Frankie Campbell, Fab 5’s bass player and chairman of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates (JAVAA), is concerned that events targeting vintage audiences are on the decline.
According to the musician, promoters and sponsors alike are more interested in the youth and, therefore, fans of vintage music are left to scamper for what’s left. He also said Jamaicans have failed to embrace all their genres and, as such, ska, rocksteady and mento are thriving overseas under foreign acts.
Campbell, who is a founding member of the Fab 5 reggae band, also believes bands will have to look overseas for greener pastures since the Jamaican market is becoming more dried up as time progresses.
“In first-world countries, you have a wide range of culture and music genres that you can embrace at concerts on a regular basis. You can go to a folk show anytime of the year. If you like jazz, blues, rock, soul, country… just about anything you like. In Jamaica, it’s not the same. I would estimate that around 95 per cent of our events are dancehall oriented. So you find that a lot of the mature audience and people over 50 would like something different,” he said.
Campbell gave credit to the handful of promoters who have managed to continue events like Footloose, Good Times and Mello Vibes among others, which cater to mature audiences and usually play music from as far back as the ’60’s and ’70’s. However, he believes there is plenty of work to be done, especially in the live music field.
Though many vintage icons have passed on, leaving promoters with less options to choose from, Campbell encourages promoters and sponsors to dig deeper for other talents. He also believes contemporary backing bands should consider practicing songs from icons and also sell themselves as cover music bands, instead of only going for the option of creating original music. This, he believes, will preserve the music as well as create a market for new Jamaican bands.
“About 10 years ago, vintage shows used to be kicking, but I guess so much of the vintage artists have died, to the point where it’s hard to get a strong line-up to attract a big crowd. Folk groups usually have their season, but outside of the festival season, there is nothing else. If we put on more vintage shows and, more important, if sponsors come on board, then we will see the youth respect our music more,” he continued.
“Sponsors seh old people nuh drink and they do nothing at all… but I am sure that if they convincingly back a vintage event, they can pull thousands of patrons,” he said.
Campbell also believes that, “most young people don’t care about the past and the radio stations are not playing enough. They are playing some Dennis Brown now because it is Reggae Month, but watch and see if they will continue to play more Dennis for the rest of the year. People like Bob Marley and Tosh music should be played right through the year.”
He also warned that Jamaica could lose its grip on reggae music if, locally, more respect is not given to the genre by the DJs, promoters, sponsors and youth.
“Fifty years from now, we might come to realize that Bob Marley was white and he grew up in England and reggae music was invented in France. We at JAVAA are concerned about the preservation of the music, because the youth should know where the music is coming from, how it evolved and appreciate what the early pioneers of our music did. Music was not invented with Shaggy and Sean Paul,” he said.
Campbell also made an appeal for reggae music to be taught in school. He also posted a challenge to radio stations to be unique with their song selections instead of playing the same music over and over.
Promoter Gyete Ghartey of GLK Entertainment also shares the view that vintage events are valuable for the preservation of Jamaican culture. He, however, feels that the overhead cost of hosting live events is too high and has resulted in the demise of the vintage show industry.
“It is easier to book two DJs for a party and way cheaper. However, to host vintage events is not a very natural process for youths. You have to have a passion for it,” he said.