally registered. However, other bands like Crimson Heart Replica, Dubtonic Kru and Mojahrock have shown interest.
They will be competing for a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the world finals on February 26. They will also be given 20 hours of studio time at Red Bull studio, which is located on the Tuff Gong Recording Studio premises.
In addition, the winner will get a video package courtesy of the Creative Production and Training Centre and three months of media and public relations services from Nanook Enterprises.
When the competition is held, Edwards said he is expecting to see work of a high standard.
"I think the quality will be very good and I am looking forward to the expositions that the bands will perform. Overall, I am optimistic and I think we will have a good competition," he said.
And, with the energy that is expected to build around the competition, Small said other bands are going to wish they had entered.
While the winner will be hard to choose, Small said that the band will do well on the world stage, although it will require some creativity on their part.
"It will be a little challenging going up against a lot of rock and techno bands. Our groups, because we are in Jamaica, may not be as innovative in some ways as the foreign bands," he said.
But because reggae is loved worldwide, he said Jamaica is always a crowd favourite and people will really want to see the winning band because of Jamaica's five-year absence.
Therefore, in order to be more competitive, he is encouraging locals bands to experiment more with their music.
"That's what I'm promoting here, for our bands to be more internationally minded. To be able to keep our identity and to broaden it," Small said.