Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Although it is a popular contraction of the longer term, in Jamaica 'HQ' has an entirely different connotation from headquarters. For while headquarters can be applied to the head office of any organisation, through long-established usage, HQ has a specific meaning in dancehall terminology - it is the home base of a sound system or dancehall-oriented crew.
So when Red Stripe (the company with a host of brands under its portfolio, including the well-known beer) hosts Stone Love Movements' 40th anniversary celebration at its 214 Spanish Town Road, St Andrew offices tomorrow night, the landmark session will take place at its HQ, not headquarters.
Racquel Nevins, Guinness brand manager, said "It is normally called the Oval. In the ads, we have Red Stripe HQ." She is aware of the connotations, noting that it is a play on dancehall terminology and the intention is to go with the language.
While there have been many events at Red Stripe before - among them the Dragon Spitfire sessions and this year's D&G White Overproof Rum launch - being a venue for an external event is new territory for Red Stripe. Nevins said, while the company normally hosts only in-house events, they had to go the extra mile, "because this is such a signi-ficant event" and in her experience, this is a first.
Stone Love's 40th anniversary session is sponsored by Guinness and Ciroc Vodka, and Nevins said "the idea is partnership" as
Guinness is a well-loved drink and "Stone Love is iconic in the dancehall space. The message is that we are committed to being in the dancehall space where people most enjoy. And Stone Love is a key player in that space." Nevins pointed out that both Stone Love's owner Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell and well-known selector Rory were included in the Guinness 50 Icons of Dancehall list earlier this year, by public vote.
Having extensive experience with event promotion, though - the annual Arthur Guinness celebration is now a staple on the entertainment calendar - the company is familiar with the legal requirements. That includes the stipulated lock-off time, which is 2 a.m. on weekends.
"We are trying to get an extension for the event," Nevins told The Gleaner on Monday. "It is still in the process. We are trying to go through the police and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation." In a separate interview, Stone Love's owner Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell attributed the shift from the previously intended venue on Constant Spring Road to Red Stripe's base to an effort to get a longer session time, the hope being to go from 'dusk til dawn'.
Stone Love Movements has a long history of being sponsored by corporate entities, from Wray and Nephew Rum Cream to Guinness and Magnum. Wee Pow points out that they were all "multiple contracts, not just a one-year thing".
The contract with Magnum, which started in 2007, has ended. Powell told The Gleaner, "We are here presently looking to put brand on brand, brand ourselves to really expose ourselves. We are still open, if a good deal should come".
A number of dancehall performers and corporate entities have had public run-ins over lyrical content in the past, some of tomorrow night's headline performers among them. It is a situation which Stone Love's boss is keeping tabs on.
"The main performers, like a Sizzla and a Bounty Killer, they have worked with Red Stripe before and come out not saying anything derogatory, so we looking forward for them to keep on that trend and the others to follow. We will take the stand to really elaborate a lot and educate them about the issue and how important it is for them to really stay clean," Powell said.
At tomorrow's anniversary session, drinks will come from Red Stripe's range and Nevins pointed out that the company will provide a full array of drinks, which includes vodka, wine and beer. Plus, there will be Guinness, spot prizes and a VIP area. Drinks will be sold at the recommended bar price, which is "lower than what you will pay at a party".
Nevins terms the collaboration 'a full partnership', Red Stripe taking care of the areas they are good at and Stone Love delivering on their strengths. "Stone Love knows how to put on a dance, and Red Stripe has the corporate thing," she said. "We are handling the sections that each partner is good at. That is the difference this time around."
With ample security and parking and no weapons allowed, "the collaboration is a pleasure," Nevins said. "The best experience you can have on the 29th is definitely here (214 Spanish Town Road)." The entrance fee is $600 presold and $800 at the gate, with VIP costing $1,200.