The United States based Hip Hop Recording Artiste and Actress, once quoted, “out of all the places in the world, Jamaica is my favourite place”. I could bet a million bucks in any currency that this sentiment is shared by several others all over the globe.
One of the obvious reasons for this affinity to Jamaica is the island’s Music. The more you listen, the more you’ll agree that its beat is like no other. From its the Mento and Calypso influenced Ska to the short lived musical style of Rock Steady to the ubiquitous beat of Jamaica, Reggae – Jamaica’s music is contagious.
But it is easy to take for granted the value of what you have when you are immersed in it daily. There are those who don’t give a hoot about this aspect of the island’s culture. Still there are many who are ensuring that Jamaica “plays her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race” through music. Kwasi Osei Bonsu and Julian Haffner are two such individuals. Bonsu and Haffner are founding partners of the Jamaica Music Conference which began in 2012 at University of the West Indies as a panel discussion to mark the launch of the Mighty Mizizi Music Company.
This year, the Conference which has now evolved into a three-day music event featuring a two-day panel discussion, artist showcase, and community service day was held during the period November 20-22. The attendance could have been better; it belied the far-reaching impact of the music and the importance of the dialogue which is necessary for positive change. This proved once again that quantity is never as important as quality.
And quality there was on several fronts including the discussion topics held at the University of the West Indies’ Neville Hall Lecture Theatre; Panelists; Speakers as well as the space created for networking. Located in the cool hills of upper St. Andrew, Kingston Dub Club described as “the premiere space for enjoying Dub music in contemporary Jamaica”, was an appropriate venue which lent itself to the manifestation of a genuine interaction among those who needed to share their experiences or for those who were simply there out of curiosity. Burlington Avenue in Kingston is home to Nanook, the other venue that was utilized for entertainment and networking, a cozy and warm locale which is the brainchild of Panel Member, Joan Webley.
Reception Coordinator, Denise Isis Miller hosted the networking event with grace and made all felt like they were definitely at the right place at the right time.
Let’s turn our attention to the participants. The name “Mutabaruka” is one that comes with it global recognition. Suffice it to say, he is a personality that you either have an affinity towards or simply abhor, there really is no middle ground. Where ever on the continuum you fall you would have been awe-inspired listening to his usually vocal and poignant position on critical issues such as ‘black identity’ religion and politics. He didn’t mince words as he addressed the intimate gathering at the Networking Reception at Nanook when he spoke against the ‘Tablet in Schools’ Project. Mutabaruka believes that this will only further perpetuate the gravitation towards what he describes as ‘garbage’ on the internet such as pornographic material.
A wealth of information was shared from the lively, educated and culturally aware Panelist through the discussions that ensued. The topics covered were:
- The Role of Education in Creating Independent Music Professionals and a Sustainable Music Industry
- Developing and Protecting your Brand
- The Women of the Jamaica Music Industry
- Music and Social Change
- Reaching the People: Direct to Consumer Relationship
- Navigating Prime Time
Sound System veteran Ricky Trooper share of his many ordeals experienced overtime including violent attacks yet he refused to give up his craft because he believes he has a vital role to play to spread the country’s music worldwide.
Veteran cultural advocate and Member of Parliament Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange spoke of her experience coordinating the Abidjan Reggae Festival and Cultural Conference 2015 held in the Ivory Coast after enlightening the attendees about her history with the industry. The looks on the face of many that were in attendance spoke volume to how engrossed they were as they listened to her. We recount audience member – the self acclaimed ‘Bad Gyal’ Dancehall Recording Artiste, Cherine Anderson referring to Ms. Grange stated ‘I had no idea you had done so much work in the industry’.
Anderson also spoke eloquently to the segregation and the disconnect within the industry and made known her desire for all to be one in order to achieve a greater level of success. It was at this point that Gospel Concert Promoter from the US Virgin Islands, Omar Ewen spoke of the noticeable absence of members of the Gospel Fraternity from this Conference. Ewen was also representing Patwa International as part of the Media team.
Jamaica’s Best High School Band Founder and Reggae Recording Artiste Rayven Amani gave a brilliant prelude to her contribution the panel discussion on Day. It’s obvious she is “Black Without Apology”.
Other contributors were University of the West Indies Lecturer, Hugh Douse; Jamaica Intellectual Property Office Trademark Manager, Marcus Goffe, Publicist and Manager, Kareece Lawrence; Booking Agent and Promoter (Sista Fest), Masani Montaque; Production Manager Anubis, Leslie-Ann Welsh; Manager and Promoter, Irish and Chin, Garfield ‘Chin’ Bourne; Entertainment Attorney and Author, Kendall Minter; Founder, Juice TV, Delroy Thompson; Creator/Television Host (Onstage), Winford Williams; Recording Artistes, Rootz Underground’s Lead Singer Stephen Newland, Kabaka Pyramid and Assasin among others.
Sponsors who made it possible were Kairizmic Music, Wally Kings Entertainment, Mighty Miziz Music, Solid Agency, Artist Launch, Institute of Caribbean Studies, Conscious Reggae Party, Jamaica Best School Band, Nanook, Kingston Dub Club, Blak Iwa TV, Patwa International and many more.
We close with words from the wise Kendall Minter, Esquire, Entertainment Attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia who describes Jamaica as his second home gave sound advice for the gathering, “If you’re in this (music business) for the sake of making a living you have to take care of the business properly”.
Let’s raise our glasses to the organizers. Cheers!