Wed | Nov 21, 2018

Jamaica Music Conference targets dancehall community

Published:Friday | November 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer

While conferences usually take place in a formal setting, the organisers of the Jamaica Music Conference have decided that this year's event will be "more of a treat" to the participants.

"It is public information that the nature of the local entertainment industry is informal," says Joan Webley, one of the coordinators of this year's event. That characteristic, she explains, has been one of the defining elements in planning and executing the conference over the past five years. "It is not exactly new, but it [we] is an enhanced feature, and may be the first conference to do this. We wanted to make sure the activities were set in motion by doing the launch on the beach," Webley said.

International media house Irie Jam (based in New York) is on board to host the first day of the conference - Thursday, November 15 - at Boardwalk Beach in Hellshire, Portmore. The day will begin with a yoga session under the guidance of Kamp Kamilah and the celebrity football match with artistes such as I-Octane and Lila Ike before moving into the panel discussions and open-mic sessions that will be moderated by recording artiste and TVJ's Intense host Sanjay Ramanand.

According to Webley, "A health-related activity has been included as part of the programme for at least three of the days, and by introducing this concept, it is in recognition of physical and emotional health, often overlooked by many within our entertainment community."

The activities from the open-mic sessions, called Shellinz and JMC Hit me With Music Clean Clash at House of Dancehall are an attempt to attract a young audience to the event. They are also targeting females in the industry, and in particular, the dancehall community. Webley revealed that the conference has not seen much active participation from persons within the dancehall fraternity. She is hoping that the addition of new activities will attract more local entertainers to join the movement.

"The two groups that we aren't seeing attend are women and local artistes. Ironically, the conference has received support from artistes overseas flying in to attend," she said. She added that not many local dancehall entertainers are taking up the opportunity despite a discounted rate for registration fees and ticket costs.

Speaking to the recurring subject of the struggles women face in the industry or their roles on the dancehall scene, she said, "The women in music often need to make more of an effort to discuss the issues in these places (conferences and panel discussions)."

The theme of the four-day conference is 'Constructive Conversations: Dialogue, Decisions and Development', a topic she says will address getting paid and getting discovered, which are especially important for new and upcoming entertainers.

"More important, even as we are expecting persons to come with general questions, persons [should] come prepared to discuss solutions," she said.

The weekend programme of activities features a few of dancehall's personalities, including Michelle 'D'Angel' Downer and popular dancer Wayne 'Colo Colo' Stewart, who will host the youth summit on Friday at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and a dance workshop at the University of the West Indies on Saturday.