Write On - Turning the pages with Patricia Meschino
This is the fifth in an eight-part feature on the impact of women on reggae as artistes, administrators and managers. Today, we feature American journalist Patricia Meschino.
IF you are a regular on the reggae scene, chances are you have seen a petite redhead taking notes or conducting interviews with industry types. That person is likely to be American journalist Patricia Meschino.
Meschino has covered the reggae beat for over 20 years, travelling throughout the United States and Jamaica regularly to report on everything from emerging trends to live shows and album launches.
Since 1991, she has written for Reggae Report, The Source, Vibe, The Village Voice, Skywritings, Jamrock and Billboard magazines. Billboard has been the largest medium for Meschino's reports in the last six years.
In a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer, Meschino spoke about what American publications are looking for in terms of reggae.
"It depends on the editor, the specific (story) idea and how that idea is presented. When I started in the early '90s that was the heyday of major label involvement with reggae and dancehall which meant well-paid publicists were working to get the artistes in magazines, on TV, etc, which provided a greater familiarity towards Jamaican music for the average music editor," she explained. "Today, I think editors are looking for good stories whoever they come from, even if they are not familiar with the subject."
Meschino's work with Billboard includes features on new albums such as Sean Paul's Tomahawk Technique, the 20th anniversary of Reggae Sumfest, Buju Banton's drug trial or obituaries.
With reggae/dancehall going through a commercial lull, some major magazines such as The Source have cut down on coverage. Others, like The Beat out of California, stopped publication three years ago.
As Jamaican pop music struggles to find its way in the increasingly competitive media market, Meschino believes it is critical journalists like herself stay the course.
"With so many people quick to condemn the quality of music being made in Jamaica, I feel it's more important than ever to keep doing this," she said. "The dearth of Jamaican music on US charts to me doesn't reflect a quality deficiency, but rather a lack of vision of trying to promote it fully through various innovative means."
Meschino is from Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US. It is located in New England, a region which has had a vibrant reggae colony since the 1970s when college students discovered roots-reggae.
It was through one of that period's staples that a young Pat Meschino got her first taste of Jamaican pop culture.
"My older brother had a copy of The Harder They Come soundtrack and that was the first reggae music I ever heard! I had a few Bob Marley albums as a teenager," she recalled. "Then at 18 I moved to New York City and discovered various radio programmes where I heard advertisements for reggae record shops on White Plains Road in the Bronx or on Church Avenue in Brooklyn. By visiting those stores I was introduced to so much Jamaican music I never knew existed," she added.
Meschino started her writing career with Reggae Report, a monthly Miami magazine run by American Peggy Quattro. She had a long association with SkyWritings (from 1996 to 2010) and worked with BobMarley.com, the official Marley family website.
She says there have been memorable assignments including her Roots Rap Reggae feature for The Source in 1999 and singer Garnet Silk's performances at Reggae Sunsplash and Reggae Sumfest in 1994.
One that stands out, however, is a 2009 interview with deejay Vybz Kartel.
"It was at his studio in Havendale and due to his notorious reputation for dodging press commitments I wasn't sure it would really happen," she said. "Our interview was scheduled for 1:00 pm and to my astonishment he was waiting for me when I arrived minutes before 1:00! He was a gracious host and an articulate interviewee."