The music industry, notice I said Industry, is big business and it has changed like everything else over the years and is still evolving.
Has it got everything right? No. Like most things it’s a hit and miss, today for me, tomorrow for you. Reggae may have started from the shores of Jamaica but it cannot claim its exclusivity anymore just like the US claiming creativity.
Has Jamaica perfected the music genre in the last 50 years? The jury is still out on that but frankly we have not done ourselves any favor by not significantly and effectively managing and marketing our music and again that’s not entirely a fault of ours. We did not have the resources, the know how or connections to bring any international standard to the genre . The music at the time was localized to Jamaican musicians experimenting with the new ‘sound’ and soon others jumped on the reggae wagon and used it. Chris Blackwell comes along and took a chance and it paid off and guess what , the world started to listen to reggae through Bob. The movie ‘Harder they Come’ with Jimmy Cliff made one of the biggest introduction of reggae music to the world. The lyrics of reggae music promoted love, friendship, a higher well-being and joy. The point is not until the music got into the hands of foreign resources and capital did it get any worldwide recognition and became a part of the music industry.
Jamaica’s music has evolved and seems to be focusing on what I call “Sex Hall” much to the disadvantage of persons like Tessann, Beres, Dianne King, Third World, the Marleys and all those musicians that we candidly call “Reggae Artiste” , whose voice and music can only be appreciated by an overseas market , bigger than the Jamaican market, with a more eclectic taste of music. So Tessann taking the leap is no surprise. She, like so many others, do it for survival , show me the money.
At best she gets a recording contract and at worst she gets the promotion for a talented reggae artiste and a female one too. Remember there is sexism in the business as well. Our reggae artiste do not and cannot make any real living here at home they all have to go abroad where the industry plays to a much wider market. The industry thrives on networking, experimenting and promotion and Jamaica , whilst it may think of itself as hip with culture, is still a texting society. Technology is gathering knowledge faster than how the Jamaican society gathers wisdom.
How can we improve this? It starts with education from the homes to the school and to the business places. It involves a clear commitment on the part of Government through its new Ministry of Entertainment & Culture to have a vision and working with all sectors of the economy use the talents and resources to give reggae its rightful place in our culture.
It means the JTB through its marketing machinery using Reggae, the brand, as its marketing tool and not just sand , sun and sea; It means the JMA and the PSOJ think outside the box and put in their budgets consistent opportunities for local reggae artiste to perform ; It means the local artiste understanding the art of writing and executing the art of performance; It means employing technology to promote the music worldwide; It means understanding that music , like everything else requires discipline of thought and purpose and protecting the creativity is as important as performing. How can you protect your industry without enforcing the laws of copyright and intellectual property? Finally it means a paradigm shift in Jamaica’s culture of mediocrity. That may be a bigger challenge than Tessann winning The Voice.