'Not an amateur contest'

'Not an amateur contest'

Germain backs professionals in festival song competition

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 21, 2020

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Noted record producer and music industry insider Donovan Germain has hit out against people who are criticising the influx of professionals who have been announced as finalists in this year's festival song contest.

According to Germain, who is a long-time producer and mentor for Grammy-winning artiste Buju Banton, who is one of the finalists, there is nothing wrong with our professional artistes being part of this competition. He noted that their presence in the competition will only serve to increase the visibility of the decades-old cultural institution and set a high bar for those who wish to try their hand and become an entrant.

“The festival song contest is not an amateur contest. It is open to everybody. This years influx of known acts came out of a consultation with Minister 'Babsy' Grange. She invited all the stakeholders to a meeting some time ago as she wanted to see how we could make this thing better. The truth is if you ask persons what was last year's festival song they don't know, but ask about a song from 20, 30 years ago and they will definitely remember, and that is because the quality of the entries is just not up to standard. For about four years I had the opportunity to sit on the panel to choose the finalists and I can say some were atrocious.”

“So based on that call by the minister, Buju, like the other professionals, decided to throw their hat in the ring and contribute a song to the competition; and he is entitled to do that. There is nowhere in the competition's rules that says a professionals are barred from entering the competitions. So before people go ahead and talk they should check out their history and the history of the festival song and they will see that there has been professionals in the competition over the years. People like Bob Marley, Jacob Miller, and Toots, who is in this year's line-up, have been part of the event,” Germain told the Jamaica Observer.

In furthering his point regarding the improved profile of the competition due to the inclusion of professionals, Germain pointed to the buzz which has been generated surrounding this year's festival song contest.

“When was the last time you heard so much talk about Festival song?” he questioned.

“What these professionals are doing is actually raising the bar for persons who want to come in. With professionals in the group, the festivals song can become something that persons wish to aspire to. As a nation we have to get back to that place as it relates to the festival song that persons look forward to. Look at Trinidad, each year there is a song for carnival, that doesn't stop an artiste, professional or not, from entering and then getting on with his career afterwards. There is a level of commitment and appreciation for our music and our culture which does not extend to the festival song and we need to get back there. By not doing all we can to elevate the contest we are watering down ourselves. Buju is not doing this for the money, he is just doing his part to raise the bar. He has already declared, should he win, his prize package will go toward a boys' home,” he noted.

The full line-up of finalists for the competition reads Buju Banton, Freddie McGregor, Toots and the Maytals, Nazzleman, Papa Michigan, LUST, Shuga, Sakina, Xtra Bigg, and Radix OD.


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