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REGGAE MONTH CELEBRATIONS IN TROUBLE “MUCH MUSIC, LITTLE MONEY!”

Published: Monday | January 16, 2012

Charles campbellFreddie McGregor
Charles campbell

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

With just under two weeks to go before the first event in the 2012Reggae Month calendar, its organisers, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) has cash commitments to cover only 20 per cent of its budget.

Reggae Month begins with the Dennis Brown Tribute concert on Sunday, January 29, and ends with the Dancehall and Reggae Alternative Reggae Month weekly event at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts on Wednesday, February 29.

Between the two are a number of collaborations with weekly events such as Uptown Mondays, Weddy Weddy and the Rae Town street dance, as well as the annual Fi Wi Sinting festival and monthly Poetry Society of Jamaica fellowship.

The closing concert is the last of five weekly events slated for Edna Manley, each of which celebrates a different aspect of Jamaican music. JaRIA’s Honour Awards are slated for February 25.

In late December 2011, at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between JaRIA and Association Reggae Sun Ska at theBob Marley Museum, former JaRIA chairman Freddie McGregor demanded, “Our music is so valued and respected over the world, why is it being treated with such scant regard in this country? How can $1.2 million stage Reggae Month? The question is not if we can do Reggae Month. $1.2 million cannot do Reggae Month.”

On Friday, Charles Campbell, JaRIA executive director and vice-chairman, told The Gleaner “that was all the funding we had at that moment and it was funding coming from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB)”. Subsequent to McGregor’s statement, Campbell said, “We have had two very successful meetings with the JTB.” So now the JTB is a full partner with JaRIA in staging Reggae Month and “they have substantially increased their financial support”.

Still, Campbell said, even with the increase, only 20 per cent of Reggae Month’s budget has been covered.

There is significant support from media as well as the artistes and technical staff who will set up and perform at the events. Campbell said IRIE FM and The Observer “have indicated that they will give us significant discounts”, continuing their support of Reggae Month in previous years. However, he said, for those deals to go through JaRIA has to make an initial outlay of “seed money”.

Coleen Douglas, JaRIA’s director of marketing and public relations, noted that the RJR group had become a media partner across their various entities.

“The programming will celebrate the Reggae Month theme,” Douglas said.

Douglas and Campbell pointed out that the artistes at the events will perform for free, while the production costs will be greatly reduced.

“Most times, people just pay the workers,” Douglas said.

And Campbell emphasised that contrary to the perception that persons involved in making and presenting Jamaican popular music are generally wealthy, “The average musician or artist is a seasonal worker. They work maybe four months out of the year, all told. So when they earn they have to manage their money as they have long troughs and few peaks in their working cycle annually.”

Plus, Campbell said, the perception of general wealth comes from a situation where “you have a few people at the top of the pyramid who make a lot of money. They are very popular”.

In addition, many times the singer is not the writer or composer of the material, so he or she does not benefit from the copyright-related income stream.

Although JaRIA continues to be hopeful that there will be a late injection of funding, Douglas said that if the money does not come in there is a plan to adjust “by scaling back on the production of some events”. It has also helped significantly that “the Ministry of Culture has committed to getting fees waived for places like the National Stadium Car Park and Ranny Williams and even some of the places of amusement fees”.

And Campbell said, “Reggae Month does not belong to JaRIA. It is a national event. In the golden jubilee of Independence, the 50th year of Jamaican popular music, we would hope that even at this late stage the leadership of our public-sector and private-sector entities would see the great possibilities in joining us in Reggae Month, celebrating our independence and ingenuity.”

“Reggae music is our greatest export product,” Campbell said.

 

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