Carnival season 2017 is already on the lips of many Jamaicans with as many as four separate carnival brands aiming to take over the Corporate Area this year. With the scarcity of sponsorship for live shows in Jamaica, which incidentally saw the cancellation of Sting last year, some music industry personnel are baffled that sponsors have managed to find the resources to sponsor a lengthy carnival season packed with various events.
According to popular emcee, Nuffy, classicism is once again showing its ugly face in Jamaican culture. He believes corporate Jamaica holds a bias against local reggae/dancehall music and would rather lend their support to a foreign culture.
MC Nuffy also pointed out that corporate Jamaica should realize that the have-nots are still the majority.
“Di majority of Jamaicans are poor people, so literally, they are the ones who are supporting your products. There is no way that the few people that live uptown can make brands more successful than the poor people because uptown is a handfull. When Shaggy keep him show, look at the few people in the VIP, but look in the bleachers how much poor people turn out and support,” he said.
The MC also charged corporate Jamaica to do more for the preservation of Jamaica’s culture while, they benefit from its people. He also pointed out that his intention is not to bash companies, but to open their eyes to the fact that authentic Jamaican events are in need of assistance.
Several sponsors have tried their hands at sponsoring dancehall/reggae based events in the past. Some sponsors even tried to merge Jamaican music with the carnival events. For example, in 2005, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer were added to the line-up of Jamaica Carnival, but later had a controversial fallout with sponsors after the icons both breached the code of conduct by performing lewd lyrics. That experience and several other behavioral mishaps have understandably left corporate Jamaica with bitterness as it relates to its reluctance to wholesomely support local music. MC Nuffy, however, believes profanity and lewd lyrics are no more serious than selling cigarettes and alcohol.
“When unno want unno brand sell, unno come to the poor people, so show that you care for poor people by supporting their events, too. When you are going to complain about artists cursing bad-words, I find that hypocritical because you sell cigarettes and alcohol which are dangerous to people’s health. So which one is more serious? Profanity, or alcohol and cigarette? Mi nah bash unno, but do better,” he said.
Record producer/artist Hitmaker also shared his views on the topic. He says corporate Jamaica should re-evaluate the way they view dancehall and reggae since the genre has the potential to be more than just a product of the inner city.
“Corporate Jamaica needs to see dancehall and reggae as a brand. Get out of the mentality that dancehall is ghetto people music and is an under-tree movement. Take it out of that and put it in a building. Build a body for the music industry so that we can have things organised. Quality control, artiste management, quality schooling can do a lot for the music industry so parents can be proud that their children want to become dancehall superstars. It’s a career and not just something that you want to do because you leave school and there is no other option. We are losing our culture slowly, and the foreigners are already moving in to take what we have,” he said.
He, too, feels that dancehall and reggae have been sidelined by corporate Jamaica because of their foundation in the inner city. He also said the tendency for Jamaicans to be foreign-minded has also given rise to the increased appreciation for carnival over dancehall events. The nudity of carnival road march and the lyrical content of soca music were also brought under the microscope.
“Dancehall and reggae was born in the inner city, so it is raw and represents the struggle that people of the inner city face. These genres were created by the people as a means of lashing out against the opposition and speaking on guns, violence and sex … the ghetto youth lifestyle. Both genres made ghetto youth break out and start make money so they can live the life that corporate people are accustomed to,” he continued.
“Corporate supports carnival and we are not the birthplace for carnival, but it’s a mentality of our people to be foreign-minded and quicker to accept other cultures than ours … so brand Jamaica and brand dancehall is not a priority. Note the same slackness that a dancehall artist will sing is the same slackness that a carnival artist sings. Carnival is mainly based on sex, and it is ironic to see that we in dancehall whine on a girl and they say it’s immoral … yet they block off the entire Corporate Area on a Sunday for carnival with men whining on women while they wear revealing clothing. Corporate will pump money in what they believe in, and because they are foreign-minded they grab on to carnival,” he said.
Gary Dixon, marketing director, J. Wray & Nephew Limited, while ignoring some questions, noted that he was not at liberty to discuss the company’s marketing strategy.
“J. Wray & Nephew Limited is proud of our historical and ongoing support of a wide array of cultural and entertainment initiatives. As a policy, we do not discuss our marketing strategy, but suffice to say, we continue to be supportive of dancehall, and indeed, all genres of music according to our brands’ portfolio positioning,” he said. Digicel too, only had a few words to share.
“Our sponsorship strategy is based on support for activities that help to move people and communities forward,” said Kamal Powell, senior sponsorship manger, Digicel Jamaica.
In 2005, the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors – including Red Stripe, Digicel, Cable and Wireless, Courts Jamaica Limited, the Jamaica Tourist Board, Supreme Ventures and J. Wray and Nephew, banned deejays Bounty Killer and Beenie Man from events that they supported. This was after the two were deemed to have used foul language in a free-to-air televised performance during Jamaica Carnival.