Veteran reggae artiste Freddie McGregor is bemoaning the decline of the culture which, for him, resulted in the poor showing in the entries for the national festival song contest which was eventually aborted.
McGregor, who was a member of the five-member committee chosen to select the 10 finalists for this year’s competition, says a general decline in the culture has spilled over into the industry and had an impact on the quality of the entries submitted.
“There is definitely a drop in the quality of music culture in addition to falling standards in general. This has nothing to do with a reggae song versus a dancehall song, or old school versus present day. A poorly produced track is just that, a poorly produced track. Some of what were listened to as entries were so substandard in every way from the lyrics to the technical details.”
McGregor did not mince words and identified some of the factors which he believes have contributed to the decline.
“I can readily attribute a lot of what is happening to the impact of our selectors. A lot of them have no knowledge of what is good music. An artiste will provide them with a great track, set to a particular tempo, and when they are mixing it in an event or part they speed it up and the artiste now sounds like a Chipmunk or as if they are under the influence of ‘molly’. That brings me to the poor lyrical quality. Artiste are not being praised for writing gun lyrics or extreme violence, violence and drug use. That is what is great lyrics nowadays.
“I also have to speak to the influence of our promoters who in the name of crowd size are side-stepping some of the country’s great acts. Look at an event like Reggae Sumfest. Marcia Griffiths, the queen of reggae, has never performed on that festival. So a whole generation will not know the treat that is a Marcia Griffiths performance on a Sumfest stage. We have to be careful and know that a lot of the decisions we take have wider implication,” McGregor noted.
The cancellation of this year’s festival song competition has been a topic of conversation since it was announced by culture minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange in Parliament last Wednesday.
McGregor told the Jamaica Observer that of the 30 entries he vetted along with the other members of the committee, which comprised singer and radio personality Alaine Laughton as well as noted music producers Donovan Germaine, Gussie Clarke and Cleveland “Clevie” Browne, only one song was of the standard that could make a final list.
He noted that their dilemma was compounded by the fact that this year marks the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence, and choosing songs from this pool to arrive at a top 10 would have been a poor reflection of Jamaica’s music industry during this milestone year.