Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
New recording facility key to community development
On Wednesday afternoon, host Dr Dennis Howard, Member of Parliament Dr Omar Davies and guest speaker, former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson (by recording, as he had to attend a meeting related to West Indies cricket) all detailed the number of renowned performers which Trench Town has produced.
The function they spoke at, the opening of the Jamaica Music Institute (JaMIN) Recording Studio and International Certification Lab, was held in the heart of that creative space, at the Trench Town Multi-Purpose Building. And, with the launch of the JaMIN Song Competition, it is hoped that there will be more music coming out of Trench Town.
But hopes for the studio go beyond making music, as it is conceptualised as the nucleus of a revitalisation of the area. Junior Lincoln, co-chairman of JaMIN, outlined a number of long-term objectives, among them making Trench Town "the rightfully recognised home of reggae, levering the legacy to support community development, develop Trench Town as a cultural village and reggae park (and) redeveloping the Ambassador Theatre as a cultural space and Reggae Hall of Fame".
Lincoln also added a few names to those already listed, but they were not performers. He reminded all of the importance of spiritual leader Mortimer Planno ("He was a Rastaman in the true sense of Rastaman") and Father Sherlock of Boys' Town.
The Agency for Inner City Renewal The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) presented the launch, USAID Mission Director Denise Herbol pointing out that it is also the organisation's 50th anniversary. Herbol said "the community of Trench Town embodies the definition of music". Getting down to the financial nuts and bolts, Herbol said that "In 2010 USAID awarded a grant to the United Nations Development Programme in support of the Youth Employment Through the Sustainable Livelihood project ... . The JaMIN Studio is the urban component of the Youth Employment Through Sustainable Livelihood project and received US$100,000."
Luke George Cooke of the Jones Town CDC traced the genesis of the studio to 2003, when a group of young men approached him about setting up a recording studio. In turn, he approached Dr Henley Morgan who, like Cooke, knew nothing about setting up a studio. However, the seed had been planted, for a funding submission to be made in 2010.
Cooke said the intention is to create social entrepreneurs "to have continuity when the funders have left".
Colin Weise of the Trench Town Development Association announced that the hall in which the launch was being held was the Alton Ellis Auditorium.
Support for the facility came from the music fraternity through Frankie Campbell of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates and Jamaica Federation of Musicians' Desi Young. Campbell said "One thing that Jamaica has not learnt yet is to appreciate what people do well. Music is one of our hidden treasures and we have not yet learnt to appreciate it."
"This project fits into the cradle of reggae music. This is where it was born," Young said.
Davies put the project in the wider context of the constituency, saying, "it is a positive development in terms of anything which can uplift not only the community of Trench Town but South St Andrew".
Patterson described Trench Town as being to music "what Hollywood is to film. It constitutes an international brand which we must promote". However, in speaking about the spin-offs from the project, Patterson said hopefully it will also lead to peace as people of the community realise that "there is a common and single interest in the end to violence and the shift to peace and general order".
"Let us ensure this is a watershed moment in the development of the community and Jamaica, land we love," Patterson concluded.
YeKengale announced the opening of the JaMIN Song Competition and also conducted the Trench Town Choir in a superb rendition of 'Trench Town' and an adjustment of 'Jamming' to briefly become a chorale dub plate for JaMIN.
Still, the focus beyond music for the recording studio and certification facility was central to the launch ceremony. "We can restore hope to our people in the midst of apathy," Cooke said. "It is time we chase away the clouds of crime and violence and restore Trench Town to its rightful place."