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Honest music - NIA supports 'I Am Integrity' album

Published:Wednesday | April 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Audience members applaud at the launch iof the 'I Am Integrity' and 'Big Woman Tingz' albums at Serengeti Restaurant, Hope Zoo, St Andrew, on Wednesday, March 28.
Miguel 'Steppa' Williams
Jamie-Ann Chevannes of National Integrity Action (NIA).

The name of the album in its entirety - I Am Integrity - and the beat to which a number of vocalists mate their voices - the Integrity Riddim - make the intention of the recently released project clear. Along with the Big Woman Tingz album, I Am Integrity was recently presented to the public at the Serengeti Restaurant, Hope Zoo, St Andrew. The integrity theme carries through to the name of the organisation which supported the project - National Integrity Action (NIA). Big Woman Tingz is a project of the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), based Fi Wi Jamaica.

Communicating the message of integrity in all spheres of life through music, resulted from a request by NIA, this particular project - done through Youth Crime Watch's Change Through Art arm funded by USAID. Miguel 'Steppa' Williams, of the Forward Step Foundation, managed the project with Janhoi 'Selah' Nunes of Jah Over Evil responsible for production and Life Yard also involved.

Jamie-Ann Chevannes, youth outreach officer at NIA, told The Gleaner that after a response to a call for submissions, "we though that the project was dynamic in its approach." These approaches included change through the arts, a direction in which the NIA has gone before with its support of the One World Ska and Rocksteady Festival in November 2016, and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) run performing arts programme in schools. Sports are also on the integrity agenda, in partnership with the Social Development Commission's (SDC) cricket and netball programmes.




Looking at the content of I Am Integrity, Chevannes identified the message of particular songs, including one with a grandmother telling a youngster that she will not help him hide from the police if they do wrong. Connecting it to crime in Jamaica, she said, "we see families condoning their relatives, even when they are going wrong." Another track speaks about Vision 2030 for Jamaica, an how it will not happen if we continue to act without integrity. This applies to day to day life, and Chevannes says, as individual Jamaicans "we have this big, big vision, but we are not looking into putting the programmes in place to achieve the vision. These songs are bringing out social issues."

"It speaks to us as a society and how we operate. We have this vision and programmes, but only a few know. It is not to point any fingers, but as a nation we need to come together."

With I Am Integrity looking at a wide range of corrupt practises, Chevannes said, "corruption is something that happens every day. We even commit acts of corruption." She gave the example of someone giving a friend a 'skip' in a line, thereby denying someone behind them the right of completing their transaction on time.

In early 2017, the NIA and Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) hosted a forum discussing payola, the illicit payment for airplay which reduces access to broadcast by persons not handing over cash and kind to disc jocks. Now that the I Am Integrity album has been produced, Chevannes is optimistic that it will get traction on the airwaves.

"I hope that persons will listen and can find a space to play it, If you have one message that is directed at young people that is what they will live. If we have a balance or another message, they will be more balanced," Chevannes said.