Treat the youth right
Let's Talk ReggaeSunday, July 18, 2021
with Lamont “Monty” Savory
The musical talents and potential of Jamaican youth remain a gold mine waiting to be unearthed.
When you think about it, it is quite possible to imagine that Jamaica could have more budding artistes per capita – musicians, singers, deejays, and others, who are innately talented than any other country in the world. After all, for a country credited with creating its own musical genres, including mento, ska and reggae, and having influenced many others across the globe, it is not beyond the realm of possibility.
It is therefore regrettable that, for an island so rich in raw talent resource, Jamaica is still largely under-prepared to capitalise on the opportunities of the future – which heavily depend on the trifecta application of performance talent, access to technology and talented “ technicians” to take the next set of signature sounds coming from the island to the world stage.
Unfortunately, Jamaica continues to struggle with youth delinquency and the big one – involvement with crime and violence. Yet, if you were to speak to many of the youth involved in these miscreant acts, they often will proudly state their musical interests and ambitions. These same youth, when given the chance to deejay on a rhythm, spend time in a studio or use a DJ console, suddenly transform into passionate, more focused individuals and at least for those moments are kept out of trouble.
Unfortunately for most, and despite all the musical accolades that Jamaica now holds, gaining access to an instrument or professional recording facility remains a privilege reserved for a select few.
To give credit where it is due, I must acknowledge that there are pockets of advancement in this regard, including the newly refurbished centre located at Alpha Music School and other private music affiliates and interests who are doing their part to influence and train up the next generation.
For me, learning to play music literally saved me from what I could have been growing up in a far-less-than-affluent community. It quite literally became a timely escape and opportunity to drown out the many distractions that surrounded me there.
Looking back at my younger self, my musical potential could have easily gone unnoticed and untapped had it not been for a high school music teacher who helped to channel my interests when I impressed him by stating that I wanted to be a classical flautist in an orchestra.
Admittedly, my classical music ambitions were only a half-truth to conceal the reggae ambitions I thought I had to hide at the time. In essence, it is what was necessary to grant me unrestricted access to the music room at Camperdown High School. It is from there that I think I really began to believe (at least for myself) that a career in music could be in my reach.
My story is not unique. Conduct a poll and you will find that for many known musicians and artistes, the first real opportunity to hone their craft came through school and more so, through church. While these avenues continue to be a makeshift solution for the honing of performance talent, what of music production? And, I also dare say, what about reggae and dancehall music, which still remain largely taboo in those hallowed spaces?
When will the performing arts high schools promised come on stream?
When will our talented youth get an accessible space to begin the process of musical exploration at an earlier stage?
The long and short of it is that to take music in Jamaica to the next level, there needs to be 360-degree focus not only as it relates to honing and fostering talent, but also the differentiation of our island's musical talents. Let's face it, not everyone will be able to perform.
As we groom the next generation of music industry players, focus must be placed on the technical production of music and the training of people in music support areas, such as post-production, marketing, public relations and promotions and other such skills, to increase the overall package that Jamaica as a music destination has to offer.
Zooming in on the “technicals”, the process of producing music can be both costly and time consuming. While not to discredit or diminish the work of our highly talented and innovative local music engineers, simply put, there are not enough of them around to ensure that Jamaica can make the most of its rich talent and take it to the world. The simple fact is that many of the albums recorded in Jamaica are still sent overseas to be mixed and mastered.
What it means is that we still do not have sufficient “finishing touch” resources here to keep up with the pace of creativity. Because recording technology and software are now more widely available, our talents may be better able to create, record and release new projects, however, more often than not, their productions are sent to the airways in their raw state and do not have the benefit of what could have been a more refined and musically pleasing finish.
The fact is, to lift the standard across the industry, there needs to be a more readily available cadre of music professionals in a full range of disciplines and capacities within the music industry who are able to do their job well.
Along the way I have had the pleasure and privilege of being exposed to formal training in musicianship and mentorship from numerous talented Jamaican music professionals who have inspired and helped me to hone my craft.
But, what of those who are not as fortunate as I have been?
Could the next generation of Jamaican musical flagbearers be in danger of missing opportunities to develop their craft?
How can we use technology to teach music and music production on a wider scale, making it easier for people to access formal training?
Can we create musical workspaces that will allow our talents to be further nurtured?
The pace of the progress we make in this regard will be the key to ushering in the next era in the story of Jamaican music.
Lamont “Monty” Savory is a Jamaican guitarist, songwriter and producer who is quickly emerging as a front-runner in the next generation of local musical icons. Trained at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts, he has more than 18 years of experience in the industry and has been a notable fixture onstage accompanying several top acts. He is also a highly sought after talent for studio productions.
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