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Reggae Roadblocks

Last Wednesday's 3rd Annual UTech Jamaica/Joan Duncan Memorial Lecture at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) was titled Mining Gold! How do we Monetise Jamaica's Music Success?

The title suggested that the wealth has already been proven to exist and the problem is cashing in on a large scale for the country. Both guest speakers, attorney at law Lloyd Stanbury and Downsound Records head Josef Bogdanovich, took that approach, speaking to the audience in the courtyard of the Technology Innovation Centre, UTech's Papine Campus.

Stanbury identified a number of Reggae Roadblocks (the title of his 2015 book) and how to clear them, while Bogdanovich questioned Jamaicans' level of commitment to the music which the country has produced.

Before Stanbury spoke DiMario McDowell involved the audience in an excellent, emotionally stirring rendition of Peter Tosh's Creation in honour of Joan Duncan, the late co-founder of Jamaica Money Market Brokers Ltd. (JMMB). Performing arts students at the university also paid tribute to Duncan in dance with an ebullient Donna Duncan-Scott saying how appropriate the topic was for her mother's personality.

Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange gave remarks before the guest speakers.

Using slides extensively, Stanbury immediately underscored the importance of teamwork. "We must develop more positive collaboration between each other and work together to build a Jamaican music industry," Stanbury said. At the outset he also foregrounded the significance of knowing what preceded the current situation, referencing Marcus Garvey's statement that A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."

Accordingly, he set the historical context to Jamaican popular music output, which includes migration, colonisation, political tribalism and Rastafarianism, while noting that many non-Rastafarian Jamaicans have been successful in music.

Stanbury said returns to popular music worldwide have not been commensurate to Jamaicans living in the island, identifying a number of festivals outside the country focused heavily on Jamaican popular music such as Rototom Sunsplash in Spain and the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in the USA. He also named foreigners who have done well with reggae, such as Gentleman, Alborosie, Sojah, Magic! and Joss Stone.

Turning to the components of an improved Jamaican situation, Stanbury identified the roles of the government and academic community, as well as the need to improve existing structures and institutions such as Reggae Month and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and apply new technology. Internationally, barriers to travel are among the roadblocks which need to be removed, new markets have to be identified and developed and an adviser for the cultural and creative industries was recommended.

Insisting that the Economic Growth Council should include music as part of placing culture high on the national agenda for economic development. Stanbury said that developing Jamaica's music industry "is not beyond us as a nation ... We need to approach this from an industry development perspective."

After Bogdanovich's contribution, there was a discussion with panellists Mikey Bennett, music producer and music/cultural Director, FiWi Jamaica Project at UTech; Paul Barclay, chairman of the Jamaica Association of Composers and Publishers (JACAP); Michael 'Ibo' Cooper musician and senior lecturer, Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and Robert Scott, vice-president, Export and Marketing at JAMPRO. The discussion was moderated by Dr Dennis Howard.

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