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Jamaican music and it's effect on the Jamaican economy Finale

05/12/10

Permalink 10:31:13 am, by amilnal
Categories: Entertainment, Culture, Commentary

Jamaican music and it's effect on the Jamaican economy Finale

Since the eighties, dancehall music has retained its popularity in Jamaica, which has now allowed creative elements involved with the music to make more money than ever before. Djs, studio engineers, mastering specialists and producers are all now reaping the benefits of Dancehall’s recent economic value. But also through that time even more economical opportunities have been created through dancehall like with the creation of the “dancer”. Musicphill, a selector and writer for BACKAYARD magazine, in an interview with me, explained “If a man have a hot song out deh. Him a go need dancers fi carry ‘im off. Fi gi di ting a vibe. Dem dancer a get money fi be inna video or be on di stage when the artiste a perform.” Dancers themselves have now become entities that earn and contribute to the economy. They now go on tours by themselves, promoting the newest dance craze or making paid appearances at various locations. Actual dancing within the dancehall space has now taken on such importance that now according to Sonjah Stanley-Niaah in her book Kingston’s dancehall: a story of space and celebration, “if one is crowned a dancer—in an event such as the dancehall queen competition or through continued exposure at dance events—one becomes like a god. And, indeed, if you cannot dance, you are a lesser being.”

Another fairly recent phenomenon is cable television stations such as HYPE T.V and RE T.V, which are run solely on advertising dollars; dedicated to reflect images of the dancehall to viewers, whether they are based locally or overseas. These stations create employment and also inadvertently created a void which was quickly filled by production of local music videos. Those video directors import or rent cameras and lighting equipment specifically for the shoot, plus hire staff for editing and post –production purposes. They also rent locations and hire hair and makeup artiste, stylists, food merchants and transportation. Musicphill also mentioned the emergence of the mix CD industry. “If a man want a music him a go buy it and provide employment fah dem (the CD merchants). I remember back inna Cassette Jones days, he provided employment. When him a go mek a cassette or a CD him a check di printer. Him have somebody weh design the cassette, people waan buy supp’im weh mark Cassette Jones pon it. Dem nah guh buy di cassette if it just mark S90 pon it. So him a pay the designer and di printer.”

Reggae and Dancehall acts, such as Richie Stephens and Capleton, have been recently using their money or their influence to give back to local communities. They sometimes promote an event themselves with a vision of using part proceeds to help schools, health or activity centres. Artistes themselves create employment by hiring often times people from their communities to work with them. These jobs range from important ones such as tour manager, cook or chef, security to more obscure ones such as cell phone holder and head spliff builder. These artistes also sometimes carry on overseas tours with them young youths on a form of apprenticeship which teaches them about the music business first hand. Many a dancehall/reggae act have been themselves “apprentices” who were taught the trade by older acts. Some artistes like Shaggy for instance use their earnings to create their own record labels. This will have to be run like any formal business complete with accountants and lawyers to handle the legalities.

Artistes also influence the economy by initiating consumer trends. The dancehall space itself responds to the prompting of its artistes, especially when it comes on to fashion. Local acts have been known to endorse certain types of clothing which in turn causes said clothing to become quickly unavailable. Local artistes will also wear the clothes of local tailors, fashion designers and dressmakers. When a local designer secures a sale to an artiste, they are guaranteed not only that sale but hundreds of possible new costumers as a result of the exposure gotten by the clothes worn.

The various sound systems around the island also contribute to the economy of the nation. John Constantinides as writes in, The sound system: contributions to Jamaican music and the Montréal dancehall scene: “With respect to the human element of a sound system, several roles can be isolated which are necessary for a proper performance. These are: sound man (or box man), selector, mixer (or disc-jock), and deejay. Some sound systems also include dancers as part of their performance, but the core roles are the four listed above. The sound man (or box man) role involves the setting up and maintenance of the physical sound system. The selector (or selecta) chooses the records to be played. The mixer (or disc-jock) simply refers to the role of stringing or mixing together various records in sequence.”

This is an example of only four of the main employees of the sound system. The sound system also needs to be transported so it either hires or own trucks to carry its equipment. Some of the major sound systems across the island such as Stone Love, Rebel T and Renaissance, have also built up local conglomerates that employ their own secretaries, booking agents and public relations officers.

Follow up:

Major local corporations have recently made the dancehall culture central in their advertising campaigns. Cable & Wireless, Digicel, Red Stripe are only a few of the companies who either endorse or sponsor dancehall/reggae acts and/or events. This directly places money in the artistes and promoters pockets which increases their wealth and definitely helps to keep new money invested in the Jamaican music industry and the dancehall.

Jamaica’s music industry has important externalities and indirect effects for the rest of the economy, such as the preservation and promotion of national culture, support of local talent, the stimulation of the creativity of the Jamaican population (especially the youth), poverty reduction, job creation, the provision of an increased tax base and consequently improved welfare of the local population.

The culture and music industry within it also has tremendous importance socially on the country. Dancehall on a whole, without the influence or organized funding from the government, creates and nurtures talent that otherwise would forced to earn a living through other, probably more sinister, means. Musicphill explains “I started from wiring box then mi start string up set and after dat I become a selector. If it wasn’t fah dancehall I don’t know where I would be. Jamaica woulda be very dark without it, yuh nuh. It a di key element. There would definitely be more crime cau man just wouldn’t know wah fi do wid dem self.” Numerous dancehall and reggae artiste have said on record that without the music, they would have resorted to doing other dangerous things.

In this quote, Beenie Man raises key issues surrounding what it is to be a young man in the ghetto: “You reach 15, so then you have to start to prepare for your life as a youth in the ghetto. You have a woman, you are 16, your woman is pregnant, you don‘t know how you are going to deal with it. You don‘t have a job, you don‘t make money. So, you eventually go on the wrong side at times. But that‘s where community comes in because the people come together and try to straighten up your life. You know? They try to keep you in the trend they know you are in as a musician. They just call you that. You know? Just to remind you.”

Dancehall has been ingrained in the consciousness of the poor and disenfranchised as their voice and their way out of the ghetto. “‘This reggae business’ is also a magical enterprise, in which poor ghetto youths, identifying with the heroes of Hollywood fantasy, can rise to international fame and fortune,” excerpt from Sound clash: Jamaican dancehall at large by Jamaican author and University of the West Indies professor Carolyn Cooper.

So many of the people in the industry are from poor communities, the impact of their economic gains is often directly felt at the community level by way of consumption spending on large families and retinues and investment spending on housing and vehicles. Its forward linkages are to tourism, to advertising, and to the film industry. Income generated in the industry finds its way into the real estate and housing markets, into distribution of food and other consumption goods, into air and ground transport, and back into the industry itself.

Dancehall, the music, events and culture, has become far too important to the economy of this nation to still be disrespected by the uninformed. This creative phenomenon has definitely helped to put this country and its citizens in a far better position than they would be if dancehall didn’t exist.

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Reasons why I love my Jamaican Mom

1. My Mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.
"Just wait till we get home."

2. My Mother taught me about RECEIVING.
"You going get a ass'n when we get home!"

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"Is not one time monkey goin' wan' wife"

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"If yu don' eat food, breeze goin' blow yu 'way."

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"Come an' tek yu beatin' like man."

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"Yu tink say yu drop from sky?"

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"Yu tink mi come from "Back A Wall?"

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"When yu get to be as ol' as me, yu wi understan'."

15. And my all time favorite... JUSTICE.
"One day wen yu have pickney, a hope dem treat yu same way."

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