Features

The Year 2011 in Jamaican Arts& Entertainment – Jamaica Year in Review 2011

Written by Cordella Lewis

Books and Authors
Jamaica’s literary scene was vibrant throughout 2011, and authors are looking forward to 2012. Notably, there was a preview of the 2012 Kingston Book Festival held in March 2011 at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston. Sponsored by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica, authors liek Diana McCaulay and Edward Seaga participated along with poets and illustrators, who took the opportunity to display their literary achievements and interests. 

Author Jean Lowrie-Chin discussed her early life in Westmoreland and her real-life experiences growing up in Jamaica in her book of poems and prose called “Souldance.” She wrote about her mother’s religious devotion and her dedication in ensuring her children received a good education. Her writing resonates with readers who identify with the familiar issues of Jamaican society presented by Lowrie-Chin. 

A new book, “In Praise of Jamaica,” presents a view of Jamaica’s ancestry and celebrates the achievements of individuals of Jamaican heritage during the 50 years since Independence. Written by George Meikle, the book features a mix of stories and photographss. It is targeted at the Jamaican Diaspora community as well as tourists who visit Jamaica. udge Patrick Robinson, president of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, wrote the book’s introduction.

Film and Theater
The Jamaican film industry move forward with strong support from a variety of agencies, and Jamaican filmmakers gained ground on the international scene. Paul Campbell, world-renown actor and artist introduced a new film “Out the Gate,” in 2011. It features the talents of Oliver Samuels, the “king of Jamaican comedy.” 

Jamaican animators garnered considerable attention with their participation at the international Animae Caribe Film Festival held at JAMPRO. This event offered a forum for local producers to share with and learn from international professionals. 

Music videos also had a place in Jamaica’s industry in 2011. Protoje, a musician who is gaining popularity in the local music scene, made a music video for his new single “No Lipstick,” which was filmed on location at Great Huts Resort in Portland by his sister LeAnn “Dream Seeker” Ollivierre. 

In another theatrical development, the popular Russian play “The Inspector General” has been adapted for Jamaican audiences by William F. Lampert, lecturer at the Edna Manley College School of Drama (SODr). The original play tells the story of a small town that is to be inspected by a government official. The Jamaican adaptation follows an official in Montego Bay who realizes that his administration will be reviewed by a higher authority. 

The story of Jamaican Maroons will be told in a  new film by Roy T. Anderson. The film, called “Akwantu,” was funded by Anderson who also provides the narration and direction. The film discusses Maroon, African, and Jamaican history. Vivian Crawford, executive director of the Institute of Jamaica, praised the film and its celebration of Jamaican ancestry. Colonel Frank Lunsden, speaking on behalf of the Maroon community, said there was “genuine passion” in Anderson’s work.

Music Business
The music business in Jamaica remains a strong influence worldwide. One of the most important Jamaican music producers, Sanjay “Freeze” Pennant, of Mandeville was showcased globally in 2011. He was was inspired by locals Don Corleon Christopher and Pharrell. 

Jamaicanmusic.com, a Jamaican music website, expanded into digital distribution by leveraging the site’s popularity to increase sales of Jamaican music. It has partnered with Dubshot, which currently provide digital distribution for several different record labels. 

In music publishing, Caribbean 2 World (C2W) is a startup firm that plans to raise $140 million  by offering one-quarter of the company to the public in an IPO on the Junior Stock Exchange. 

Brother and sister Adrian and Amada Lopez are working to create their own niche in the expanding music video industry on the island with the founding of their Liquid Light production company. They are focusing on computer-generated imagery (CGI) and are moving into episodic television and continue to push the creative envelope to make their work stand out.

Music Events
The year 2011 saw many well-attended and significant music events that garnered popular and critical support, including Sumfest 2011, which featured a Dancehall night in Montego Baywith I-Octaine delivering an especially noted performance. Jamaica Jam Fest was held in Rufus King Park in Kingston in August. This family-friendly event honored 15 years of outdoor entertainment and attracted over 150,000 attendees to its showcase of 450 multicultural vendors, children’s rides, auto exhibit, and farmers’ market. 

In addition, Jamaica Music 50 was launched during Sumfest in 2011. This review of the evolution of Jamaican music during the years since the country’s independence from Britain in 1962 includes Bunny Wailer, Junior Lincoln, and Wayne Chen among those involved with an in-depth study of reggae music in the review. Sumfest’s International Night was a success, despite the fact that R. Kelly, who had been the scheduled headliner, had to have emergency throat surgery and could not perform. Filling in for him were Coco Tea and Beres Hammond. 

What was characterized as the “ultimate” album for 2011 became available in August, as Tad’s Records, a prominent recording and music publishing company based in Jamaica introduced a “major experience in Dancehall.” The album provides 25 of the top Dancehall tunes of the year and was made available over the Internet as well as in stores. The album features Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Buju Banton, I-Octane, Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, and Lady Saw. 

The Smirnoff Nightlight Exchange Project (SNEP) searched for the best nightlife from around the globe as approximately 50 nations participated in the event at Hope Gardens in Kingston in November. Hope Gardens was established in the 1870s and 1880s by Major Richard Hope was the location for this cultural fusion event, which was designed to mix the features of “London rave” with “Kingston swag.”

Music Crime/Investigations 
Segments of Jamaica’s music industry and some artistes were the focus of criminal charges and/or investigations during 2011. In September, Cashflow Records denied its involvement in a scam that allegedly sold the promise of interactions with famous musicians for a price. The company said someone posing as representing Cashflow was responsible for this activity; only DJ Neil or Father P of Cashflow can conduct business on behalf of the company, said Buju Wayne, Cashflow’s publicist. Anyone else is conducting a scam, he said. 

Buju Banton, a popular reggae musician convicted on drug-related charges, continued to fight this conviction, filing an appeal in the United States. He was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm to further a drug-trafficking offense, and use of a telephone to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense. While the gun charge was dropped, Banton faces 10 years in prison for the other charges. His defense claims the U.S. government sought to entrap him and that he did not conspire to commit these offenses. 

Denroy Morgan, reggae singer, was arrested in September 2011 for marijuana possession in the Bronx, New York. He was found to be in possession of 25 pounds of the drug when he was stopped by police for a traffic violation. Morgan ultimately led police to a house in the Bronx where they found an additional 310 pounds of marijuana. Morgan, 66, is the creator of the group Morgan Heritage. 

Dancehall artiste Elephant Man was sued by a Jamaican fashion designer for JA$1 million for nonpayment of bills for clothing. This is not the first time the musician has faced financial difficulties. In 2010, his automobile was seized by tax officials for failure to pay taxes. He was also charged with theft of electricity from the Jamaica Public Service agency. 

Godfry Fogah, 38, a Jamaican music promoter who has organized concerts for major stars, was identified as an illegal immigrant living under the false identity of Errol Stone in the United Kingdom. Fogah, who entered the country illegally in 2997, had directed events with stars such as 50 Cent, Ice Cube, and The Game. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison but will not face automatic deportation because his sentence was less than 12 months. 

In September 2011, Joel Chin, a top producer of reggae music, was shot and killed near his home in Kingston. Police reported that the attacked occurred as Chin got out of his car in the driveway of his home late at night. No motive was given for the crime. Chin, 35, was the grandson of Vincent “Randy” Chin, a pioneer reggae producer and founder of VP Records in New York. 

In November, Winston Riley, veteran producer and creator of Stalag Riddim, was shot in the head and arm in Kingston. Riley, 65, has been the victim of several violent attacks in 2011, being shot in August and stabbed in September. Riley began his career as a singer in 1962, forming the vocal group The Techniques. 

Vybz Kartel
The major crime story involving a music star in 2011 is that of popular deejay and dancehall entertainer Vybz Kartel. He garnered a large number of headlines during the year, beginning with considerable criticism of his lyrics from a variety of sources. Authorities in Guyana banned his songs due to their “obscene lyrics” and said he brought “nothing positive” to the entertainment industry. This was the first time Guyana had taken such an action against a particular artist. He especially angered Guyana by not showing up at a government-sponsored concert in August 2011.   

Kartel also faced questions about his line of skin bleaching products for men, which he introduced in October.Topping everything, however, are the charges relating to several murder cases. 

Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, was arrested by police in Jamaica on suspicion of murder in October 2011 in connection with the death of Barrington Burton, 27, a promoter shot and killed in the street earlier in the year. While Kartel is acknowledged as commercially popular, his success has been linked to Kingston’s underworld, and his feud with fellow artiste Mavado caused an escalation of violence in Jamaica’s inner cities. Following the initial charge, an additional murder charge was imposed on Kartel, linking him to the killing of a Jamaican man known as “Lizard” in August 2011. 

In November, prosecutors said they had video evidence and taped telephone conversations that incriminate Kartel in connection with the original murder charge.  Also in November, Kartel was investigated for five additional murders as detectives continued to find evidence implicating the Dancehall star in other cases in the Corporate Area and St. Catherine. 

Adding to Kartel’s notoriety, it was reported in early December that Kartel had broken out of prison after pulling a gun on a law enforcement officer and starting a riot when he and other prisoners took control of the prison facility. A Jamaican news organization found that this was only a rumor originating on a blog. 

Later in December 2011, Kartel was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and attempting to pervert the course of justice in connection with false testimony given by Vanessa Saddler, also known as Gaza Slim. Also in December, Kartel was ordered to pay $15 million in damages to Alton Salmon, a Jamaican promoter in an unrelated case for failing to perform at a concert in Turks and Caicos in August 2009.

Musicians’ Opinions 
Jamaican musicians were not shy about voicing their opinions about topics ranging from the state of the local music and media industry to their political views. 

In a pioneering effort, Jamaican-born reggae singer Mista Mahaj P made an album in support of gay rights, breaking a taboo among reggae artistes. He says he made the album to address homophobia and the hypocritical attitude about the subject in his homeland and around the world. 

Controversial Vybz Kartel, Jamaican Dancehall artiste and deejay, answered critics who said his lyric damage Jamaica’s image. Kartel, 35, was originally a ghostwriter for Bounty Killer. He says the way he delivers his lyrics compensates for their “rawness.” He has dominated Jamaican radio with songs about X-rated activities and ghetto politics. His fued with Mavado, another Dancehall deejay, was discussed in a meeting in the Office of the Prime Minister as well. 

L.A. Lewis, Jamaican entertainer, feels strongly enough about politics to run for the position of Member of Parliament for West Kingston, but he said he has been offered money to withdraw his name from the race. An anonymous person put J$100,000 on Lewis’s doorstep to encourage him not to run and not to mock the election. Lewis remained firm in his intention to run for office, however. 

Duane Stephenson, world-renown reggae artiste, has enhanced his reputation for philanthropy by continuing to use his music to spread awareness about world hunger and support of the United Nations World Food Program. He has been focusing on conditions in the Horn of Africa where a long-term drought has caused major famine conditions. 

Some musicians leveled criticism at the local music industry in 2011. According to Clifford “I-Wayne” Taylor, reggae star, the music industry in the country is lacking in purity and substance. He believes that the scene is not authentic and is overly focused on “nastiness” and “filth.” Taylor voiced his concern about the example such music sets for younger generations. 

Ziggy Marley, reggae superstar and son of Bob Marley, said the music industry suffers from a lack of spirituality. Musicians are focused on making beats and rhythms, but they are not paying enough attention to the spirit of the music, which is what makes reggae popular throughout the world. Marley also noted the differences between his approach and that of his father Bob Marley. Marley could not eliminate “yes men” from his life, which had an impact on his career choices, according to Ziggy, and his womanizing made life difficult for his mother. 

Andrew Tosh, son of 1960s reggae icon Peter Tosh, has decided to promote his father’s political recordings, which have been reissued by Columbia/Legacy complete with outtakes, alternate versions, and unreleased material. Tosh, who was one of the “founders” of reggae music along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, was given less attention than Marley when he went out on his own, but he continued to play and record his political brand of music. 

Controversy also attended the exhibition of the fine arts when Archbishop Emeritus Donald Reece criticized an Observer newspaper photo showing a “blasphemous scupture” of Jesus in its Easter Sunday edition. Laura Facey, the artist who created the sculpture of Jesus naked, defended her work and said she was glad it had sparked discussion.

About the author

Cordella Lewis