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New JaRIA chairman pushing partnerships

Published:Sunday | July 21, 2019 | 12:15 AM

Earlier this year, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) demanded a memorandum of understanding between themselves and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and it seems they got it, or just settled on common ground. For a short while, there was contention about which body would be ultimately responsible for marketing and similar executions regarding Reggae Month (February), the two entities are currently engaged in calm conversations about a mutually beneficial approach to how to take it on for 2020. This is the according to JaRIA’s newest chairman, Ewan Simpson.

Since taking the seat in May 2019, the young leader has already taken some action, with plans to establish an endowment fund for artistes and to pump new life into Reggae Month 2020 celebrations and activities.

“There are discussions between JaRIA and the ministry around Reggae Month because it’s a partnership. JaRIA has carried Reggae Month for a while, and the Government has decided to give it more fulsome support now. So the conversation is ongoing about how we will make Reggae Month 2020 the best ever,” Simpson told The Gleaner.

Simpson determined that the association has some interesting ideas in store, all of which will be revealed at the upcoming launch of JaRIA’s endowment fund in early August. He said: “We’re going to the market to seek support in corporate sponsors and even individuals and small, medium, large-size companies, who would be able to give us units of contribution toward the endowment fund. It is intended to assist artistes in need. We know that artistes fall on hard times. Even young, upcoming artistes have difficulty in completing their studies, for example. We want to be able to assist them.”

New role

In his new role, Simpson plans to build on the foundation laid by predecessors. “The idea is to ensure JaRIA has a solid corporate personality so that it can properly execute its lobbying function so we can be properly accountable and so that we can also receive greater funding. It’s a kind of cycle. You have to be at a particular status to receive funding, to be able to do what it’s meant to do.”

Simpson understands JaRIA’s role as an umbrella association for industry organisations and players within Jamaica’s entertainment industry. “It is called ‘reggae’ but was never meant to be limited to reggae. They were trying to call it the Jamaica Music Industry Association, but there was something else that had that name before, so it was easier to name it such. And there’s nothing wrong with that because Jamaica’s reggae industry is much wider than reggae music. It also encompasses all things entertainment that come from Jamaica,” he said.

One iteration the new chairman is introducing to the association is to outline JaRIA’s calendar of events, starting on July 1, International Reggae Day (IRD ). Despite the intention, this year’s IRD came and went in a peripheral flash. Simpson gave a reason.

“This board came in just a couple weeks before IRD, so we didn’t get a chance to have the kind of impactful opening of the year that we wanted. The plan was to launch the endowment fund for IRD, but time did not allow for that to happen.

“We still are intent on that. I would want those who would wish to give to the industry and support it to use JaRIA as an example of what can be right and business-like about the industry,” he said.