Joe snags Steffens’ archive
STEFFENS... collection of reggae artefacts spans more than 50 years

THE announcement that the archive of American reggae historian Roger Steffens is to be acquired by Josef Bogdanovich of DownSound Records and housed in a facility to be constructed at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay, is welcomed by University of the West Indies lecturer, Professor Donna Hope.

Hope, a lecturer and specialist in popular culture at the university’s Mona campus, noted that after a number of attempts to acquire Steffens’ collection, she is happy it is finally making its way to Jamaica.

“I am so happy that it is coming to Jamaica. Roger has spent so many years collecting these items which represent an important part of the Bob Marley, The Wailers and the overall reggae and dancehall story. We just have to ‘big up’ Joe for having the will and resources to acquire and bring it to Jamaica. Several attempts in the past fell through so this is a win for the culture as these are tangible artefacts which showcase in a crucial way the story of the music,” Hope told the Jamaica Observer.

In 2008, a bid by Jamaican interests led by businessman Wayne Chen to purchase the archives, fell through.

BOGDANOVICH... it’s gonna be permanently placed there at Catherine Hall

News circulated last weekend that Bogdanovich was in the process of obtaining the archives which Steffens has collected for more than half-century. It dominates his six-bedroom house located in Los Angeles.

Bogdanovich recently told the CVM Television programme OnStage, hosted by Winford Williams, that he has been in negotiations to acquire the Catherine Hall property for the past three years and that the deal should be finalised soon.

He disclosed that plans for the property include the development of a world-class performance centre of which the Steffens archives will be a major attraction. Catherine Hall is home to Reggae Sumfest, for which Bogdonovich is principal.

“He and I have worked out a deal and I’m planning to bring it to Montego Bay... it’s gonna be permanently placed there at Catherine Hall. He wants it here, we have a great relationship and he thinks that maybe I know what I’m doing and he’s gonna be very much involved. It’s just amazing and one of the ways we’re developing that Catherine Hall site,” Bogdanovich told Williams.

The Observer understands that a US$1-million-price tag was the asking price during the previous round of negotiations to acquire Steffens’ world-famous collection. It has not been disclosed what was the price the parties settled on.

When contacted, Steffens declined the request for an interview with the Observer, noting that he would prefer to comment when the deal for Catherine Hall was finalised.

Since the announcement, there have been comments suggesting that an extensive collection such as this belongs in a national location, rather than a personal collection. Hope has strong words for persons who hold this view.

HOPE... I am so happy that it is coming to Jamaica

“Why didn’t they pay for it and donate it to a national collection?” she questioned. “Like I said, there have been previous attempts which all fell through. We simply don’t have the resource allocation to undertake such a venture from a national collection perspective. So if Joe is doing it and bringing it here to Jamaica, I have nothing but commendations for this effort. Furthermore, as a people, we are terrible at archiving. It isn’t just about acquiring the collection, how is it going to be displayed? And the curators and other creative individuals who have to be employed to ensure that it is displayed in the proper manner. Joe clearly has the culture at heart and over the years he has been putting his money where his mouth is,” she stated.

Richard Johnson

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