Sun | Mar 24, 2019

JaRIA seeks clarity on Reggae Month

Published:Saturday | February 9, 2019 | 1:15 AM
Ibo Cooper

The absence of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) and the Ministry of Culture and Entertainment has left the organisation unclear about its role during Reggae Month.

JaRIA’s signature Reggae Month events are Reggae Open University, Reggae Wednesdays, and its annual Honour Awards, but the body has acted as the primary organisation responsible for orchestrating the activities surrounding Reggae Month since 2010. They say that the active involvement of the ministry since 2017 has created a shift.

“Outside of JaRIA-owned events, we still do not have a formal understanding of our role in helping to plan, organise and execute Reggae Month activities. This is something we have requested, last time being prior to Reggae Month 2018 with a sit-down meeting with the JaRIA board and Minister of Culture Olivia Grange. To this date, we still don’t have that MoU or formal understanding of JaRIA’s role,” chairman of JaRIA’s Reggae Month Committee, Abishai Hoilett, said during a press briefing at JAMPRO in Kingston recently.

No ‘ministry versus JaRIA‘

However, Grange told The Gleaner that while she has absolutely no problem signing a MOU with JaRIA, as long as they are compliant, the matter was never brought to her attention.

“JaRIA has representation on the Entertainment Advisory Board which has a mandate to bring these things to my attention however, this was never communicated to me and we speak every day. The fact is that we are streamlining, but JaRIA will be doing what they normally do. For example, I consulted with the chairman on the Reggae Month calendar and we have provided them with the funding for their events. Money came directly from Chase to host the symposiums; the ministry gave funds for Reggae Wednesdays and $2 million will be provided for the Trench Town event,” Grange explained.

She also made it clear that this is not a case of the ministry versus JaRIA because those days of the government and musicians at war are long gone.

Hoilett outlined concerns by JaRIA members and the public about the level of responsibility that should be pinned to the institution for downfalls that occur during the month’s festivities. He pointed to the staging of the Dennis Brown Tribute concert held at the Kingston waterfront last year.

“The concert suffered from a fall in production value, as well as a relatively low turnout from patrons,” he said. “For us as JaRIA, being the main organisation associated with Reggae Month planning, it affects us in many ways as the public sees these downfalls as related directly to us and not necessarily the new planning committee in place, so we feel pushed to speak on it in the forum today.”

Happy for support

Hoilett made it clear that the body is happy for the Government’s involvement over the past two years, noting, “It marked a major change in the way Reggae Month has traditionally been organised and executed. Not only was there increased participation at the highest levels of government, but we could also sense a symbolic acceptance of Reggae Month now being established as a calendar event in much the same way as Jamaica Carnival or Jamaica Independence activities.”

JaRIA’s interim chairman, Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper, echoed similar sentiments, assuring the institution’s full cooperation with the administration in the best interest of Reggae Month.

“We’re hoping that going forward, in the spirit of unity, we can get clarity on the MoU because we still have time, and we are still committed to making the best of reggae and Reggae Month,” he said. “We do not want to disrupt the people’s activities ... we are going to participate. However, we are hoping that in the spirit of our national patriotism, we will spark a meeting, because we need it.”

In the meantime, JaRIA will be placing more attention on its other duties.

“JaRIA has other activities that we need to give focus in the other months of the year,” Cooper stated. “We are still an advocacy group and there are issues involving employment, for example on the north coast, which we try to help. Our programmes to preserve our legacy are still in place. We are still worried that students of The University of West Indies are asked about Dennis Brown and don’t know who he is. We still have a job to make sure that our legacy and heritage are preserved.”