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Sting at 30 years. Where do we go from here Isaiah Laing?

BY Richard Blackford

Wednesday, January 01, 2014    

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FOR some the curtains came down on live entertainment in Jamaica for 2013 with the 30th staging of Sting — the biggest one-night reggae show in the world — in the early hours of morning at Jamworld Entertainment Complex. In a post I made yesterday I lauded Isaiah Laing for his vision and demonstration of the tenacity of Jamaicans in seeing Sting through to 30 years. In any language, 30 years is a very long run for a stage show, and the ability of the promoters to be able to maintain relevance is commendable...or is it?

Sting by its very title derives attention from the annual promotion of supposedly lyrical clashes between DJs; and the bigger the contenders, the bigger the crowd pull. In the early years, the show had a negative association with bottle-throwing with Bunny Wailer, Maxi Priest and Super Cat, in separate years, being on the receiving end of dozens of glass bottles hurled at them from sections of the audience. Super Cat, I remember, picked up one of these bottles hurled at him and pasted it back at a patron in the crowd accompanied by the remark through his "live" microphone: "A wha oonu tink oonu a do...oonu know seh mi hav' mi gun pon mi..?" The show was subsequently re-dubbed "Fling" and suffered from an inability to attract meaningful sponsorship for years after that. Despite such a setback, the show's annual staging continued, and the promotion of clashes became the order of the day. Many big aritstes were felled by -- up to then -- lesser artistes. Ninja Man became a big fixture and major crowd-puller for a while, with artistes such as the "Warlord" (Bounty Killa), Beenie Man, and Vybz Kartel enjoying their moments.

From the Pay-Per-View broadcasts and the pictures streamed overnight, Laing may have scored well financially, but whither the music? The image of Ninja Man and D'Angel on stage at this recent instalment underscores a culture of self-debasement by some of our women and certainly provides a signature invitation to our men to show little or no respect to our women. Then there was the promoted "clash" between Lady Saw and Macka Diamond, which makes you want to puke. How does one talk about positive treatment of women when women portray themselves in such a disgusting manner?

To the promoters it may be OK. And perhaps it is OK if you are D'Angel, Lady Saw and Macka Diamond, etc -- obviously. But how then do you address the debasement of women when these women demonstrate no self-respect? That the behaviours on display were transmitted across major overseas locations via Pay-Per-View is not only worrisome, it sets us up for being disrespected as, in a sense, images such as these only serve to show us at our most depraved and begs the question: Is this how we see ourselves? Even more worrisome is the realisation that the Jamaica Tourist Board endorsed this show; sending a signal that our State institutions endorse boorish behaviour.

Historically our music originated from the inner-city communities — á la Trench Town as per the early years — and today the inner city still produces most of the talent, but with that comes scores of wannabes, most of them talent-less; and with the undeniable intersection of the music with the seedier side of inner-city living, this is what obtains.

More unfortunate is the fact that most of the patrons at Sting want to be "hyped" at these events and, given their limited repertoire, this is is the type fare that some of these performers have to resort to as an offering of "entertainment" in order to score points and bragging rights.

Perhaps it is time that sponsors start dictating the quality of offerings on which they are willing to place their monies, then maybe, just maybe, Mr Laing and associates will see damage that these images can inflict on the value to Brand Jamaica and begin to come up with a set of strategies geared at cleaning up this mess in our music.

richardhblackford@gmail.com

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