What if…?

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Gleaner column of August 2, 2017

Confederates, a new HBO series which will follow its blockbuster Game of Thrones, has excited quite a reaction on social media with its premise: What if the South won the Civil War? What would the United States look like today? It prompted Jamal Richardson,  @HoodAcademic on Twitter, to suggest other alternative histories to make into TV shows instead of “WHAT IF THE CONFEDERATES/NAZIS WON?”

This spurred several intriguing responses on Twitter. For instance, What if Rome had evolved into an early UN and we had fast, world-wide communication in 600 CE? What if the French beat the British for control of North America? What if the African traditional religions priests and priestesses converted the Christian missionaries? What if Afro/Indigenous Cubans revolts succeeded in overthrowing the Spanish before the US showed up, and created an economic/political alliance with Haiti? What if Nkrumah/Lumumba/Sankara survived to create the United States of Africa. TV show depicts them trying to liberate S Africa from the settlers.

In Jamaica, Erin MacLeod, posted her friend Moji Anderson’s ideas for a range of alternative history tv shows based in/on Jamaica. Dr. Anderson who is a lecturer in Anthropology in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and is not on social media herself, had come up with a formidable list which provides much to reflect on, sandwiched as we are between Emancipation Day and Independence Day.

Moji’s list is a veritable treasure trove for would be film and TV series makers out there and I reproduce it in full here:

What if Marcus Garvey hadn’t left JA?
What if the Maroons hadn’t agreed to capture and kill rebels?
What if Michael Manley had managed to keep out the IMF?
What if he hadn’t allowed rich Jamaicans to leave?
What if Bedward hadn’t been sent to Bellevue?
What if MG had got his Black Star Line together and people went to Africa?
What if the Taino hadn’t been decimated?
What if Howell kept Pinaccle?
What if Haiti’s revolution spread before 1834?
What if JA didn’t allow tourism all those years ago?
What if Taki won?
What if WI Federation had happened?
What if emigration was prohibited? All the way from 1800s
What if slaves on every slave ship had committed mass suicide?
Or mass insurrection and taken over the ships?
What if Dutty Boukman had stayed home?
What if we hadn’t allowed St Domingue slave owners to flee here?
What if we’d timed a rebellion with Haiti’s and we both got indie at the same time?
What if we’d broken the French imposed embargo on new Haiti?
What if more people could have gone to secondary school in the early twentieth century?
What if Walter Rodney hadn’t been banned from JA?
What if Haile Selassie never granted Shashamane to foreigners?
What if we actually gained independence? (Ok that was snarky)
What if Bob didn’t die of cancer and stayed in JA?
What if they didn’t kill Peter Tosh?
What if post Emancipation immigration was banned?
What if the US army had come for Dudus and not the JDF?
What if Revivalism, Kumina, and Rastafari were national religions?
What if Patwa was our official language?
What if Chronixx was PM?
What if after the concert, Manley and Seaga had held a referendum and Bob was nominated as PM?

All I can add to this list is What if Whappie neva kill Phillup? And moving beyond Jamaica what if Trump’s mom never met his dad? On the local front Losing Patience is a new micro webseries produced by director and writer Teeqs and Justine Henzell, Michelle Serieux and others which seems to answer the question “What if we peep at moments in the life of an attractive, dark-skinned young Jamaican office worker?” Starring the singer Sevana, who also seems to have serious acting talent, the humorous series premiered on TVJ in July and promises to change the lacklustre pace of local TV production with buy in from savvy investors. There is a huge market waiting for snappy, smart mini-series like this from countries like Jamaica.

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Meanwhile news broke that Island Records’ Chris Blackwell is partnering with the producers of Netflix blockbuster “Narcos” and novelist Marlon James to develop a series exploring “the resounding local and global impact of iconic Jamaican music.” The show will look at “the political discord that followed in the wake of Jamaican independence from Britain in 1962 and the birth of a local music industry that reached, and changed, the world.” This promises to be exciting with characters ranging from Millie Small and Desmond Dekker to Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante. According to Marlon James it will be about the music but also politics and the last days of colony.

What if there were more savvy business people in Jamaica with the imagination and will  to exploit the rich mother lode of Jamaican culture and history?

Reggae inna India

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I’ve been enjoying the month of July off from my column, so much that I’ve even forgotten to post the last few columns from June. This is my Gleaner column from June 9. Taru and Samara have received much publicity recently with a really good Guardian article about them last week. 

With all the angst about two Japanese performers supposedly taking over the Jamaican music scene by entering local competitions and dominating them (Japanese sound system Yard Beat beating Jamaica’s Bass Odyssey in the Boom Sound Clash finals, and Japanese reggae/dancehall artiste Rankin Pumpkin, nearly winning Magnum Kings and Queens) I thought I might highlight a happier story about the export of Jamaican music and culture.

Last month Al Jazeera aired a half hour documentary called India’s Reggae Resistance: Defending Dissent Under Modi. The film featured a musician named Taru Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate and his partner, singer Samara Chopra aka Begum X. Principals in a band named the Ska Vengers, bringing classic Reggae to the masses of India is their mission.

After current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was elected the Ska Vengers produced a confrontational video called A Message to You, Modi, with lyrics that went”Stop your fooling around / Messing up our future / Time to straighten right out / You should have wound up in jail.” Like many other artists, writers and musicians they were worried about what the new regime might mean for freedom of speech. The bold song earned the band a lot of attention attracting filmmaker Vikram Singh, who made the Al Jazeera documentary.

I met Delhi Sultanate and Begum X about three years ago when they visited Jamaica. For them it was a pilgrimage, a much cherished visit to the holy land so to speak. For Taru in particular the trip was like living a dream because of the close emotional and psychic connection he feels with Jamaican music. He first encountered Reggae as a young teenager living in Germany where his mother taught Hindi. The bond was immediate and his love for the music followed him to Berkeley in California where his family moved next.

In California Taru hung out with youngsters whose parents had been members of the Black Panthers and continued to nourish his radical roots with Reggae. Fast forward to today and Delhi where he now lives. The documentary showed Taru and Samara in the process of getting a large sound system built called Bass Foundations Roots – BFR Sound System. Their plan is to tour the country with it, visiting sites of environmental and human rights protests bringing Reggae, which they see as the quintessential protest music, to protesters.

An earlier project called World Sound Power, tried to meld Indian folk resistance music with Jamaican sounds, with lyrics focusing on caste violence, state abuse of power and crony capitalism. With the BFR Sound System their intention is quite simple and revolutionary. As Taru explained in an interview on criticallegalthinking.com:

“We can make people dance. Our sound system is powerful and can create a sense of physical well-being and connectedness in listeners. At present, this is one thing that we can contribute to political spaces and gatherings. There is a time for speeches, for critical discourse for discussion, for slogans, but dancing and singing together is also very important. We will only get through these times if we find joy in each other and build strong relationships of trust and care, with each other as well as with the larger community. It’s the only way I find myself being able to not get depressed and to despair.”

Begum X who has a yoga therapy show on TV also sings over the sound. She’s a small woman with a big voice, when you hear her you look around expecting to see someone like Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan only to see a petite pixie like figure dancing Jamaican stylee in between belting out lyrics. She designs all the graphics and organizes the shows.

Both Taru and Samara sing in Patwa which the former fluently raps and DJs in, something people are surprised by. According to him if you sing in American English or perform on a theatre stage in India with a British accent it is considered normal, but “speak in English from another colony and people start raising questions at once. JA to my knowledge is the only colony that has managed to export its form of English globally.”

In the criticallegalthinking.com interview Taru elaborated on his unusual identity formation: “I consider the heritage that made Reggae to be part of my heritage, and my work aims to bring this into the Indian context. For me there are also clear links between the forces that underpin Reggae music and things that are happening in India today. The colours red, gold and green have concrete meaning here, incidentally the first national flag of India or the flag of the revolutionary Gaddar party also featured Red, Gold and Green. Red stands for the blood of the martyrs, green stands for natural abundance, and gold stands for the wealth that is inside the earth.”

So what do you say? Are Delhi Sultanate and Begum X not the most unlikely but inspiring Reggae Ambassadors ever? So what if the Japanese are invading Jamaican culture? The groundwork is being laid for access to the second-largest market in the world. Run wid it producers!

“As Jamaican as Ackee and Saltfish”: Cindy Breakspeare, Part 2

Part 2 of my 2007 article on Cindy Breakspeare written for Riddim magazine…

Beauty pageants and contests have always been of enormous importance in Jamaica, a vexed and competitive arena that was biased in favour of light-skinned or white girls who defined the ideal of beauty in Black Jamaica. With her green eyes and fair skin Cindy was the embodiment of the “hallowed sororities” of light/white beauty queens produced by the Anglophone Caribbean and thus the ideal candidate to represent Jamaica at Miss World. Unfortunately for her the Manley government in an acknowledgment of the black power movement sweeping through the Caribbean had banned beauty pageants and the Miss Jamaica contest in particular as politically incorrect.

Cindy’s obstacle-filled path to the Miss World competition is a tale in itself. Suffice it to say that after winning the coveted title Cindy spent a hectic year fulfilling her Miss World duties with gusto and returned to Jamaica a celebrity in her own right. About the contest she says that, “It ended up being my ticket and my passport to seeing the world, I always refer to it as my Dale Carnegie course. It really was a job for a year. To me there was nothing else…its not as though I was studying medicine or law or anything else like that and left it to take time out to do this pageant. For me it was an opportunity so I made up my mind to capitalize on it as much as I could.”

Nevertheless she was glad at the end of the year to be able to resume her blossoming relationship with Bob Marley which had continued during her reign; in fact the London press had made a mini-scandal of their affair billing it as a romance between Beauty and the Beast. It may be hard to imagine today but in those days it was not difficult to demonize Marley with his locks and Rasta livity. In fact Marley was similarly typecast by the middle and upper classes in Jamaica to whom Rastafari was anathema.

Bob Marley - Cindy Breakspeare - 454 x 349

Nevertheless Cindy was committed to her relationship with Bob. Now that she had experienced the dizzying heights of being judged the most beautiful woman in the world she was keen to settle down and create a life for herself. Realizing during her coronation year that she was pregnant with Bob’s child Breakspeare decided that it was time to start the family she herself had never had. Marley and she had a surprising amount in common, “We definitely were both passionate about the idea of being healthy and keeping fit”. Cindy’s vegetarianism– the only flesh she would eat was fish–had attracted a lot of attention during the contest. In those days such fussiness about diet was not as common as it is today.

The decision to return to Jamaica wasn’t difficult although Cindy turned down several international modeling opportunities to do so. “I think by then I had had my fill and I wasn’t maybe so hungry for travel, I wasn’t so hungry for the idea of stardom coz it was really intense. Within 24 hours you go from being a small island girl that no one has ever heard of anywhere to being on the front of every newspaper that you pick up in London and they’re in your personal life and of course my relationship with Bob was much talked about because it was considered very outrageous and that put me through a lot of anxiety…”

She had always loved to draw and paint and back in Jamaica Cindy was approached by Donna Coore, the wife of Third World musician Cat Coore, to start a business called Ital Craft making jewellery from shells and other natural objects. Ital Craft went on to become immensely successful; at its height the hand-made jewellery found its way into stores like Bloomingdales, onto the runways of Paris and in sixteen locations in the Caribbean.

Cindy disputes the claim that Marley had funded the start up with huge sums of money.

“It’s like Ital Craft –- that the start up money for that was some hundreds and thousands of dollars.  Rubbish! We started Ital Craft with J$2500, Donna Coore and I. That was the shell capital that we started the company with, it seemed like a lot of money at the time but certainly nowhere near what has been written I think it was in the Don Taylor book.”

About Bob’s involvement in the business Cindy said:

“Not so much that I would ask but that he would think it was a wonderful idea because he was very supportive of any creative endeavour, any initiative and he just thought it was wonderful and he would come up there late at night when he was finished with studio work and whatever and pull up a stool and say ‘I’m a tradesman you know, what you need me to do for you now?’ and in fact one of our big driftwood tables – I had dug up a tree root from out of the sand out at Hellshire Beach — he leveled it and we put a glass on it. He loved to be involved in any little thing like that. And himself and another little youth from Hope Road leveled the top of that table for us and we put the glass on it. But he just loved the creative energy because he was so steeped in the creative process himself, he loved to see it in other people and since he was in a position to encourage it he would go to London and he gave a girflfriend of mine 500 pounds and said Now go and buy anything you can make jewellery with—beads, cords, bindings anything—I didn’t ask him, he just came back and presented me with this enormous duffel bag full of things and said ‘see a few little things here to make some things?’ Well girl, it was like xmas had come two hundred times over. Wonderful. He was very inspirational that way and when he went to Australia he bought a lot of shells for us and had them shipped. And he bought us like our first drill press to make tiny holes for the jewellery because we were using a dentist’s drill up until then.

“So he was very very encouraging and very inspirational. He always wanted to buy me a fancy car and I kept saying I need a van, I really need a van to transport stuff around, get out to the beach and  take up things like these big pieces of driftwood. I always was the kind of person who went for practicality and functionability over just what we call profile nowadays—yeah, a two-seater sports car is great, it can go really fast but can it do anything else? you know that’s always been my way of looking at things. So every now and then I’d keep saying I need a van so finally one day he just drove up the hill in this big blue Ford Transit van, walked inside and said ok see the key here? I said what?! And he said well didn’t you say you need a van, well there’s the van. I had no idea and it didn’t have to be a birthday present or a xmas present if it was just something that you expressed you needed in order to make another part of your life function that much better well ok well I can get you a van. And that’s how he was.”

To be continued…

Wanted: Frank Gehry for Reggae Hall of Fame

An exhibit featuring a selection of the 2012 First International Reggae Poster Contest’s winning posters opens at the National Gallery of Jamaica on Sept 30, 2012 unveiling an ambitious agenda to build a Frank Gehry-designed building on the Kingston Waterfront to showcase Jamaica’s globally renowned music.

5 | Taj Francis | Jamaica

Taj Francis, a Jamaican designer, came fifth in the the 2012 First International Reggae Poster Contest with the poster directly above, depicting Lee Scratch Perry.

In my last post i decried the shambolic music museum that has been created in Jamaica to honour its world historical musical tradition. I also mentioned the National Gallery of Jamaica, an almost first world facility created to showcase the visual arts tradition of Jamaica. I could never understand why I rarely got a sense from the art displayed at the Gallery that there was any cross-fertilization between the powerful music scene here and the visual art scene. I also thought it strange that there was no reference to the fact that the Gallery was situated on Orange Street which in the 60s and 70s was known informally as Beat Street because it was the throbbing centre of musical activity in Jamaica. The passage quoted below will give you an idea of what I mean:

Junior Byles & Friends
129 Beat Street

Like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Beale Street in Memphis, 42nd Street in New York or Music Row in Nashville, Orange Street in Kingston, Jamaica is the prototypical ‘Music Street’. As indicated by its unofficial name, Beat Street, the area around Orange Street in central Kingston had been a centre for sound system activity since the 1950s. By the 1960s Orange Street itself was the subject of numerous songs – the great Prince Buster’s “Shaking Up Orange Street” being merely the most famous [and versioned]. Many producers rented shops in and around Orange Street, including Bunny Lee at number 101, Sir JJ Johnson at number 133, and perhaps most celebrated, Prince Buster’s legendary Record Shack at number 127. Sonia Pottinger’s pressing plant was also in Orange Street, at the bottom; just around the corner was Randy’s Studio, above the shop on North Parade. The area continued as a centre for music into the seventies and beyond, although on a much smaller scale. Prince Buster still operates his shop there, as does Augustus Pablo. Producer Trevor ‘Leggo’ Douglas was one who came to Music Street in the late seventies, opening Cash & Carry Records at 125 Orange Street, just down the street from Prince Buster; like Buster, he’s still there today, running his own studio. Right next door to the Prince was the address that gives title to this compilation; Dudley ‘Manzie’ Swaby and his then-partner in music the late Leroy ‘Bunny’ Hollett moved into premises on the music street late in 1975, having previously operated from Manzie’s family home in Love Lane nearby. From the House of Music at 129 Beat Street they issued a series of recordings – both in roots style and love songs – that have easily stood the test of time. Most of this music has never been issued outside of Jamaica; this compilation is hopefully the first of several to chronicle Manzie Swaby’s underground roots legacy.

By the end of the eighties when i first came to Jamaica you could see little sign of the former life of this historic street and today very few are aware of its rich musical connection. It’s fitting that finally the National Gallery is putting on a show which directly references the globally renowned music of the counry–Reggae. Tomorrow, an exhibition featuring some of the winning designs in the 2012 International Reggae Poster Competition–World-a-Reggae–will open at the Gallery. The brainchild of Michael Thompson, graphic designer extraordinaire who was trained at the Edna Manley College and exposed to the great graphic tradition in Cuba, the Reggae Poster contest was truly global in scope. To quote the contest website:

The 2012 First International Reggae Poster Contest (RPC) began in December 27, 2011 with the goal of discovering fresh Reggae Poster designs from around the world. Interest in the contest grew significantly over the 4-month run with a total of 1,142 submissions from 80 countries. The contest winners were chosen from 370 finalists by a distinguished panel of judges known for their creativity and commitment to design.

Thoroughly impressed with the outcome of the competition, the RPC organizers are excited to announce that the international jury committee has selected the three finalist and the 100 best posters.

The winners are:

1st Place: Alon Braier, of Israel, for his “Roots Of Dub” poster
2nd Place: Zafer Lehimler, of Turkey, for his “Reggae Star” poster
3rd Place: Rosario Nocera, of Italy, for his “Riddim is Freedom” design

Please note that the top 3 winners are all from outside the Caribbean, a sign that local designers faced stiff competition from abroad. The contest also highlights the extraordinary reach of Jamaican music and popular culture, so inadequately honoured at home. Well Michael Thompson aims to change all that (for an interview with him on Jamaican TV go here). Along with Carolyn Cooper and others he’s all set to lobby for a world-class museum facility to be built on the Kingston Waterfront designed by none other than Frank Gehry, the architect who built the Bilbao Museum and so many other world-renowned art facilities. If he can find enough investors with the vision to see how this would add value to Jamaica’s rather limited tourism product–which does little more than capitalize on the country’s sun, sand and sea–the project could get on its feet. Some may think this is an absurdly grand project but to do justice to Jamaica’s music you do have to reach for the stars. I mean can you imagine how fabulous something like the building below would look squatting on the Kingston Waterfront? It could spearhead the long overdue revival of downtown Kingston. So what’re we waiting for? Let’s do it!

A Frank Gehry-designed building

World-a-Reggae, the exhibit of the 100 best entries opens tomorrow at the National Gallery of Jamaica at 11 am. The winning designer, Alon Braier, from Israel, will be there. Carolyn Cooper will be the guest speaker and the best part: The Alpha Boys Band will be performing all afternoon till 4 pm. So come on down! See you there!

A Patient by the Name of Gregory…

Gregory Isaacs. Legendary Jamaican singer dies. a memorial.

Gregory Isaacs, from the Gleaner archives

Gregory was drifting across the stage, in an orange three-piece suit, his skinny back swayed like a sea-horse, his voice a rippling whinny.

–Colin Channer, Waiting in Vain

It’s for lines like this that I rate Colin Channer; with 25 cannily chosen words he curates a transcendental image of  the inimitable Gregory Isaacs, the much beloved Jamaican singer who surrendered to the big C in London today. Popular well beyond the shores of this small island the words Gregory and Isaacs have been trending worldwide on Twitter today. To understand what a feat this is, know that during the peak of Buju Banton’s recent troubles in New York, he trended for half a day in the New York region only. With Gregory every ten minutes 112 new tweets are pouring in from all over the world. Not all of them are in English (see sample below) showing that the Cool Ruler’s reach transcended geographic and linguistic boundaries in a virtual enactment of his song The Border. It’s hard to choose any one GI song as No. 1 but for me this one comes close.

If i could reach the border
Then I would step across
So please take me to the border
No matter what’s the cost
Cause I’m leaving here
I’m leaving out of Babylon…

This place could never be my home…
we waan we waan go home…
where the milk and honey flow
That’s where we want to go…
we waan we waan go home…
Africa we want to go…

So please take me to the border
and i will pay the cost
coz i’m leaving here…

The metaphor of Babylon has multiple meanings in Jamaica but the most potent is that of the biblical Babylon, the proverbial den of iniquity, reeking of corruption and venality…a place we know well…guarded by the world’s most brutal soldiers, themselves known as Babylon. The Jamaican Police.

When i moved to Jamaica in 1988 Gregory’s Rumours ruled the airwaves and the balmy, steamy nights just before Hurricane Gilbert. The dramatic opening chords and riddim bars hint at that heady mixture of menace and romance that typifies the Jamaican landscape. Another favourite…I still think of it as Rumours of War…which is what i thought i was hearing but it was actually Rumours a gwaan…

A pure rumours a gwaan, (rumours a gwaan)

Please mr. officer, leggo me hand
You don’t know me and you don’t understan’
You see me flashin’ a criss rental
So you claim that me a criminal

Rumours dem spreadin’…



Then who couldn’t love the perfectly fork-tongued Night Nurse, on the one hand a straightforward song of playful passion that so many couples can relate to, on the other a veiled paean to Gregory’s one time muse–the other big C–

Tell her it’s a case of emergency
There’s a patient by the name of Gregory

Night nurse
Only you alone can quench this Jah thirst
My night nurse, oh gosh
Oh the pain it’s getting worse

I don’t wanna see no doc
I need attendence from my nurse around the clock
‘Cause there’s no prescription for me
She’s the one, the only remedy

There have been 553 new tweets since i started writing this an hour ago. (PS: One is not making exaggerated claims for number of tweets as any indicator of real quality mind you, for alas, today, the day after i posted this, Gregory has been replaced by Paul the Octopus as a top trender. Apparently poor Paul was found dead in the water this morning. “Anyway Paul always had four feet in the grave…” quipped @Sidin. No doubt because his mortality had intimated itself to him !)

But back to Gregory…i present an excerpt from a conversation on Facebook between me and Olu Oguibe, a Nigerian artist and critic.


Olu Oguibe Declaring 24 hours of nothing but The Cool Ruler

Annie Paul Times like this you realize not just the breadth but the depth of Jamaican music...

Olu Oguibe Still remember and cherish my first Gregory Isaacs cassette tape: Gregory Isaacs Live at the Brixton Academy, 1984. Wasn’t till I moved to Britain 5 years later that I realized Brixton Academy isn’t a real academy, but a night club, lol!

I was once even wooed with Gregory’s words by someone who thought he was the paradigmatic expression of Jamaican male angst (‘Though she isn’t in my top ten, still she is on my chart…”). Gregory forever holds a place in my heart on that count.

Here’s a selection of tweets on Gregory from local tweeters. i challenge you to guess which singer @bigblackbarry is referring to:

bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa He isnt in the category I was referring to but your dad would prolly be the biggest trender currently god forbid if he died.

oblessa [to] @bigblackbarry yeah he would be in that catagory God forbid.

@bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa prolly the biggest i believe.

@bigblackbarry [to] @oblessa but he aint “current” so he doesnt count.

wadablood R.i.P gregory issacs real legend. What a year this has been oniel, sugar now gregory

@cucumberjuice Amen»RT @MsTrendsettas: Dear Lord, please don’t take Beres Hammond! Many thanks!

Below a few random tweets from the twitterverse at large…people expressing their appreciation of Gregory in many languages. Keep ruling Cool Ruler…

roots

@csr_0922 roots
また偉大なアーティストが逝ってしまった。R.I.P Gregory Isaacs http://bit.ly/9l6v5l

João Júnior

@joaojunior_pi João Júnior
Rra relembrar a lenda GREGORY ISAACS NO RONDA DO POVÃO – TV MEIO NORTE http://t.co/aXUq1Go via @youtube

brandy@whothefackcares brandy

I DO care about Gregory Isaacs…R.I.P

Rafa Melo

@RafaellaMelog Rafa Melo
R.I.P. Gregory Isaacs, uma lenda do reggae.

황승식

@cyberdoc73 황승식
얼마전 타계한 Gregory Isaacs을 추모하며, 그가 부른 Night Nurse란 곡( http://youtu.be/K6oYyG0KcvQ )을 듣습니다. 멋모르고 처음 쓴 논문이 교대 근무 간호사에서 수면 장애에 관한 내용인지라 달리 들립니다.

Reggae Sumfest 2010: The Finale

Reggae Sumfest 2010 is a resounding success despite being dubbed the mudfest. Usher, Chris Brown, Beenie Man, Mavado, Elephant Man, Tarrus Riley the highlights of the final night.

Usher listening as the crowd sang along to every lyric!!! Photo: @Carae_Doll

By all accounts what is now being termed Reggae Mudfest was a huge success. Let me second @corvedacosta: WOW thanks to @marciaforbes’ tweets its like I am at Sumfest. All I need is mud on my floor. And according to @SeanABennett: Usher doing ‘There goes my baby’ expecting that the grounds will be even more soaked from the liquid flowin down some ladies legs.

Usher and Wata Photo: @goddessrockstar

The relentless rain continued for a third night but didn’t succeed in dampening the spirits of those who attended Reggae Sumfest 2010. Approximately 12,000 people are reported to have been there. The highlight of International Night 2 seems to have been Usher saying Gully and Chris Brown claiming Gaza while Mavado joined them on stage for one of the adrenalin-pumping performances of the night. “2 top foreign lock into 2 top local acts” as @marciaforbes observed.

Usher and Mavado Photo: @goddessrockstar
Usher, Chris Brown n Ele--3 the Hard Way!! Photo: @marciaforbes
Usher and @chrisbrown Photo: @goddessrockstar

A moment before that it was a different combination as Usher, Brown and Elephant Man took the stage and @SugaTwitts tweeted Usher, @chrisbrown and Elephant Man gully creepinnnn on stage!!

Around 4 am @ayeshaalexis who had previously tweeted You know you really tired when you drink a redbull and you’re falling asleep standing up announced …and all the women in the audience officially belong to usher. Di man tekkkkk sumfest! Excellent performance!!!!

Usher and co. were a hard act to follow but Tarrus Riley did the needful even though according to @goddessrockstar: tarrus should be at airport 5am straight to european tour, running late, hope they hold plane…

Dappa Dacta Dancehall King Beenieman...@marciaforbes

At minutes to 6 am @marciaforbes heralded Beenie Man’s arrival: Beenie Man, King of the Dancehall, arrives on stage in black sparkling suit with blue shirt accessosized with huge cross n black Fedora. A moment later another soundbyte: ‘Dem Lock me up fe tump LA Lewis but ah stayin alive, stayin alive’ Beenie aah trow wud!!

Crowd of 12000 Photo: @francoisonfame

Not all had the stamina to endure to the end. @endzoftheearth proclaimed her exhaustion to the world before retiring prematurely: Beenie man u know is u alone mi love but it late and mi muddy and tiyad and…

Well that’s a wrap: Mud or no mud I’m booking a hotel for Reggae Sumfest next year.

PS: The plagiarism problem i had reported earlier has been happily resolved. The website in question has attributed this blog as the source as they should have done in the first place. All’s well that ends well.

True or False? Verifying internet reportage

Report on my appearance on BBC World Have Your Say, the Shirley Sherrod case

Yesterday was a busy day and there was more than one reason i was glad  i had the good sense to turn back from Reggae Sumfest and return to Kingston the day before. The following tweet should give you some idea of the first good reason:
endzoftheearth Organisers need to do something abt the mud! Stones, grAvel, cardbord boxes, plywood – something #sumfestismudfest.
Being rained on all night long in a mud lake i can do without.

The other good reason was that i got a good night’s sleep and was able to compile the first report on Reggae Sumfest Dancehall Night by anyone anywhere by 9 am on Friday morning. And the reward for that came in the number of hits i got on this new blog platform I’ve been trying so hard to get people to visit.

Shirley Sherrod

The third good reason was that i was able to accept the BBC World Have Your Say programme’s invitation to participate in their globally aired discussion on internet rights and wrongs emanating from the firing and subsequent re-hiring of American civil servant Shirley Sherrod. Sherrod had allegedly made ‘racist’ remarks in a two minute video clip that later turned out to have been edited in a way that removed the context of her 43 minute speech. Whose responsibility is it to verify the reliability of material such as this? On whom should the burden of proof fall and thereby the penalty for purveying such misinformation? Is information transmitted via social media such as YouTube or Twitter making us ‘jump the gun’ as Obama said when the White House was forced to apologize to Sherrod and offer her another job?

As Obama put it “we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles.” The word for this is ‘blogswarm’.

So does the internet make us too quick to judge? Or is there wisdom in the blogswarm? asked BBC WHYS and the discussion that followed was a rich one that i was glad to be a part of. Also participating were former journalist Nigel Morgan of Morgan PR from Redding,UK, UK Guardian columnist, American Mike Tomasky, who is also  editor of Democracy journal. Other participants included Andrew Keene, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How the Democratization of the Digital World is Assaulting Our Economy, Our Culture, and Our Values, blogger Lola Adesioye from the US and Owais Ehsan, student of mass media and a blogger at Pro-Pakistan, in Islamabad.

The discussion was a lively one and was further enlivened by a caller from Jamaica, Omar, who made the point that it’s not only national media or internet bloggers that are guilty of posting misinformation but also international corporations; in Jamaica’s  2007 general elections, he claimed the BBC attributed something on their website to then Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller without verifying the accuracy of their source.

It’s true that the rapidly proliferating use of social media frequently lends itself to distortions and misrepresentations. For instance in my blogpost on Reggae Sumfest yesterday in which i was relying on tweets from the location for information i think i misinterpreted a tweet about Bounty’s ‘state of urgency utterance, and presented it in a particular way because of that. I thought he was castigating the government for the prolonged State of Emergency and recommending that they have a state of urgency instead about other crucial unmet needs when it turns out that he supported the SOE and was urging the government to go further by declaring a ‘state of urgency’ “towards correcting the ills that had been meted out to the people of Jamaica by successive governments” to quote Gleaner writer Janet Silvera in her article Bounty preaches change.

Rodney ‘Bounty Killer’ Pryce displays his award at the Sumfest show at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay on Thursday, which was designated Dancehall Night. The organisers of the event gave Pryce the award for his contribution to Reggae Sumfest. – Photo by adrian frater

The point i want to make is that while social media may sometimes tend to be less than reliable, it also allows faulty information to be corrected before serious damage is done provided the source is above board,  has no ulterior motive and is willing to make the necessary changes. This surely would be the case with most bloggers, tweeters and others whose popularity depends on the quality of what they put out.

For the others, that is those who deliberately put out misinformation for propaganda purposes, and have no intention of retrieving the situation–in this case, Andrew Breitbart— a blacklist or some other form of aggressive disincentive should be developed.

Click on the following link if you want to hear the whole discussion. Does the internet mean we’re too quick to judge?