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Coalition To Preserve Reggae Music Richmond Forum – A Review By Lady Cham

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VA Community Agrees That Radio DJ’s, Soundmen & Promoters Contribute But Are Not To Blame For The State Of Jamaican Music & The Island’s Image – Written By Lady Cham:

On Saturday, May 2nd the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music (CPR) and West Indian Times hosted a long awaited community forum in the state of Virginia where those who are passionate about the state of Jamaica’s popular music and the Island’s image would have the opportunity to speak their minds.  The forum took place at Caribbean Mingles Restaurant & Nightclub located at 17 W. Main Street, Richmond, Virginia  and the question on the table was “Do radio deejays, soundmen and promoters contribute to the state of popular Jamaican music and the Island’s image?”  The extremely knowledgeable and diverse panel included King Walker, Virginia’s Lionheart Promotions; Stan Evan Smith, Maryland based Journalist/Radio Host; Eunice Green, President of Association of Jamaicans in Richmond; Ottwell Richardson, President of West Indies United and DJ Joe Swynger, Radio DJ/Soundman.  At the end of the night the panel along with the community agreed that soundmen, radio dj’s and promoters do contribute to the state of reggae music, however, all agreed that each individual is responsible for their own actions and the youths must be trained in a positive way so that they do not take certain lyrics literally.

Stan E Smith made a comment “Jamaica’s music industry is under attack simply because it fails to police itself and as a result the larger society has said look, you have a built in mechanism to police yourself, you don’t and the effects are spilling over.”   What he was referring to is the recent ban by the Jamaican government through it’s regulatory agency the Broadcasting Commission of all sexually explicit, violent and lewd music that is projected in public places.  

Ottwell Richardson is against policing the reggae music situation, calling it censorship he said that the artists should have the freedom to create.  He also believes that radio dj’s, soundmen and promoters should know their audience and select music accordingly.

King Walker’s stance was that from a business stand he promotes artists that the people demand to see or he won’t make any money and he has to look at the bottom line.

Eunice Green made it clear that if the people want a certain artist in a private venue then its ok because the people know who is coming and what kind of music will be played, however, she firmly believes that it is not appropriate for the radio “I might switch to a certain radio station because there is a song that I want to listen to, and then the next minute there is something blasting in my ear that I don’t want to hear, and somebody else is going to listen to it and say this is Jamaican music  and so that’s the perception that they are going to have of the music and of the country which speaks directly to the Island’s image.”

Joe Swynger feels that the daggering stage of the music is just a phase dancehall is going through and we as parents have to train our children as to why certain music is not good.  He said “nuff of us are shirking responsibility as parents and choosing to blame one thing in society and you can’t do it. You cant blame it on the alcohol as the tune says, you cant blame one gun, you cant blame one artist, you cant blame one song, we as parents have to start taking the blame and teach our children. Even if you are not a parent but you are in the business and you see some youths, teach them, it will eventually sink in to them.”

Carlita Wiggins from www.virginiareggae.com was a commentator and stated that we all have free will and five years ago she made a choice to give up listening to any music that had any violent or sexually explicit lyrics.  She believes that change is hard and some may turn away from you because of it but in order to have progress there must be change.  “I don’t believe that any particular group is responsible for the state of popular Jamaican music, we all have a choice, you can choose to focus on the negative or seek the things that are positive.”

Carlita’s question to panelist King Walker was “Do you feel compelled to play what the people want to hear or do you exercise your right to choose?”

King Walker’s answer was “I am compelled to play what the people want to hear, in the audience if someone makes a request, they come back, dem want dem tune, dem want dem tune, dem want dem tune, so that’s the stance that I have been taking.  However, I am all for change and if the forum is going to make a change and make a new light I am willing.”

Troy from Precepts Sound was also a commentator and stated that as an American he has had the opportunity to travel out of the country twice and both times were to Jamaica.  He said that the only time he has ever heard a negative comment about Bob Marley was actually at a church in Mandeville, Jamaica.  So he says everyone has a different way at looking at things “As the Chinese say, it’s a ying yang thing, we all have our way of going positive or going negative.  Positive and negative happens everywhere, within everyone and especially in music…”

Troy’s question to the panelists: “Is it really the responsibility of someone who plays music to reflect the positive or the negative of the music or the Jamaican society?”

Eunice Green’s answer was “You are not solely responsible but you should be partially responsible, your audience is going to listen to what you put out there, the kids are going to listen to it, the parents are going to want the kids not to listen to it.  Each group has its responsibility but you have your particular responsibility because you have control of the airway and you cant take yourself out of it and say the parents should be teaching their kids.

King Walker’s answer was “The way it’s going now, I think we can take a little responsibility on the topic because if we say we are going to do this Troy, and we are going to move in this direction because we need to move in this positive way for the upbringing of the youth then that’s the step we are going to take to preserve the culture.”

Lady Cham from West Indian Times and the Caribbean Connection radio show on WNSB Hot 91.1fm and Vibes 24/7 Internet radio show was a commentator and stated “We used to play music for the love of music, back in the day people had a trade and they worked in the week at their regular job and music was something blessed that they shared and loved with everyone at the weekend.  A soundman would go out carry his boxes on his back, have his box men and not bring home a dime; he would get paid in Guinness and feel happy the next day.”   Lady Cham also stated “If you don’t have censorship you don’t have order, as soundmen, promoters and radio dj’s, do you know why these people want the slack music?  Because that’s what we have brought to them for a long time, and that’s what they know, just like you feed them rice and peas feed them slackness and that’s what they are going to want and that’s what they know and love.  When you start to take it from them its a big problem but its just like when you are on cocaine they will go through withdrawal but they will get over it, its up to us to now take it from them.”

Lady Cham’s question to King Walker was “You tend to stick with promoting hype artists such as Beenie Man and Buju Banton because you are not going to make money from the conscious artists.  However, when I go to a Burning Spear or Steel Pulse show, they are still packed but with a different audience.  When they pack the Norva with Jimmy Cliff its maybe 1400 white people and a hundred black but it’s still packed and the money is still green and they are still bringing that wonderful music from Jamaica.  Could you market to a different section of people and still make money and stop spreading the negative energy from certain other artists?”

King Walker’s answer was “I’ve done a lot of these artist Cham and it doesn’t add up, I have gone through the white stations but the people like the Norva have the niche to the path to those artists and so I am left with Buju, Sizzla, Beres to keep the torch going.  I would love to do those conscious artists.  If the money is going to be made, why wouldn’t I want to do it?”

The question ‘is dancehall music reggae music?’ was also raised quite a few times throughout the night and it was not clearly answered which left the community pondering the question.

Also, Lora from IGM stated “we set a very low bar in Hampton Roads, VA of what we want and that is why we get what we get.”  This was a profound statement and had community members thinking deeply about what we really want in Reggae music.

The event was very spirited and planted a seed in the Virginiacommunity that we must be very conscious of  how we are perceived by others while still maintaining control of our culture.

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