23rd staging on Saturday, April 14
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
The Western Consciousness 2012 line-up reads like an exotic blend of Jamaican popular music generations, where Studio One meets Wickie Wackie Beach through Freddie McGregor and Jah 9, respectively.
Of course, although they are representative of the line-up's range, numerically the Big Ship captain and the Warning lady are a small part of the roster of performers for the 23rd staging in 24 years ("One year the Almighty rained and we had to cancel last-minute," Western Consciousness organiser Worrell King said).
Slated for Saturday, April 14, at Paradise Park on the Smithfield Road outside Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, are Beres Hammond, Luciano, Capleton, Marcia Griffiths, Charlie Chaplin, Jah Vinci, Khago, Prophecy, Duane Stephenson, Iba Mahr, Droop Lion, Iyahblaze and Stream.
King, who stages Western Consciousness through King of Kings Promotions, said there is also an English Invasion, headed by King Sounds and Levi Roots, along with a 12-member band. There are self-contained units on the bill, C-Sharp, Uprising Roots and SANE, which will double doing backing duties as well as its individual presentation. Although this adds up to a number of band changes, King, a standout stage manager, guarantees that they will not feel like the customary band changes.
"In all of these changes, the show continues," he said.
King said the theme of Western Consciousness 2012, which had its official media launch last week, is 'Impacting Reggae's New Generation' and puts this staging in the context of an upsurge in roots reggae's local presence in the past few years.
"I am feeling extra encouraged, even if we do not draw the thousands we are anticipating. I am getting calls from all over. People are expressing happiness, giving thanks for the event," he said.
And, King said, "I am always giving young artistes a chance to grow, but this year it is more. More are coming through, showing they know what it is to be professional, that they understand what it takes to keep it alive. I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I have hope. When I should have been gone, the music is in good hands".
Still, there is the generation which has generated the stream of music which the relative youngsters are now adding to, and formally recognising their contribution has been a part of Western Consciousness for the past six years. At last week's launch, singers Bob Andy and Judy Mowatt were honoured, but King points out that previous honourees have not been well-known performers.
Special among them are Soljie, a long-time stage show audience member who King said can accurately predict the success or failure of an event from the early stages. There is also Miss Pearlie, who takes care of bathroom facilities at events.
"The lady who does the dirtiest part. She does it with pride," King said. "We see these two persons as very important. These were the first two persons on the Western Consciousness Honour Roll."
After them have come poet and broadcaster Mutabaruka, lighting and support services provider John Swaby, JaRIA executive member Charles Campbell, and former Synergy promoter Ronnie Burke, among others.
"It is not just artistes, but people who play a strong role in making this happen," he said.
Over the years, Western Consciousness has struggled to attract major sponsorship from corporate entities, which have become crucial to making major live popular music events in Jamaica happen. King said that it is the "same situation" with sponsorship, "but I have evolved to the extent where I am not even making that an issue. I have seen where my sponsorship has changed. It is the people who come to the show; it's the artistes who perform; it is the promoter".
As for corporate Jamaica, King said, "They will see it necessary one day to get on-board. Right now, I am just working with the artistes,who are working with me so beautifully, and the thousands of people who look forward to the event every year - locally and internationally."
And with the blend of generations, King said the older generation are those who "build the industry, they are the engineers and contractors ... . They continue to work, irrespective of the younger artistes coming through and 'mashing up' the place. When they hit the stage, the audience shows respect to them".
"I have never seen a senior reggae artiste flop onstage," King said.