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Categorizing Jamaican Reggae Music

IN response to my commentary headlined Reggae at 50 and published in this newspaper on Sunday, August 26, 2012, Sam Clayton Jr stated: "Based on my personal involvement in the music business in Europe and North America, I have no doubt that Jamaica is still the headquarters of reggae music, because in spite of the fact that we don't have the biggest festivals, I don't know of any reggae festival that does not have Jamaican bands performing. I also don't know of any major reggae release in Europe that does not have a significant Jamaican connection; Jamaican studio, producer, musician(s) or feature artistes. Every major new innovation and advancement in reggae and its sub-genres comes out of Jamaica. Add to this the undisputed fact, the best reggae musicians and producers are Jamaicans."

Sam has lived and worked in the entertainment industry in Europe for over 10 years, so he should know.

This is the kind of response I was hoping to evoke from members of the music fraternity, because we need to focus on what remains our competitive advantage and how to maximise the potential income from this asset, through the protection of our intellectual property. The government needs to act swiftly, to legally protect reggae as an authentic Jamaican music/art form.

Jamaica's popular musical idioms such as ska, reggae and dancehall, must be formally protected as our intangible cultural heritage, similar to tango, whose origins have been officially assigned to Argentina and Uruguay and which has been inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The formal recognition of reggae as Jamaica's National Heritage will enable us to maintain control over the definition, recognition, and identification of the musical form. This will guarantee that economic, moral, and trademark rights as well as geographical indication rights which flow from the use of the indication or designation 'reggae/ska/dancehall' would be retained in and with Jamaica. In pursuing this goal, we need to also develop a certification process which will determine and give a seal of approval to the authentic Jamaican reggae product.

Just like our Blue Mountain Coffee, Jamaican reggae is seen as the premium reggae product in the international market place. Therefore, the government of Jamaica needs to establish symbolic seal, for Jamaican ska, reggae and dancehall, which producers of music and promoters of festivals — if they so desire — would stamp on their products, for the obvious marketing advantage which this would automatically offer. The income earned from this, could be put in a fund, which would assist with the education and/or development of upcoming acts. Additionally, this would further boost our cultural tourism efforts through the promotion of our recording studios, musicianship and even historic locations such as Trench Town, Orange Street, and Warika Hill, which now have reputations of mythical proportions because collectively, they had a profound impact at the formative stage of our music's development.

SOURCE: Jamaica Observer

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