A peace con­cert is a sug­ges­tion, not a solution

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Mel Cooke Gleaner Writer melville.cooke@glean­erjm.com

AFEW days ahead of the En­ter­tain­ers Against Crime and Violence con­cert in Mon­tego Bay on De­cem­ber 4 and the 40th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the Smile Ja­maica Con­cert – both of them free events – I am re­minded of a mis­con­cep­tion about ef­forts at us­ing mu­sic to com­bat may­hem.

Twenty years ago, I took my first and only of­fi­cial tour of the Bob Mar­ley Mu­seum at 56 Hope Road, St Andrew (al­though, nat­u­rally, I have been back to the premises the nu­mer­ous times for en­ter­tain­ment-re­lated mat­ters). It started in the court­yard with the guide ex­plain­ing paint­ings on the wall, her back to Hope Road and us tourists fac­ing her.

One of the paint­ings was from the One Love Peace Con­cert of 1978, when Bob Mar­ley united then Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley and Op­po­si­tion Leader Ed­ward Seaga’s hands above his head. Twang­ing to ap­prox­i­mate a stereo­typ­i­cal Amer­i­can ac­cent, the tour guide said that af­ter that mo­ment, “hall political war in Ja­maica cease!”

I looked out the gate­way to where a blue and white ‘quar­ter mil­lion’ bus (re­mem­ber those? I think they were an Isuzu make, which came in dur­ing the 1980s and got the nick­name be­cause they were re­puted to cost a whop­ping $250,000 each) had pulled up and, re­mem­ber­ing the 1980 elec­tion, said loudly, firmly and clearly one word. “Lie!” The young lady gave me a sharp look as I con­tin­ued gaz­ing at the road and the bus non­cha­lantly. We did the tour, in­clud­ing tak­ing the stairs in three steps, then when we re­turned to the ground level and the of­fi­cial visit was wrapped up, the guide came to me. “Yu a Ja­maican, no true?” she said qui­etly, the faux English and ac­cent gone. I said “yeah man”. We smiled in mutual un­der­stand­ing, and that was that.

EN­DUR­ING LESSONS

How­ever, al­though that guide was selling what she thought was a be­liev­able em­bel­lish­ment of the Mar­ley myth to a bunch of gullible tourists, there are en­dur­ing lessons for our util­i­sa­tion of mu­sic in at­tempt­ing to fos­ter so­cial co­he­sion. The One Love Peace Con­cert, did not lessen the political violence in Ja­maica, nei­ther did the Smile Ja­maica con­cert two years ear­lier (just ahead of which Bob and Rita Mar­ley, Don Tay­lor and Grif­fiths were shot at 56 Hope Road). I am not old enough to re­mem­ber if there was a lull in the post-con­cert eu­pho­ria of those 1970s events, but if there was, the body count cer­tainly makes it clear that was tem­po­rary, as the Peo­ple’s National Party (PNP) and Ja­maica Labour Party (JLP) kept trad­ing bul­lets, blades and Molo­tovs. There may be a lull in the violence in Mon­tego Bay in par­tic­u­lar, St James as a whole and the west­ern Ja­maica

gen­er­ally af­ter En­ter­tain­ers Against Crime and Violence, but if there is, it is a guar­an­tee that it will not last. Chances are, sec­tions of the me­dia will note the breach­ing of the hope for peace, much as acts of violence against chil­dren are espe­cially strik­ing dur­ing Child’s Month each May. How­ever, the in­evitable mur­ders will not in­di­cate the event’s fail­ure, just as “hall political war” did not cease in Ja­maica af­ter the Smile Ja­maica and One Love Peace con­certs.

I do not think of these artiste-led ini­tia­tives as so­lu­tions to

violence, whether it is mo­ti­vated by pol­i­tics or scam­ming, but as sug­ges­tions of an al­ter­na­tive to the un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions to the sit­u­a­tions which caused the so­cial dis­rup­tion in the first place. So the Mon­tego Bay event early next month will not

change the con­di­tions which have led to scam­ming flour­ish­ing in that side of the is­land, just as Smile Ja­maica and One Love could not have an impact on Ja­maica be­ing a mi­cro­cosm of the global tus­sle be­tween the USA and then USSR.

In a pre­vi­ous col­umn, I wrote about Queen Ifrica’s Wel­come to Mon­tego Bay and what it says about the St James cap­i­tal’s gen­er­ally di­lap­i­dated in­fra­struc­ture for the res­i­dents, al­though there is a thriv­ing tourism busi­ness cen­tered around the all ex­clu­sives. Of course, she will do that song on De­cem­ber 4, but it is highly un­likely that those who can chan­nel the funds will do any­thing.

The con­certs are also a strong sug­ges­tion of har­mony among dif­fer­ent el­e­ments (which is much of what mu­sic is about) in so­ci­ety. But with­out an un­der­ly­ing change in the so­cial con­di­tions, they will not have the pos­i­tive, long-last­ing ef­fect that the per­form­ers hope for. (I am not so sure that those who have con­trol over the so­ci­ety do want a change, so they will smile and dance and sing along, but that is as far as it goes).

And still, that will not cause “hall political han scam­min’ war in Ja­maica to cease”.

So think of peace and unity con­certs as largely per­former-driven sug­ges­tions for so­cial har­mony and an in­di­ca­tion of what the so­ci­ety can be, with the req­ui­site sup­port through fo­cused so­cial pro­grammes, ef­fi­cient un­bi­ased polic­ing, re­duced cor­rup­tion, and car­ing be­yond so­cio-economic class. Song and dance can­not do that, but it can – and does – in­di­cate pos­si­bil­i­ties.

FILE

Bob Mar­ley (cen­tre) urges then Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley (left) and then Op­po­si­tion Leader Ed­ward Seaga to shake hands at the One Love Peace Con­cert at the National Stadium on April 22, 1978.

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