Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
No record deal from a major label? No problem for reggae artiste Jah Jah Yute who sells his CDs at flea markets in the United States (US) and also treats his buyers and prospective buyers to live performances.
The sale of reggae and dancehall music has been trending downwards for years with sales tracker, Soundscan, reporting in 2009 that collectively reggae/dancehall music sold just 502,171 units for the first 10 months of the year. Sean Paul's Imperial Blaze album with sales of 70,917 was leading the way at the time.
But unlike many reggae and dancehall artistes who wait in earnest for a record deal from a major label in the US to help them make an album and then sell it, New Jersey-based Jah Jah Yute has taken matters into his own hands.
The artiste, whose real name is Steadman Shearer, has his own small manufacturing operation at his home office where he burns and prints his CDs for resale.
After preparing his product, Jah Jah Yute then treks to the different flea markets in an effort to get persons to buy his CDs.
"When I go there, I set up my booth, music and entertainment system and I do my live concerts. I print my flyers and when I am singing and entertaining I reach out to people and I introduce my music and myself," he said, noting that last Tuesday he sold 150 of his EPs (extended play) consisting of five tracks at US$5 each.
"Today (Thursday) is the slowest day and I sell about 60 copies. I sell thousands of CDs and also online; CD Baby, Believe Digital (France), iTunes, Napster, Amazon, Yahoo, Target and others. You name it, there are tonnes and tonnes of online stores and I am there."
Jah Jah Yute has released albums like Words Power and Sounds (2007), Jah Say So (2008), Excellence Is Thy Name (2009), Born Fi Jah (2010) and Iration (2011). He has also released songs like All We Need Is Love, Rough Life, Born Warrior and Mankind Fighting.
Jah Jah Yute says working with a major label would be good, but he did not get favourable responses from these labels when he spoke with them in the past. So until then, he says he is willing to be working solo.
The artiste, who is from Westmoreland, worked as a conductor, taxi man, electrician and in tile and block factories before migrating to the US.
Having had dreams of a successful career in music, Jah Jah Yute decided to do what he loved while trying to make a living. But when he started going to the flea markets, it was often met with resistance.
"When I came here, I realised that I have to do something to boost my income and promote my music. My brother-in-law and wife suggested that I go to the flea markets. It wasn't an easy ride. When I just start a lot of people didn't accept it," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
Jah Jah Yute mentioned an incident in Pennsylvania where a man spat in front of his booth. Other times, he said persons cursed him and told him to return to Jamaica.
But now, he says the responses have improved.
"People are demanding it. I am changing the US. I am changing the world. My music is hitting the people. The people are moving in a positive way. There are many thousands of people I, Jah Jah Yute, send to my homeland with my music. They love the island, they love the music," he said.