Music gonna teach them a lesson
Chen calls for reggae history in schools
Singer Neville "Struggle" Martin performing with Jamaica Music Museum's orchestra.

BUSINESSMAN Wayne Chen is calling for an expansion of music education programmes in Jamaican schools to help preserve the nation's musical legacy.

Speaking at the Jamaica Music Museum's (JaMM) Grounation symposium last Sunday, he described music as the reason for Jamaica's global recognition, and again raised suggestions to policymakers about advancing the industry.

"Remove all the duties from recording and broadcasting equipment and treat it no different from the consideration you give every other member of the productive sector… The second one that is still not addressed is expanding music education into all our schools; not just as a tertiary subject at Edna Manley — which is doing a good job at that level — but in the primary and infant schools," said Chen.

"I know Jamaica still has challenges with basic early childhood education, literacy, numeracy and so on, but music education and educating in the skills that supports a music and recording ecosystem would do wonders for the music in this country," he continued.

In January, principal at Calabar High School Albert Corcho revealed a revamped and robust music programme at the institution which has alumni including artistes John Holt, Damion "Cham" Beckett, and Dennis Rushton. Beyond its school band, Corcho is eyeing a recording studio that will encourage the musical talents of students as a viable skill.

The matter arose from a patron's question at the Reggae Month event which takes place on Sundays this month at 10-16 East Street in Kingston. Panellist and co-founder of record label giant VP Records, Patricia "Miss Pat" Chin also chimed in, highlighting the entity's contribution to pushing the local music business forward.

"People think it's easy, it's not easy," she said. "We're like a 'tiki tiki' fish in America but we've always given back to Jamaica by making new artistes, producers, singers and whatever. So, it's a hard journey to be in a big country like America but our first [duty] was always to embrace our culture and our music — and we've done that for over 45 years living in America, and we're still doing it."

Chin added that, unfortunately, a culture of indiscipline plays a role in how the industry is run.

"If you book an artiste you don't mek him fly with 20 people with you, or you don't miss the flight all two, three, four times that the person who bring you up cannot even make you come another time. There's a lot we have to learn in this little country to be with the other bigger countries," she noted.

The VP matriarch migrated to the United States in the 1970s because of political unrest in Jamaica, a period which was under examination at the event themed 'Running from Jamaica — capitalism, socialism and cold war politics'. Moderated by veteran broadcaster Simon Crosskill, Chin, Chen, economist Dr Michael Witter, and former general secretary of the People's National Party Paul Burke offered reflections and perspectives of that period, injected with musical references.

Adding to the lively discussions were the JaMM Orchestra who ignited a dance frenzy through tunes like Max Romeo's Let the Power Fall On I and War Inna Babylon; and singer Neville "Struggle" Martin whose spirited set included his popular song, My Leader Born Yah.

Grounation culminates on Sunday with the topic, 'Mi Cyaan Believe It — ambush in the night' featuring musicians Ibo Cooper, impresario Tommy Cowan, documentarian Neville Garrick, and entrepreneurs Kevin O'Brien Chang and Maureen Denton.

Patricia Chin, VP co-founder
Businessman Wayne Chen
A section of the audience attending Sunday's Grounation symposium held on East Street in downtown Kingston.

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