Jamaica losing its grip on Reggae — Culture Minister

By Basil Walters Observer staff reporter

Friday, February 19, 2010    

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In delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 2010 International Reggae Conference at the Mona Visitor's Lodge, UWI, on Wednesday afternoon, culture minister, Olivia Babsy Grange, noted that if steps are not taken immediately, Jamaica and Reggae could no longer be synonymous.

"In the current arena, Jamaica is losing its grip not only on the distribution, but also on the very production of the music. With each day more and more of the music is owned, created and distributed by non-Jamaicans outside of Jamaica. While the numerous festivals and reggae shows that take place across the globe is a tribute to the strength of the music, we must acknowledge that more of these shows can now take place with fewer Jamaican artistes on the roster."

Added Minister Grange, "In Europe, for example, there are Europe-based artistes who are singing conscious lyrics and are being used instead of Jamaicans. Many of these artistes have accrued large followings and earn far more than our Jamaican counterparts. At a time when much of the international music industry has become much more dependent on live performances, this is a worrying trend."

She called for creative initiatives which emphasise training for the development of a stronger infrastructure to support the music and to recognise the new paradigms that have emerged with the convergence of popular culture and digital technology.

"We must recognise that with the Internet, all audiences have become global audiences and we no longer have to rely solely on gate receipts for revenue. Indeed, while digital technology has flown the gate for the pirates, it has also created a power shift as creators can have a greater control over their content. No longer is there need for exclusive relationships. Traditional record companies are disappearing, like travel agencies, in favour of online arrangements and home-based studios," Minister Granged observed.

She explained to the audience the need to sustain the product at the forefront of the world's cultural treasures and ensure that our people attain sustainable prosperity from it. She said as a people we must wake up to certain realities and create the necessary waves to ensure that there is no erosion to the brand.

According to Minister Grange, our global mission must be to enhance this product for the greater glorification of our people. And it will require thoughts and actions that are fundamentally revolutionary.

Speaking under the theme, Current and Future Trends in Popular Music, the culture minister challenged the conference to come up with strategies to ensure that this quality of the music is sustained.

She noted that despite the international success of the music, many stakeholders were not prepared for the business of the music and called attention to the Creative Economy Report 2008 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which states that "Creativity is synonymous with Jamaica."

Also of significance is the following notation in the same UNCTAD Report:

"Creativity represents one of Jamaica's most distinguishable assets and competitive advantages as a country. Through its music, fashion, dance and cuisine, Jamaican culture continues to influence and impact global pop culture..... Jamaica's exploitation of this sector is vital if it is to realise development gains from international trade."

"In fact, this has historically been one of our greatest challenges: how to control the distribution channels in order to ensure that we reap the rewards of the fruits of our creativity."

"Ladies and gentlemen," Minister Grange opined, "we must never forget that a people's worth is often measured by what they have created or simply by what they own. A country that celebrates the two fastest men in the world will be respected. A country with a product of international reputation and renown will be revered. We are here today because we know and revere the international product we call Reggae.

"For this purpose, this University is hosting this International Reggae Conference; for this purpose many have gathered here from all parts of the world on a pilgrimage to the source, to have an authentic experience or to authenticate their experiences. For this reason we have proclaimed the month of February as Reggae Month."





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