Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Stone Love Movements celebrated its 40th anniversary at Red Stripe's 214 Spanish Town Road, St Andrew, headquarters on December 29 before a massive crowd.
Throughout it all, Stone Love's foundation status was emphasised, even as they paid homage to their contemporaries and elders in the sound system business, among them Kilamanjaro, Black Scorpio, Stur-Gav and selector Boom Boom.
However, having seen Stone Love through some turbulent times in Jamaica's political history, owner Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell points to a little-known aspect of his sound system's activities, outside of strictly entertainment purposes.
"More time it really give me down feelings," Powell told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I started out at one, reach 40, never know that it would reach this far. It wasn't like a goal set that we going 40. But we always wanted to be dominant and be at the top. Nonetheless, along the line we have done so many works in the politics arena. We play all of the peace dances, from Matthew's Lane, Tivoli, Dunkirk, the whole of them. Every time there is an upstir in violence, they always draw for the sound system and to put on that peace dance. And we always give our service, free of cost."
Powell pointed out that he has never made it a charitable effort for the employees.
However, he said sometimes "when me reflect back and say whole heap a work we do roun' ya y'know, been through some hostile events. Nuff gunshot, whole heap of things. All one time we go to one place in St Catherine and them push cutlass through every one of mi speaker". Replacing the equipment was at Powell's expense. At another event in inner-city St Andrew "pure gunshot ring, shot fly through the speaker".
"We been through it and always there to give that helping hand with my system. Where the sad feeling is like nobody recognise. To the people that should have recognised, is like boogo yagga thing you a keep," Powell said.
"But they don't understand where there is an upsurge, crime get into this community, get so hot, businessman can't function. The surroundings everybody 'fraid, people 'fraid fi come a market. They don't understand the importance of what that little dance do, to get back those people together that the business people can come in."
And, he pointed out, it is not "just the inner city. Because more time when violence flare up, the surroundings, on the outskirts, suffer for that."
The Sunday Gleaner noted the corporate entity involvement in sound systems - which Powell knows first-hand from Stone Love's sponsorship by Wray and Nephew Rum Cream, Guinness and Magnum - and asked if with their level of acceptance there are still those who look down on sound systems.
Powell said "yeah man. That is where the double standard come in. They still don't really appreciate, but know they can use it to gain, so they use it as a stepping stone. Them not going to embrace it".
However, Powell said, "One and two of the politicians are different. Just like in the police force you have different police. You have police who will come to your event. You have some nah come, still they are from where the music used to be when they were small. When them reach up thereso is a different thing."
"So sound system still need to be acknowledged, to see how important the role that it plays," Powell said.
While Stone Love has a tremendous street presence, at one point Powell wanted a presence in broadcasting. "Definitely, I wanted a radio station. But is just like I move too slow on it," he said. "Now, to me, it wouldn't play the role I wanted it to." Now, Powell said, there are so many radio stations.
He had wanted the radio station for a specific purpose. "It was to play more of our music, which IRIE FM chip in and fit in. Then I would have advertisement at a level where the poorer class people could afford it. The industry has a round robin. If one should really penetrate a round robin - it's all over the island now, but it started in Kingston - it act as a lending institution, wherein you use you one another money without an interest."
So, Powell said, that is how children are sent to school and other expenses are met. However, "those radio stations cannot do a proper invitation to advertise their thing. They have to go the cheaper way, where a man write a thing ("And put it up on a lightpost," The Sunday Gleaner suggests)".
The radio station that Powell would have set up, under the Stone Love brand, would have facilitated those persons popularising their events.