Two shows at the Institute of Jamaica reveal the disinterest in archiving the nation’s valuable collection of musical artefacts and safeguarding the history of this iconic popular music.
Visited two very poignant exhibits last week at the Institute of Jamaica…Jamaica 50: Constructing a Nation and Equal Rights: Reggae and Social Change, a show of historic Reggae album covers. The first of these actually opened today and will be open till February 2013. Equal Rights opened a few weeks ago and is a gem of an exhibit offering visitors a chance to see some rare Reggae album covers; it should also stay up into 2013 so try and catch it. The LP sized catalogue should be a keeper with texts about the raison d’etre of the exhibit and information about the various periods in Jamaican music that are featured in the show. What struck me as immeasurably sad was the cramped space made available to archive, document and display the vast portfolio of music this country has produced. There is a whole alternative history contained in Jamaican music which really deserves better treatment by the state than it currently receives.
I always find myself shaking my head when i contrast the resources made available to house Jamaica’s rather slender visual art tradition in comparison to the slender resources made available to showcase Jamaica’s internationally renowned popular music. Mi cyaan believe it indeed, to echo Mikey Smith. Is this really what the nation thinks of the extraordinary music generated by its people? Is it because Jamaican music comes from the underprivileged segments of society that it gets such shoddy treatment? For a previous post on the subject go here.
Miller surveying the tiny storeroom available to house the rich artefacts of Jamaica’s world famous music scene
The Jamaican 50 song fiasco and the role of social media in holding the relevant authorities accountable…
Once upon a time the Jamaican Government commissioned senior producer and songwriter Mikie Bennett to write a song to celebrate the nation’s 50th year of independence which will occur on August 6 this year. The song, Find the flag in your heart and wave it, was duly written and produced with as many Jamaican celebrity voices as Mikie could get into his studio. If the country had to pay for the song it would have run into millions so Bennett and all those involved decided to donate the song to the nation.
In October 2011 the song was officially launched as the theme song of the Jamaica 50 celebrations slated for 2012. On December 29, 2011 after general elections, there was a change of government: the new PNP government it seemed had no intention of continuing with the schedule of events put together by the Jamaica 50 planning committee and Mikie Bennett’s song was one of the casualties.
Journalist and blogger Dionne Jackson Miller, covered this flipflop on her blog:
So even our music has fallen victim to that agent of change – the election. Some months ago, I was perplexed to see people calling for Eric Donaldson’s “Land of my Birth” to be made the official Jamaica 50 song. What the hell?I thought. We already HAVE a Jamaica 50 song! Remember? The song, “Find the Flag” was produced by the respected veteran Mikey Bennett and officially presented to the country.
Let me reiterate that. The song was officially and publicly presented to the country last October. If you don’t believe me, or never heard about it, read this story by Mel Cooke in the Jamaica Gleaner. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111204/ent/ent7.html
A Reporter’s Guide to Jamaica 50 sent out by the Culture Ministry in December stated that:
“The Jamaica 50 song ‘Fly (sic) the Flag in Your Heart’, written by Michael Bennett, captures Jamaica’s journey of challenges and triumphs.”
So I posted to that effect, saying that we have a Jamaica 50 song.
Except… silly me. There was an election. For months we heard nothing of Find the Flag – the official Jamaica 50 song – until another story in the Observer told us the song had been shelved.
On June 15, 2012, the current government suddenly released a new song, On a Mission, announcing at its launch that THIS was now the official Jamaica 50 song. Starring prominent singer Shaggy and others the song’s driving technobeat whipped up a wave of resentment on Twitter with many expressing disapproval and disappointment that such an ‘un-Jamaican’, Europop sounding song could represent Jamaica in its 50th year of independence.
Initially Robert Bryan, director of the Jamaica 50 committee and young Lisa Hanna, Minister of Culture airily dismissed these concerns, claiming that they had not designated On a Mission the official Jamaica 50 song and that there was therefore no controversy involved.
Since there was considerable evidence to the contrary what with the public launch in a prominent venue that had just taken place (see photograph below) and the official CD of the song that was distributed. the chorus of disapproval kept growing until it could no longer be ignored.
Suddenly yesterday a penitent Robert Bryan appeared on radio claiming in a shaken voice that he and the Minister had been ‘blindsided’ by Shaggy’s company and producer Sharon Bourke who had without any authorization launched ‘Mission’ as the official song etc etc. As one tweeter wryly noted:
Robert Bryan jus threw Shaggy, Sharon Burke and Solid Agency under the bus on Nationwide Radio! #JA50!
Again on Facebook and Twitter arguments and criticism raged about the controversy, proving more than anything else that in its 50th year of independence Jamaican politics has not reached the critical level of maturity required at this stage. Instead of admitting at the outset that they had handled the whole affair poorly and apologizing to the nation Robert Bryan and Minister Hanna tried to brazen it out with the usual political chicanery which assumes the people they act on behalf of are dunces. They are now left with egg on their faces and Minister Hanna has suffered a damning blow to her credibility she could easily have avoided.
I reproduce below a Facebook conversation on the subject with names carefully concealed to avoid any unpleasant repercussions for the individuals concerned. It would behoove the political class to remember that you are being judged, and judged harshly by sane and intelligent people. Its the twenty first century and you can no longer rely on a docile, feckless media to avert their eyes from your shenanigans. Please find the flags in your hearts and wave them, the national flag, not the party ones.
Finally, thank god for social media.
BB: the Secretariat says, it does not intend to, nor did it choose, select or designate an official or national Jamaica 50 song. Why was the event called “launch of the official Jamaica 50 Song?
GS: Repeat after me: “Pathologically Mendacious”. Thank you.
DK: bareface liars…..smh
FS: A lie dem lie, danny Buchanan must be turning in his grave to his his prophesy now taking root in his party
VS: If we count the lies told in the flag fiasco and in this “launch” of the song for Jamaica 50, pathologically mendacious is too generous. However note, the lies have been flowing in patriotic issues…..signs of the times!!!
AV: thanks for the reminder GS!
MW: This is politics at its best. If you listen the song carefully it mentions Lisa Hanna and HPSM in glowing terms. It must be a PNP party song.
PR: I’m putting it to you that you’re Pathologically Mendacious…lol
For more on this sorry affair please watch the news item here: