JaRIA wants MOU from Grange

Friday, February 08, 2019

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The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) is calling for a Memorandum of Understanding with the Olivia “Babsy” Grange-led entertainment and culture ministry, as it relates to Reggae Month activities.

Reggae Month, which is observed during February, was established 10 years ago to celebrate the music.

JaRIA was charged with planning and executing activities surrounding the observance. In 2017, funding was obtained from the Tourism Enhancement Fund to stage associated events and the culture ministry began playing a more active role in executing certain aspects of those celebrations.

With UNESCO's recent designation of reggae as an intangible cultural heritage, Grange and her team stepped up their involvement in Reggae Month, adding new activities. However, JaRIA still had a hand in some of the month's signature events, namely, the discussion series Reggae Open University, the Reggae Wednesdays concerts and annual JaRIA Honour Awards.

Government's increased involvement has left JaRIA uncertain of its role in Reggae Month and is calling for a meeting with Grange to ensure that the rules of engagement are clear.

Speaking during a press conference at JAMPRO in New Kingston yesterday, chairman of JaRIA's Reggae Month committee, Abishai Hoilett, noted that there is no ill intent by the organisation in calling for this framework, and given government's increased involvement in Reggae Month.

“JaRIA has been most tasked with coordinating, organising and executing plans for Reggae Month since 2010. With the relative success with what we have been doing, in 2017 we saw where the government saw it fit to play a greater role in organising and executing Reggae Month issues. To us that symbolised the importance that Reggae Month now had as a time space on our national cultural calendar. It also spoke to the good work that we had been doing over the years to build it as a product. We are quite happy for the increased partnership as it allows us as an organisation to put our efforts to some areas where we need to pick up because we are not just about Reggae Month,” he stated.

“However, being the stewards of Reggae Month over the years, we do want to speak about some of the concerns and bring some clarity to some of the questions that members of the public and our members may have had over the past two years with the change in how Reggae Month is now being organised,” Hoilett added. “JaRIA's role outside of the planning and executing of JaRIA events is now mainly that of Reggae Month stewards and the official industry association partners for the annual period. We as JaRIA still do not have a formal understanding of our role in helping to plan, organise and execute Reggae Month activities. This is something that we have requested and to date we still do not have that MOU,” Hoilett added

He disclosed that downfalls in the production of, promotion and turnout to Reggae Month events, despite increased budgets in 2017 and 2018, were still attributed to JaRIA by members of the public and the association.

JaRIA's interim chairman Ibo Cooper said the organisation has no intention of disrupting the annual celebrations. As such, they will continue in good faith and participate in activities JaRIA is known for.

“We are hoping that going forward in the spirit of unity we can get the clarity and the MOU, because we still have time. We are still committed to making the best of reggae and Reggae Month. What we really want is for Kingston as a creative city of music to be really vibrant, especially now, and to see more tourists coming... We do not want to disrupt the people's activities,” he stated.

— Richard Johnson

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