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COMMENTARY: TAKING DENNIS BROWN’S NAME IN VAIN!

Carolyn Cooper
Carolyn Cooper—–

 

By Carolyn Cooper—-
The Crown Prince of Reggae has been royally dissed. D. Brown’s duppy must be well vexed. I expect he’s somewhere over the rainbow composing a wicked tune, and even wickeder lyrics, about the disorganisers of the tribute concert in his name. 

The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA), Leggo Records, Sounds and Pressure and the Dennis Brown Trust are all going to be haunted for quite a long time.

Since the inception of Reggae Month in 2008, Dennis Brown’s name has been inextricably linked to the celebrations. His birthday on February 1 has been a convenient date to launch the month’s activities. And the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert is a high-profile event. This year, theconcert has been postponed two times. First, it was lack of sponsorship; then, security. This is a very bad sign. Reggae Month seems to be in trouble.

The new date for the tribute concert is March 3, more than one month after Dennis Brown’s birthday. It’s like celebrating Christmas in January. There’s only one good thing about the postponement of the tribute. Well, it may turn out to be a cancellation after all, but let’s be optimistic for now. In any case, the ‘cancelposting’ of the show proves that there’s nothing sacred about Reggae Month. It doesn’t even have to be February!

I suppose the rationale for dubbing February Reggae Month was the fact that the King of Reggae and the Crown Prince were born on the 6th and 1st, respectively. But instead of holding the whole month hostage to those two birthdays, I think we should free up February from all of thereggae-related events that have been compressed into the shortest month of the year.

I’m proposing that we celebrate the birthday of Dennis Brown and BobMarley in February and that’s that. If we want a Reggae Month, let’s find a less hectic season. Cynics are already saying that Reggae Month was intended to upstage Black History Month. You know how ambivalent we are about blackness in this country. Be that as it may, there are 11 other months from which to choose.

INTERNATIONAL REGGAE DAY

I think July is an excellent candidate for Reggae Month. There’s Sumfest, our international reggae festival, in the last week of the month. And we shouldn’t forget the heroic efforts of our own cultural activist Andrea Davis to establish July 1 as International Reggae Day (IRD). The brand was launched in 1994 – almost two decades ago – as a “marketing platform for Jamaica’s creative industries and global reggae culture”.

In a billboardbiz article, published on July 1, 2011, music journalist Patricia Meschino underscores the worldwide reach of Andrea’s vision: “Enabled by the proliferation of Internet usage in the mid-1990s and the rise of social media in the late 2000s, IRD now encompasses a vast international network of online newspapers, magazines, radio stations and other web-based platforms, each tailoring their content on July 1 towards examining the power and potential of the island’s signature rhythm while highlighting the finest in Jamaican and international reggae, made by veterans and upstart artists alike.”

In the early years of the media festival, Andrea’s company, Jamaica Arts Holdings, promoted high-level workshops and full-scale concerts. Celebration of IRD has become much more virtual over time, largely because of lack of sponsorship for live events. It’s a familiar story. In the case of the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert, we may very well have to settle for a virtual, if not virtuous, staging this year.

REGGAE MONTH SOUND CLASH

Whatever we decide about the scheduling of Reggae Month, we will still have to resolve the problem of clashing events. In theory, JARIA’s calendar is the definitive guide to what’s on. But it seems as if organisers of events don’t bother to consult JARIA. They just do their own thing.

Before setting the date of my Global Reggae book launch, I checked with JARIA. The only other event on their calendar for the 17th was the Jamaica Music Museum’s ‘Grounation’, scheduled for 2 p.m. It was unlikely to clash with my 6 p.m. launch.

Then, out of the blue, the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert was rescheduled at exactly the same time. Not even JARIA appears to have consulted JARIA! Or, if it did, it must have decided that the launch of a book on the globalisation of reggae in Reggae Month wasn’t all that important. Then again, JARIA may have assumed quite wrongly that people who read books don’t go to reggae concerts.

Seriously, though, the clash wouldn’t have mattered all that much really. Patrons obviously do have the right to choose. Except that Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, Jah9 and Protoje, who had all graciously agreed to make a cameo appearance at the launch, also needed to perform at the rescheduled Dennis Brown tribute, based on their earlier commitment. Fortunately, No-Maddz and Cali P, the other ‘brand-name’ performers for the book launch, were not on that ill-fated show.

When Ras Michael apologetically telephoned to let me know that he couldn’t make it back to PULS8 in time to do the invocation, I have to admit I called down judgement on the engineers of the clash. I hadn’t realised how potent my words were. Within an hour, Ras Michael called back to say that the show was cancelled.

Of course, I don’t actually take any responsibility for influencing the decisions made by the organisers of the tribute concert. It’s not my ‘judgement’ that mystically caused postponement. Me woulda never diss di Crown Prince. Hopefully, Dennis Brown will be honoured appropriately sometime this year in a tribute concert that lives up to his name. Respect is most certainly due, whatever the month.

Carolyn Cooper is a professor of literary and cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Visit her bilingual blog at http://carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.

 

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