Wed | Jan 19, 2022

Partnerships, handouts and Jamaica popular music

Published:Friday | January 19, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Tony Rebel and Marcia Griffiths on stage.
Big Youth performing at Rebel Salute 2018.

Last weekend's staging of Rebel Salute, the 25th anniversary of deejay Tony Rebel's birthday celebration which has grown into a globally significant two-day music and lifestyle festival, and the proposed Music Walk of Fame outside Emancipation Park have an admirable quality in common.

The organisers of Rebel Salute, once Flames Productions which has grown into the Organic H.E.A.R.T. Group of Companies, have consistently put their own money into the event, which has now attracted staple sponsorship at the state level from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).

And the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), which is pushing for plaques with outstanding performers' names, profession and start years to be placed on the sidewalk of the New Kingston park's perimeter, have made it clear that they want no money from the government to do the project.

These are two large-scale initiatives, both of which cover an extensive time span of Jamaican popular music. So Rebel Salute 2018 had from Bernard Collins (of The Abyssinians) and Big Youth to Ding Dong and Garnet Silk Jr.

JAVAA has inducted The Skatalites and The Wailers into its Jamaica Music Hall of Fame, but has made it clear that as time progresses the inductees will reflect succeeding eras of Jamaican popular music.

Even before I started covering entertainment events many years ago, I was aware of the consistent complaints about lack of state and private-sector support by persons involved in Jamaican popular music. Of course, I found out more about that particular deficiency when I got closer to the action as a writer. The complaints were numerous and generally uniformed.

They are justified to a large extent, I am sure, but in some cases, it looks like Jamaica is asking for international aid and the donors are assessing the nation's financial status by the cars on the street and houses which are built.




Anyone who comes to Jamaica and sees the large number of high-end automobiles on the streets, or is taken on a tour of some upscale communities (and quite a few not so upscale ones, because some helluva big houses are built anywhere in Jamaica) would be hard-pressed to believe that this is a generally poor country.

So the Jamaican entertainment sector's cries for more funding would have more weight if the lavish spending on what are often disposable items was not a factor. When someone who has a couple German automobiles and a few gold chains, and flosses with bottles of liquor, which quite quickly is expelled from the body via the breath, sweat, or urine, it is very hard for a structured organisation with a budget to take them seriously in the first place, much less to hand over money to them.

There is a huge difference between asking someone to support you in cash or kind and starting (or planning) a project, taking it as far as you can under your own steam and then proposing that someone assist you with the intention of their seeing some benefit from the initiative. The Rebel Salute organisers and JAVAA (which has consistently put on events some years more than others to generate income in the more than a decade I have covered their activities) are not the only entities which are determined to sail their own boat and then look out for partnerships to hustle it along a little further. But there are so many others who have the approach of someone wiping a windscreen at a stoplight or loading taxis provide a service of highly dubious value and then beg a money.