Ajamu zooms in on dancehall

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Obsever senior writer

Sunday, July 06, 2014

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THIS is the final in a 12-part series looking at Jamaicans who have excelled in the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area's entertainment and leisure industry.

FOR the past 20 years, Marlon 'Ajamu' Myrie has zoomed in on the New York City dancehall scene, using his camera to capture the biggest artistes on the town or in concert.

On June 20-21, Ajamu relived many of those moments in 'Dancehall: Music, Life and Culture, an exhibition at the popular Brooklyn Fete venue.

It was the St Mary-born lensman's first exhibition and he was pleased with the turnout.

"I was quite happy with the response. The large and diverse turnout speaks volumes for the public's affinity to dancehall and curiosity of seeing the photos I had to offer," he told the Sunday Observer.

While the two-day exposé was an opportunity to show his prowess as a photographer, Ajamu, 44, says it was also his way of projecting the genre's impact as a social force.

"I believe that dancehall has been maligned by a lot of negativity recently. I thought the exhibit was an ideal way to shed a positive light on it."

Ajamu migrated to the United States 25 years ago. At the time, dancehall music was beginning to rumble in the Big Apple's underground through acts like Ninjaman and Shabba Ranks.

The sound had exploded when he started working as a photo-journalist in 1997. Most of the subjects he covered in almost two decades were showcased in 'Dancehall: Music, Life and Culture including Lady Saw, U Roy and a pre-dreadlocks Junior Gong.

Professionally, Ajamu says covering the dancehall beat has transformed considerably since he started.

"Back in the day, there were a limited number of photographers on the scene. We used film and a lot more effort was put into shooting," he explained. "The advent of digital photography has spawned an infinite number of overnight photographers, often resulting in scores of low to mid quality photographs."

Ajamu's work has appeared in a number of leading urban publications including Vibe, The Source, Jet and Essence.com, as well as the New York Times, Village Voice, LA Times, Miami Herald, New York Daily News and GQ.




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