Los­ing live shows at Christ­mas and be­yond

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Melville.cooke@glean­erjm.com

From left: Bounty Killer, Bee­nie Man and Cham shar­ing the stage to the de­light of pa­trons at a past GT Christ­mas Ex­trav­a­ganza show.

IT IS that time of the year again, when Christ­mas car­ols are on the ra­dio, com­ing from the choirs and the au­dio sys­tems in the su­per­mar­kets, urg­ing ob­ser­vance of the birth of Je­sus Christ, spend­ing and con­sump­tion of wine, sor­rel, cake and song in what­ever pro­por­tion the heart de­sires.

It is also the time when there was once a silly show sea­son, with a series of large-scale con­certs across the is­land. This has long faded, with events such as East Fest in St Thomas, Reg­gae Camp­fire in St Cather­ine, Orig­i­nal Dance­hall Jam Jam in Claren­don, West Kingston Jam­boree and Pepsi Teen Splash in St Ann, among those which are now trea­sured mem­o­ries.

LACK OF SUP­PORT

These were not in the first del­uge of Christ­mas-sea­son con­certs, but were prom­i­nent closer to the end when, for what­ever rea­son, the in­for­mal net­work of events staged by pri­vate, in­de­pen­dent pro­mot­ers col­lapsed. The pri­mary cause bandied about is ris­ing costs and lack of spon­sor­ship. How­ever, this does not take into ac­count the barter sys­tem which once as­sisted the con­certs tremen­dously – ma­jor artistes would op­er­ate on the ba­sis of per­form­ing at each other’s events as well as those of long-stand­ing pro­mot­ers, in a round robin set-up of mu­tual sup­port to gen­er­ate in­come.

Now all that re­mains of the large-scale, es­tab­lished ‘stage shows’ at the end-of-year pe­riod is GT Tay­lor’s Christ­mas Ex­trav­a­ganza in St El­iz­a­beth on Christ­mas Day and Sting at Jam­world on Box­ing Day, with the lat­ter set to un­dergo ma­jor for­mat changes next year. Not to be counted out is Rebel Salute in St Ann which, al­though tak­ing place in the mid­dle of the first month of the new year, is ac­tu­ally about three weeks af­ter Ex­trav­a­ganza and Sting.

Iron­i­cally, in a sit­u­a­tion where the ease with which mu­sic is ac­cessed and distributed with­out pay­ment to the cre­ators, mak­ing earn­ings from live per­for­mances of pri­mary im­por­tance to artistes, Ja­maica has fewer plat­forms for this to take place. Not only that, but the stan­dard ‘young artistes’ seg­ment in which those at­tempt­ing to hone their craft and earn the au­di­ences’ re­gard and sup­port, is vastly re­duced. This means that an artiste goes from hav­ing a song made pop­u­lar by what­ever ra­dio, mu­sic video or so­cial me­dia av­enue, to a prom­i­nent spot on the line up of a ma­jor con­cert with­out the ap­pren­tice­ship per­for­mance pe­riod.

The re­sults are hap­haz­ard, to put it mildly.

Now there is a Kingston Mu­sic Week at the start of De­cem­ber, with a series of con­certs across the city. The fact that it is brought to­gether by a me­dia en­tity un­der­scores just how much live per­for­mance in the Christ­mas pe­riod is no longer driven by the per­form­ers and in­de­pen­dent pro­mot­ers. Also, a look at the line-up for those con­certs (in­clud­ing the Mar­ley-driven Smile Ja­maica at the Bob Mar­ley Mu­seum) and Ex­trav­a­ganza (where Sanchez, Siz­zla and Bounty are among the head­line per­form­ers), shows that it is the tried, proven and long es­tab­lished who are hold­ing sway. Not to be left out is the event at Hope Gardens fea­tur­ing Third World.

CON­SIS­TENT COM­MU­NITY

Note, also, how the live events that were held at Jam­ne­sia and Wickie Wackie de­vel­oped the per­for­mance skills and im­mensely en­hanced the pop­u­lar­ity of No-Maddz and Rag­ing Fyah, among oth­ers in a resur­gent reg­gae scene. Those con­certs were the equiv­a­lent of the sound sys­tem cir­cuit when Stereo One with Stitchie and Wolf­man, Cre­ation with Papa San, Kil­i­man­jaro with Ninja Man, Black Scorpio with Gen­eral Trees, among many oth­ers, pro­vided a con­sis­tent per­for­mance space and com­mu­nity among dance­hall en­thu­si­asts.

With­out some equiv­a­lent to this, we will con­tinue to lose the live at Christ­mas and other times of the year, as those who we turn out to see the ream­ing stage shows get older and, with­out re­newal, there is a pos­si­bil­ity of the ir­re­versible de­cline of some­thing which was once so vi­brant.

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