Music industry can better impact economy — Wesrok
As he watched the Country Music Awards (CMA) at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 8, Wesrok also noticed the massive contribution of that genre to the city’s economy. He believes similar success can be achieved in Kingston through reggae.
Nashville, Tennessee’s capital, has been recognised as the home of country music for almost 100 years.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, music contributes US$5.5 billion annually to the city’s economy, with the main sources being concerts, museum tours, and recording studios.
Wesrok told the Jamaica Observer that Nashville, a city with just over 700,000 people, breathes country music.
“My impression of the CMA is one of amazement. The people of Nashville cherish country music and you feel this everywhere you go, especially downtown… ever metre you walk there is a bar with live music. The CMA is kept downtown and it is attended by thousands of people from all walks of life. It’s a great spectacle and a national event,” he said.
The country singer is bemused that that is not the case in Kingston.
“Reggae music has a similar international appeal. We need to create a culture where business places and people are influenced to play and perform the music every inch of the way. We can further this by incentivising songwriting and the production and performance of the music,” Wesrok stated. “National music awards must be separated from national awards. Let us have more mentorship awards and icon awards. Our music is dying because each one is looking at the other. I believe Government can do more.”
In 2018 Kingston was designated a UNESCO Creative City of Music which sparked hope for a thriving sector similar to American cities such as Nashville, Memphis, Detroit, Chicago, and Clarksdale.
During his visit to Kingston in 2019, Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, assistant director of culture at UNESCO, said for a creative city to live up to its designation it is important for people to experience art in the streets, schools, museums, and venues that constantly hosts live music.
The Bob Marley Museum, Jamaica Music Museum, Trench Town Culture Yard, Peter Tosh Museum, and Sounds Of The City Tour are some of the most popular music-related events in Kingston.
Musician and chairman of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates Frankie Campbell told the Observer in November that a key component acknowledging Kingston’s music history is missing.
“Many of our goals have not been met, including setting up a Jamaican Music Hall/Walk of Fame that is desperately needed in Kingston, a city that has been designated a Creative City by UNESCO. Reggae music played a very big part in this happening and the preservation of this music is, therefore, very important for generations to come,” he said.
The Jamaican music industry began taking shape in Kingston during the late 1950s, around the same period Chess Records and Motown Records emerged in Chicago and Detroit, respectively. A number of recording studios such as Federal, Studio One, and Treasure Isle emerged in the 1960s, along with a flood of record labels operated by producers in the Orange Street area of downtown Kingston.
Once known as Beat Street, Orange Street in West Kingston is part of the Sounds Of The City Tour, operated by Kingston Creative, a non-profit organisation.