Noise Abatement Act restricts music being turned into money – industry insider
Marketing consultant, TV host, writer, and entertainment industry insider Donovan ‘JR’ Watkis has a theory that the ejection of the Noise Abatement Act would allow for greater development of Jamaica’s reggae and dancehall music.
Speaking to The Gleaner, Watkis said that even with the law in place, the music and culture have proven their strength and potential to be translated into greater revenue.
“The law is the problem because dancehall and reggae music has survived years of oppression even with the law. Without that oppressive law, the music will survive even more, [but once in place], you can always use it to shut down a dance,” he said.
“The Noise Abatement Act which targets dancehall and reggae music needs to be rescinded, reshaped and re-tabled because that affects how the music is developed,” Watkis added.
In his latest publication, Reggae Dancehall: Insights on Turning Cultural Capital into Financial Capital, which he describes as a “book album”, Watkis explores his theories among those of others, including recording artistes and producers, “as it relates to the value of music and using Jamaica’s reggae and dancehall culture as a competitive advantage in the global music industry”.
“Each chapter is dedicated to a different thought,” he said of the publication, of which he labels the 44 chapters as tracks.
Watkis features interviews with over 40 personalities who have successfully manoeuvred international markets and climbed to the top, among them Sean Paul, Shaggy, Damian Marley, as well as, Denyque, Walshy Fire, and Usain Bolt. Topics such as the relationship between reggae and other genres, cultural appropriation, fashion and culture, crossing over to mainstream, authenticity, digital streaming and marketing, the need for cultural spaces and accommodating legislations are covered by the author and the featured figures.
“The government has a role to play in the development of the music, and if it is actively suppressing the music through the forces by shutting off dance and community dances at that, then development takes a longer time,” he said. “There is no industry without the right infrastructure. They’re not locking off larger events or festivals at 2 a.m., and no matter if there is access to a permit, everybody is being shut down and that shouldn’t be the case in Bob Marley country.”
In accordance with the law, no person ought to sing, play a musical or noisy instrument, or operate or cause to be operated a loudspeaker, microphone or device for the amplification of sound from any private premises or public places at any time of day or night where the sound is audible within one hundred metres of the source of that sound. If it is reasonably capable of causing annoyance to people during specified hours beyond the one hundred metre distance in the vicinity of any dwelling house, hospital, nursing home, infirmary, hotel or guest house then that sound is presumed to cause an annoyance. The periods referred to are between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and midnight to 6 a.m. during the week.
“The Noise Abatement Act is designed against the entertainment industry because church don’t keep at those hours,” he offered, adding that “a sound system should be seen as localised media and playing the music be seen as freedom of the press”.
He also argues that in other countries such as the UK and Germany, there are large arenas fitted with the audio technology to accommodate and put our local talent on display.
“Our National Stadium is for sports and the arena is not large enough. We need proper acoustic places equipped with the audio technology for our creatives to create, to rehearse and to perform. We need a 5,000- to 10,000-seater stadium dedicated to our music, which would benefit everybody,” he suggested.
Watkis is concerned that reggae and dancehall are not only being silenced by the law but also that many entertainers have yet to grasp the importance of understanding the business. While the book is targeting persons inside and outside of the music industry, he anticipates that recording artistes, producers, engineers, songwriters, composers, and musicians will be motivated to read it.
“The people who advance in the industry are those with the knowledge, those who understand how to plan and prepare and strategise. Those who don’t read or don’t try to find the information are those who don’t make it,” he said.