by Arley Gill
I grew up listening to dancehall artistes such as Bounty Killer and Beenie Man. As a youngster, I flaunted my moves and truly appreciated the sounds and vibes coming out of Jamaica.
When the 2 superstars clashed recently — it was pure nostalgia and the dancehall battle was one for the ages! Regardless of whose side of the battle you were on — in the end — reggae music won!
The songs these 2 iconic artistes belted out a few weeks ago — the hits, the lyrics, the variety of sounds and the pure enjoyment and humour — made it truly a night that I will always remember.
However, as a lover of calypso and soca music, I am wondering — how can we bring soca artistes and audiences together in the age of limited travel, social distancing and the rise of virtual entertainment?
Days after the dancehall battle, I listened to several Jamaican commentators and the issues that were being discussed focused on Jamaica’s commitment to the growth of reggae music, and a recognition that much more still needs to be done to capitalise on the economic potential of the genre.
This sentiment was reflected in a statement by Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Jamaica’s Entertainment and Culture Minister, when she committed to redoubling her efforts to promote reggae music.
This is an important lesson for us, in the Eastern Caribbean, where we are known for soca music but we continue to struggle to establish soca as a global brand.
The onset of Covid-19 presents many opportunities; let us seize those opportunities. Let’s bring soca music to new audiences. Now is the time to be bold; to bring our best soca music and brightest soca artistes to soca lovers and soon-to-be-soca lovers — wherever they are in the world.
However, I believe that to effectively globalise soca music, we must come together and strategise on ways to overcome logistical challenges and make soca music adaptable to this new “normal”. Of course, it will not be the same but it will definitely spark interests among old and new soca lovers.
This proposition to find new avenues to promote soca music is not being made lightly. I am well aware that the cancellation of carnivals, including Spicemas in Grenada, means that millions of dollars will not flow into government treasuries this year.
For Grenada and many other Caribbean nations, carnival is our most financially successful tourism product. Carnival brings thousands of visitors to our shores — and once on island — visitors rent vehicles and hotel rooms; they support local food vendors and other entrepreneurs. I can only imagine the distress that individuals, whose livelihood depends on carnival activities, might be experiencing right now.
Governments should figure out ways to support individuals and businesses that rely on the carnival industry, if we are serious about making carnival a sustainable tourism product.
And, it is heartening to learn that the Eastern Caribbean Copyright Association (ECCO) will be making a payment to its members. This, no doubt, will ease some of the financial strain on artistes. But, what about artistes who are not ECCO members?
We must recognise that the music industry is artiste-driven — financial returns depend on the output of an individual artiste and this is true for the entire music industry.
However, in my musings, I cannot help but imagine that after Covid-19, soca artistes may need to re-evaluate their relationship with — and approach to — the music industry. For example, those who are not current members of a copyright society may need to consider joining one; and, artistes without financial investments may want to consider leveraging their music and brand to earn additional revenue without going on stage.
In addition, the government should play its part and continue creating a supportive environment that would allow our creative industry to flourish. This may include developing the legislative framework to protect and promote the work of artistes; enabling the development of additional platforms for paid performances; and, encouraging the National Insurance Scheme or a similar body to develop a benefits-type programme that artistes (and may I say national athletes too) can pay into — if no such programme currently exists. Such a benefit programme will provide economic security to artistes (and athletes) over the long haul.
Moving forward, culture lovers must seize this opportunity to explore and innovate, finding ways to bring soca music to the wider global stage. As the Black Stalin sings, this is the time to “look on the brighter side”.
NOW Grenada is not responsible for the opinions, statements or media content presented by contributors. In case of abuse, click here to report.