A few years ago Trinidadian music producer now turned alderman in the district of San Fernando Kenny Phillips took to the streets of Port of Spain with support from a number of other producers and artistes. The purpose was to draw attention to their call on Government to legislate mandating a quota for Trinidadian music on the airwaves. It is something, which is still being lobbied for in the twin island republic. However, Phillips and a number of others have gone the route of simply opening up their own radio stations to maximize the promotion of Trinidadian culture.
Here in Saint Lucia there have been similar discussions by a group of artistes and producers who once had the backing of the Hewannora Music Society (HMS) now ECCO. This of course has come to nothing, particularly in light of the fact that the electronic media here operates with very little, if any, regulation at all. In fact, Government is at this moment circulating a draft broadcast act, which may not see the light of day any time soon.
The preservation of a country’s culture and the “locking” off of foreign cultural invasions is certainly not only the purview of Muslim and communist states. Countries like Canada have embarked on moves in the past to allow their music to receive a mandated quota on radio. Jamaica too, with the help of Edward Seaga (as a music producer in the 50’s before he turned politician) had embarked on something similar. Having established West Indies Records Limited (WIRL), Seaga had rallied behind a moratorium on foreign music and artistes, to allow the Jamaican music industry to flourish.
But when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are, no one in the Caribbean has taken music and culture as seriously as Barbadians. Continuing with the policy of putting Barbados first and allowing for the continued growth of the creative and music industry in Barbados, as of June 1, 2013 authorities have suspended the playing of Reggae and Dancehall music on the airwaves in that country. The suspension, which is seen as being in support of Crop Over music being released in abundance at this time of year, will end the first week of August. Crop Over culminates with “Grand Kadooment” on August 1 each year. A number of DJs and artistes in Barbados have applauded the move, which is seen as allowing Bajans and visitors to consume more of the Barbadian culture during the island’s biggest cultural festival.
The STAR sought the reaction from some of the players in the music industry here this week about the Barbadian policy. Francis “Leebo” Delima is a Saint Lucian producer who has written and produced various genres of music here, including Reggae, R&B and Soca. He believes that anyone who is part of the music industry would see the reasoning and rationale behind such a move.
“I am not clear as to the exact policy and whether it is to lock out Jamaican music or Reggae and Dancehall, because for example if we push for something here, we produce all types of music so that policy would have to be clear. Is it targeted at a particular genre or just foreign music?” Leebo questions. “But I can see the reasoning behind the move in Barbados. If you establish a policy to give local content prominence, and a quota for local music that is a great idea. It means now, that your local content must be up to standard. Once that is so this sort of policy will induce more creativity and productivity and it will also mean that producers of local content will receive more royalties.”
Radio announcer, music producer and performer TC Brown supports the move by Barbadian authorities:
“I think it is an interesting move and one I am monitoring closely,” Brown told the STAR. “There are times when one has to take the interest of the people to heart, particularly when your music may be suffering and again if you see them going down a road that may not be the best.”
According to the former Calypso Monarch he would definitely support such a move here in Saint Lucia during the Carnival season when according to him, less and less of the music seems to be gaining attention and airplay these days.
“I support the Bajans for taking such a bold step,” he says.
On the other hand radio personality MC Scady says from all he has read the move seems to be nonsensical since it does not seem to be targeting North American music like Hip-Hop and R&B but West Indian music.
“So where does that leave us in CSME?” he asks. Scady who has also been involved in Soca music as a performer also questions the impact such a move will have on Barbadian performers wishing to make a mark in Jamaica.
Interestingly enough, a number of persons involved in the Jamaican music industry appear to be applauding the move according to a story appearing in the Jamaica Gleaner on Sunday.
“I see Barbados lock off Reggae and Dancehall,” Heavy D, a promoter and artiste manager reportedly told the Gleaner. “I called to promote a song and they told me Reggae and Dancehall will not be played during this season. Suh why Jamaica can’t duh dat? Wi love to fight against our own things too much. If Barbados government can get involved and ban outside music for three months, why we can’t even do it for one month straight and showcase musicians, Reggae and Dancehall?”
Ruddy Isaacs, brother and former manager of late reggae icon, Gregory Isaacs also believes the Jamaican government should be more involved in regulating the amount of foreign music played on local radio.
“I support Barbados and this move to play neither Reggae nor Dancehall. It’s now time for us to do the same thing in Reggae Month and on Reggae Day. I think the artistes need to start standing up for themselves because our local radio not playing Reggae enough to make an impact. The only time most of these Reggae artistes have mouth is when they are speaking out against homosexuality. Barbados is looking out for their culture because they can’t afford to allow Dancehall and Reggae to upstage them during their festive season,” he told the Gleaner.
Bajan disc jockey DJ Indian told the Gleaner that the suspension of Reggae and Dancehall music is not intended to be disrespectful to Jamaican music.
“This policy has been around for years,” the 98.7 FM Bajan DJ said. “We are paying attention to our own local music during Crop Over. It brings in tourists and builds the carnival feeling. Already we see where it is working, because it gets people into the carnival mood, so right now it’s 100 percent soca. It’s nothing to be taken personally by Jamaicans, but every country has their rules. Reggae rules our airwaves for the rest of the year.”
In Saint Lucia where there is no such policy and with the Carnival season now on, a wide variety of music besides Calypso and Soca permeate the airwaves. And, at many of the popular carnival fetes local DJs are increasingly looking to score points with the younger crowd by playing popular Jamaican Dancehall music. Carnival culminates in St Lucia on July 16.