ARECENT article in the Jamaica Observer bore the headline “Foreigners dominating Jamaican music form”, and now music consultant/attorney-at-law, Lloyd Stanbury, fresh from his return from West Africa, is making a similar observation.
On his voyage to the Continent which has for decades embraced Reggae music with great passion, Stanbury observed that Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is actually considered to be one of the Reggae capitals of the world, and while there he was able to witness stirring live presentations of homegrown Reggae bands.
Now, what should one make of such development. Is it good or bad? It could be seen as the global impact of the music. But then again, what implications does it have for the birthplace of reggae.
“The love and respect for reggae music and Jamaica remain strong... and was clearly evident from my experiences in the many days I spent this year in Ouagadougou, Dakar and Abidjan. Abidjan is actually considered to be one of the Reggae capitals of the world. The Wisemen who perform regularly at the Parker Place Reggae Club,” Stanbury shared with Sunday Observer.
“Reggae music,” he stressed, “is played and enjoyed everywhere and by everyone in West Africa, and the few Jamaican artistes who travel to Africa for live performances usually experience playing before crowds larger than anywhere else in the world. It is not uncommon for a Reggae concert to attract 100,000 patrons in Africa.”
But even in light of the global impact of the reggae pioneers, Stanbury, who is president and CEO of Jamaica Arts Development Foundation Inc, cited what is cause for concern about the present status of Reggae in the context of developing trends.
“I have had the privilege of making three visits this year to West African countries Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Burkina Faso to participate in a series of training workshops for individuals and companies involved in the business of music.
“My interaction with the performers, music producers, entertainment media personnel and general music loving public in West Africa has allowed me to put into proper perspective the circumstances that have contributed to the growth and popularity of Reggae music around the world,” Stanbury explained.
“Africans”, he then cited, “more than the inhabitants of any other part of the world, have for decades now embraced Reggae music with great passion. The musical works and messages of early Reggae pioneers such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Steel Pulse, IJahman Levi, Third World, Jimmy Cliff, and Burning Spear are regarded by Africans as the fuel that carried the flames to burn down apartheid and other injustices faced by the poor black people on the wealthiest continent on earth. Many years of support from sympathisers around the world enabled and boosted Reggae music’s popularity globally.”
However, it is against that background that came Stanbury’s stunning rethorical question “But where are we today — under gal frock and bling !?”.
The music insider is of the view, that despite the connection between Reggae and the Continent being very strong, there is a contradiction that needs to be reconciled.
“The bond between Jamaica, Reggae and Africa is not only a very strong one, but I submit that this bond also provides the basis for Reggae’s continued global viability. I find the emotions and sentiments expressed by Jamaican Reggae artistes and their African counterparts towards each other to be an interesting paradox, as Jamaican Reggae artistes yearn to go to Africa while the Africans yearn to visit Jamaica. We have, however, failed to build that bridge to bring us all together,” Stanbury lamented.
The experienced entertainment specialist then put forward a notion for a special effort be made refocus reggae on its African connection. “As we look towards celebrating Reggae Month 2011 next February, let us make a special effort to re-focus on Reggae’s African roots and the significance of our connection with the motherland.
“Reggae needs Africa and Africa needs Reggae. Apartheid may be gone, but the suffering and exploitation of our brothers and sisters continue. In February 2011 a group of West African music promoters, music producers and industry managers will make a study tour to Jamaica as a follow up to the training workshops I participated in earlier this year. Hopefully, this will provide the opportunity for Jamaican Reggae industry members to make some meaningful connections with a view to creating this bridge,” Stanbury concluded.