Romeo, reggae and radio
Curtis Campbell, Gleaner
Singer Max Romeo believes mainstream Jamaican radio has deterred reggae's progress and development. Speaking at the recently concluded International Reggae Conference 2015 at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, he said radio has made little attempt celebrate reggae, while overly promoting dancehall.
Romeo believes if reggae receives more airplay, the youth will embrace the genre. He also rubbished notions that listeners are demanding to hear more dancehall, saying that radio creates the demand by saturating the airwaves, and so listeners have little option but to request what they are being taught.
"The state of reggae is very bad. They are using the dancehall music that does not have international appeal to suppress the roots rock reggae, that has already been on the international market. We don't get played on the radio ... . And if they do play us, they play one of our old stuff and they don't even call our name, and that does nothing for us," Romeo said.
"The youth don't know us, and they are depleting reggae music."
no formal libraries
Romeo, who counts Chase the Devil among his popular songs, has little faith in DJs on popular Jamaican radio stations, saying they are producing music and promoting artistes with whom they are working.
He further suggested that station managers have no intention of formalising libraries or playlists. Romeo questioned how radio DJs are allowed to produce music and take their own catalogues to radio stations.
"They are producing their own stuff and they don't know anything about production. They play their stuff most of the time. Now, how will a library work unless they ban the DJs going to the station with a pouch? If they ban that, then the library will work," Romeo said
"DJs don't play from the library ... . They play from what they are paid to play from their friends and what they produce, and that is unethical. These guys need qualification. They would never make it to RJR and JBC in those days, because they needed qualification," he said.
Corporate Jamaica also received Romeo's criticism. He said reggae has always fought against social stratification. However, he believes that by signing DJs and pumping money into their own events, corporate Jamaica is trying to suppress reggae's strong message.
"Wi did a fight Babylon and capitalist, so they are edging us out. They are trying to suppress the revolution through reggae music, but they can't. They want to keep one per cent owning the 70 per cent of the world's wealth in power, so anything that will rock the boat, they delete. They want to feed the people garbage to keep the people stupid, so they won't realise that Petrojam is the bigger problem and not JPS," Romeo said.
Senior lecturer in the Institute of Caribbean Studies and The Reggae Studies Unit at UWI, Mona, Dr Donna Hope, shared Romeo's views about corporate Jamaica's hand in dictating in what is played on the air. She believes companies want to appeal to a younger audience.
"Corporate sponsors are very viable in the music industry. One of the things that is also visible about them is their impact on the music industry in terms of what is played and what is not played, for example on radio. They have a particular target audience that they want to support their products, usually age 25 and under," Hope said.
"So these people are the ones that seem to be getting a lot of attention on our popular radio programmes. The fact also that a lot of our DJs are young people also means that they are going to be focusing on that direction, because there is a generational focus," she said.
Dr Hope also noted that some DJs who have received endorsements from corporate companies are encouraged to lean in the direction of that particular company, because they stand to benefit from the relationship.
Patrick 'Curly Lox' Gaynor, of the duo Twin of Twins, recently told The Gleaner that corporate Jamaica has managed to control the content of reggae music, while using the art as a marketing tool. He pointed specifically to the work of Bob Marley, noting that the singer is predominantly being used as a tourism tool locally, instead of being celebrated for his revolutionary music.