Jack of all trades, master of none
Musical genres fall by the wayside in the wake of acculturation
Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica is the birthplace of several globally recognised musical genres -mento, dub, ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall.
That is an enviable position for any country's music industry; however, the feat has slipped the island.
Unlike the American music industry, which keeps its genres alive by accommodating them in its media and its most prestigious award shows, it is different in Jamaica.
The Jamaican music industry and media appear to shed more light on dancehall and reggae than any other popular music created by the island.
According to reggae artiste Chronixx, who made a mark at Sting just this week, the genres are not entirely extinct because they live within reggae and dancehall.
"The difference between Jamaican music and others is that there is an evolution. When you look at mento and the dynamics, you will see that elements of it are in the existing genre. If you break down the music technically you will hear elements of all our genres. Ska is not dead, you have new artistes like Omi who has a new song called Cheerleader on a ska beat. I think we can be more appreciative of our earlier forms of music but I don't think it is dead," he said.
The artiste highlighted that being too Americanised has affected the level of appreciation Jamaicans have for their art forms.
"When you go to places like the Youth View Awards it is so Americanised. You see them dancing to Nicki Minaj and yu naah guh to American Awards guh see dem a dance to Super Cat tunes - other art forms are infiltrating the music and they come from our same creation, but most artistes don't know that, it's like Jamaica is the mother of all music.
"We see where foreign is trying to be like us, and we are trying to be like them. We even have dub poets here and nobody paying attention to them. It's like we are watering the branches and not the roots, we hear them seh hot, young and hype. But what about our roots?" said Chronixx.
"If you listen the radio its pure American music, so we don't have time to play our own Jolly Boys. And when they play throwbacks you don't hear some Dennis Brown or some Peter Tosh," Chronixx said.
Music historian and media personality Roy Black, says Jamaica's early genres are celebrated during festival season, he also believes dancehall and reggae are put on the forefront because they are more current.
"Younger people get influenced by the music that is more popular and the media creates that demand. The media tends to promote the thing that makes money and not what is original. Some youth who grow up with grandparents who play ska music will appreciate the traditional music. But those who grow up in a predominantly dancehall or reggae atmosphere will only appreciate that," he said.
Legendary ska/rocksteady artiste Stranger Cole speaks of a booming ska market overseas. But in ska's homeland Jamaica, the singer expressed disappointment.
"The experience in my career right now is the happiest time, it's great as a Jamaican artiste. I have been touring a lot since the last eight years, going to places all over the world and the market for ska is huge. I was told that they have over 200 ska bands in Europe, yet, in Jamaica there are only two. Sometimes when I am in Jamaica I feel disheartened because I am least appreciated here. If it wasn't for foreign I wouldn't be able to pay JPS," Stranger Cole said.
Stranger Cole also took a jab at radio stations, staying that only Bob Clarke plays ska and rocksteady usually once per week on a Sunday.
"I feel like they are putting the older music on the back page. We are still doing new music today and you have not heard a new Stranger Cole on radio. If you go to places like Germany, the people respond to Stranger Cole like I just started singing. We should have programmes on regular radio for vintage artistes, not just Sundays when Bob Clarke a play. Play our new music too. I have new songs that don't get any play on local radio. So what I do is just burn some copies and take them to Europe and sell them. There should be a continuation and recognition for ska and our other genres. Bob Marley was a ska artiste and Desmond Dekker. We need to go back to the drawing board and plan how we are going to incorporate all our genres," The icon said.
Stranger Cole is gearing up to embark on a European tour in 2013. He is also bracing himself to receive an undetermined some of money from the royalties of the Artibella remake which has been reproduced by international rapper/reggae artiste Snoop Lion. Also featured on the original Artibella single is singer Ken Boothe.
"Mr Seaga recently released a compilation of old songs for Jamaica 50 and now it's at number three on the billboard charts in America. So there is so much that can be learnt from the music, but it is hidden behind the hype," Stranger Cole said.