Claim Reggae for Prosperity
The sea and sky were a
brilliant blue in Belmont. As we made our regular stop for fish,
we could hear the sounds of nature that its famous son Peter
Tosh had captured in his haunting interpretation of the 27th
Psalm: "Jah is my Keeper". I struck up a conversation
with the vendors, delighted to discover they were relatives of
the late great musician. We dreamed together. Tosh's birthplace
could be converted into a major attraction. His statue would
mark the entrance to a museum. Craft shops, seafood restaurants
or a studio would bring busloads of tourists and prosperity to
this picturesque village. Despite the efforts of Tosh's son,
Dave and his cousins, Maurice and Neville Powell, little progress
has been made.
Instead, violence has been visited on the area.
In July of this year two young men were killed there, in the wake
of the discovery of a large cache of ganja. It is difficult to
reconcile that pleasant afternoon with this brutal bloodletting.
The handsome residents of Belmont are not surly, hard-faced individuals.
Their eyes lit up as we spoke about the hope for transformation
of their district but their legitimate leaders have not been as
nimble as the illegal dealers.
Every parish, indeed every constituency, can
boast of a hero in this star-studded country called Jamaica. That
includes the convulsed Mountain View area, home of the popular
Ashe Performers. This was a great neighbourhood - Peter Hamilton
reminds me that such notables as Earl 'Wire' Lindo of the Wailers,
Courtney Walsh, Derrick Harriot and Pam Hall attended Excelsior.
Dennis Brown's birthplace sits forlorn at the
corner of North and Orange Streets. It is a 'big yard' - we can
imagine it converted to an attraction where the elder residents
could rap with visitors about the young Dennis and the young folks
could be trained to make and sell Dennis Brown souvenirs.
Jamaica's music is the toast of the world. A
friend in the UK reports that about half of the commercials have
a reggae beat. Our dancehall stars get constant rotation on BET
and the Marleys, Jimmy Cliff, Luciano, Beres Hammond and Freddie
McGregor are crowd pullers from New York to Tokyo. Sly and Robbie
get regular calls from Hollywood and music celebrities in search
of reggae tracks to enhance their productions.
Therefore we are disappointed with Jamaica's
decision not to participate in MIDEM, the biggest music industry
Expo in the world. Participating in this event could open so many
doors for our music and our tourism industry. New York based Jamaican,
Francine Chin is a PR consultant to MIDEM; she has put the machinery
in place for a Caricom/Cariforum Village at MIDEM to house Caribbean
We understand that JAMPRO is ending their five-year
association with the event because of lack of accountability of
the Jamaican participants. However, at a time when reggae and dancehall
are riding high, with Sean Paul projected to sell 4 million copies
of his latest CD, a way should be found for Jamaica to be in Cannes
next January for MIDEM. Our music fraternity should not miss out
on the tremendous opportunities offered by a show that hosts some
12,000 individuals, 4,000 companies and 800 members of the international
press from 94 countries.
We welcome the recent announcement by Wayne Chen,
Michael Lee-Chin and celebrity US attorney Johnny Cochran, of plans
to erect a Reggae Hall of Fame. This is an important step towards
claiming reggae and using it for wealth creation. We should have
mini studios throughout the country to capture our people's talent
and be part of unique tour packages. Visitors would enjoy doing
karaoke-type recordings and starring in their own souvenir reggae
CD or music video.
The teaching of Jamaican music should be on the
curriculum of more educational institutions. A check with the Jamaica
School of Music reveals that they have no such course. Were it
not for Alpha Boys School, a great deal of our musical talent would
have never been discovered. It is regrettable that a television
newscast showed footage of the Alpha Boys School for last week's
report on the poor state of Jamaica's children's homes. Alpha certainly
does not fall into that category: in a previous column, I mentioned
that Skatalite member "Dizzy" Moore admitted that he
'acted up', just so he could be sent to Alpha Boys School to learn
The NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People) wants to have closer relations with the Caribbean
and we should be quick off the mark to cement ties with this powerful
US organization. No doubt, they would be interested in supporting
the development of our musical heritage and we know that our beloved
Harry Belafonte is always happy to speak on our behalf. For far
too long we have under estimated the influence and economic strength
of the African-American people.
Francine Chin continues to pound the pavement,
trying to find sponsors for Jamaica, the originators and still
the best exponents of reggae, to participate in the Caricom/Cariforum
exhibit at MIDEM, even after Barbados has signed up. If accountability
was a problem in previous years, why take the easy way out by dropping
an event, instead of putting in the necessary checks and balances
to ensure that we get our money's worth?
The people of Belmont have planted a beautiful
garden around Peter Tosh's Mausoleum and they are still hoping
that a tribute to their beloved son will bring some measure of
prosperity to their once quiet district. Those who have the power
to make their dream a reality, should remember the words of poet
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat
Or crust and sugar over -
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
About the Writer
Lowrie-Chin heads PRO Communications Ltd, an advertising and PR
agency, in Kingston, Jamaica. She is a poet and columnist for the
Jamaica Observer. She holds Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in
English from the University of the West Indies.