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The live music discussion continues

Published:Sunday | March 20, 2011 | 12:00 AM
CAPTION: Scotiabank's Joylene Griffiths (left), Dubtonic Kru's Luke Dixon (second left), Omar 'Jalanzo' Johnson (third left), Deleon 'Jubba' Whyte (third right), Horace 'Kamau' Morgan (second right) and Strickland Stone (right) and Griot Music's Seretse Small (centre) anticipate a good showing by Dubtonic at the 2011 Global Battle of the Bands. Dubtonic represented Jamaica at the global music contest in Malaysia recently, where they were named best new band. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer
Lloyd Parkes
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Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

With the availability of more live venues and events, there seems to be a rise in the numbers of local bands wanting to make their names in the music industry. One band at the helm of this resurgence is Dubtonic Kru.

"I think now more than up to 10 years ago, there has been a strong resurgence. Like with everything in life there is a cycle," Dubtonic Kru member Deleon 'Jubba' White told The Sunday Gleaner.

He said the revitalisation is being fuelled by the re-emergence of live events.

Having worked with artistes such as Burning Spear, Luciano, Richie Spice, Chuck Fenda, Junior Kelly, U Roy, Voicemail, and The Mighty Diamonds, White said Dubtonic Kru had been on a mission to make a name for themselves.

Based on improvements in and increased access to technology, as well as increases in airline ticket prices, reggae bands in other countries who can back local artistes and sometimes a 'hustling mentality', combined with a decrease in record sales, Jubba said musicians were sometimes left without jobs.

"They (overseas promoters) will tell the artistes that they can't afford a band. And, there has been a resurgence of bands in other countries and because of that musicians are left without jobs and it influence them to do their own music," he said.

With their recent win at the Global Battle of the Bands ahead of 17 other countries, Jubba said his band will help in the movement.

"It will help because what it does is it gives more credibility to our music and it proves that we can compete on an international level. Jamaica has a rich culture and music, but it is not as wealthy as these countries and can still compete at that level," he said.

Hopes for support

Though unsure, Jubba said he hopes their win will lead to Corporate Jamaica and Government supporting bands and live music.

"We feel good 'bout it because of what it will do to support these initiatives that we and others have been doing to develop our music industry and to let people see the creativity that is there. It's not just a win for Dubtonic Kru, it's a big win for Jamaica," he said.

While this is the most recent success, Jubba said the band has been doing other things to help the movement. They have been hosting Bands Incorporated for the last three years, and more recently, Plug N' Play. The events have been used as avenues for bands to highlight their work. He listed Jamnesia as another event that has been doing a similar job.

A supporter of live music, Joan Webley, the chairperson for JaRIA's Constitution, Advocacy, Lobbying and Membership (CALM) Committee, says she has seen increases in the presence of local bands. She says there have been new venues and venue opening nights for the purpose of live music.

"That is very encouraging 'cause you see more and more bands forming. It's a very exciting time to be back in Jamaica," she said, while making note of bands like Blu Grass, Downstairs, Uprising Roots Band and Rootz Underground.

She said the presence and high quality work of bands was evident at February's Reggae Night series that was held at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts during Reggae Month.

Not convinced

While there is enthusiasm in the air, musician, Seretse Small, said he is not yet convinced of the resurgence.

"I've been working at this since 1995 and what happens is there are moments when people see something happening and copy that. You will have a lot of people doing it for a while and then it fades away as people realise that it is hard work," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Right now I would consider this a wave. Is it a rise? I am not that sure. I don't really see all the elements coming together yet. I don't really see venues, promoters, investors and media coming on board. It's not yet quite a phenomenon, but you have a couple individuals making strides."

Small said a lot more is needed for it to be considered a rise, including national recognition.

"We still have to find that moment where we start to crack national recognition. We are not quite cutting it yet, but I am encouraged by a few things. The next thing that is to happen after these spikes is the rise," he said.

"Hopefully we can find a few leaders. Dubtonic could be one of those to have commercial success and push everything over the edge. We need one Bob Marley that will kind of open the door."

Also on the same page as Small, veteran musician Lloyd Parkes, leader of the We The People Band says, "probably its in the making and the rise is coming."

"You have a lot of bands underneath but are not popular. You don't really have a lot of show bands. It's harder for a band to come and make it as a show band. Everything has changed now, the music and the economy," added the musician who has a career dating back to the 1960s.

CAPTION: Scotiabank's Joylene Griffiths (left), Dubtonic Kru's Luke Dixon (second left), Omar 'Jalanzo' Johnson (third left), Deleon 'Jubba' Whyte (third right), Horace 'Kamau' Morgan (second right) and Strickland Stone (right) and Griot Music's Seretse Small (centre) anticipate a good showing by Dubtonic at the 2011 Global Battle of the Bands. Dubtonic represented Jamaica at the global music contest in Malaysia recently, where they were named best new band. -  Rudolph Brown/Photographer