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Ja 50 song controversy

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior reporter ?balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 18, 2012    

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THE bitter quarrel between the Government and the Opposition over arrangements for the celebration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence has spread to the commissioning of a song to mark the historic occasion.

A split has started to emerge over whether the Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell-produced On A Mission, which has a contemporary dancehall/hip hop-flavoured sound, or Mikey Bennett’s Find The Flag (In Your Heart And Wave It), which covers the full gamut of Jamaican music from ska to dancehall, should be the main song for the celebrations.

In addition, while On A Mission is pretty much aimed at the activities scheduled for the Olympic Games in London this summer, including the Respect Jamaica concert series featuring Shaggy and a number of other Jamaican artistes, Find A Flag is considered by some people as an inspirational anthem.

But, at the root of the matter has been the failure of the Government and the Opposition, particularly their respective spokespersons on culture – Minister Lisa Hanna and former minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange — to settle certain issues relating to the preparation of the Jamaica 50 programme, which started and was launched by the previous Jamaica Labour Party Administration last year, and then restarted and is about to be relaunched by the new People’s National Party Government.

A meeting involving both women was held on May 29 as their relationship soured during the recent Standing Finance Committee’s review of the 2012/13 Budget in Parliament. But, although they were able to resolve a number of their differences, nearly three weeks later they are still unable to agree on a joint statement to be issued on the outcome of that meeting.

The Jamaica Observer has learnt that it was agreed that while the Jamaica 50 Secretariat had produced On A Mission to support its new marketing campaign, it had no intention of identifying any one song as the Jamaica 50 song. However, Grange is insisting that the Secretariat recognise Find A Flag and examine ways of utilising it during the celebrations.

But according to Bennett, up to yesterday he had not received anything official to indicate that this was being done.

In the meantime, the Secretariat officially launched On A Mission on radio on Friday, and has an agreement with fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) to promote it as the Jamaica 50 campaign song, including issuing free CDs to customers purchasing KFC meals.

This has hurt Bennett and most of the artistes involved with the Find A Flag project, who had contributed time, effort, talent, and funds to the project.

“My greatest joy was seeing the reaction of the artistes and musicians to the chorus line: The song just grew on us,” Bennett recalled.

“The problem is that while I know that this decision is a political one, I don’t want to divide the nation, especially at this time,” Bennett added, suggesting that he will be discussing proposals from some private interests who want to use the song.

Bennett said the theme, “Find the flag in your heart and wave it”, was triggered by an admonition a friend gave to his son, who had just graduated from high school and was confused about his future.

The song features over 20 Jamaican artistes and musicians, including Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe, Cocoa Tea, Bunny Rugs, Freddy McGregor, Taurus Riley, Konshens, Brian Gold, Mr Vegas, Ernie Smith, Beres Hammond, Agent Sasko (Assassin), Capleton, Chevel Franklin, Stitchie, Admiral Bailey, Sherita Lewis, Dean Fraser, Dwight Richards, Stevie Golding, Kirk Bennett and Kevon Webster.

On A Mission, which is based on a previous Jamaica (World Cup football) national promotion, features 10 artistes, including Shaggy, Tifa, Romain Virgo, Junior Gong, Alaine, Wayne Marshall, as well as Hammond and Riley.

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