On Tuesday morning I participated (mostly by listening) in a discussion put on by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) and National Integrity Association. Named Reggae Roun Di Table, it was about payola as part of the process towards legislation dealing with an ingrained practice of broadcasters accepting payment to play records, which I believe is helping to wreck Jamaican popular music.
As these things tend to go, the discussion went beyond the agenda, and among the things that were mentioned was disc jockeys announcing the performers of songs they play. From what I hear on radio, which I consume mostly when driving, there are some disc jocks who take the time to note the name of the singers and deejays whose music they play (and I am specifying Jamaican artistes here). However, there are those who play long music sweeps in a sound system ‘juggling’ style mixing records related by rhythm or thematically into a seamless flow who do not, and that is woefully inadequate.
Ironically, although it can be annoying when a selector screams incessantly, there is often some effort to name the performers whose records are being played during a dance. However, this can get lost when the ‘juggling’ format moves over into broadcasting. It is very annoying when you hear a minute of a song that you would like to go look up otherwise and cannot, because it is not by a performer whose voice you recognise quickly.
Of course, the radio disc jock does not have to announce the performer’s name for each record as it is played. He or she can, at the end, list the songs that were played and name the vocalists. I find this preferable to identifying them before.
One of the things that brought it home to me was the presence of Englishman David Rodigan, who moves seamlessly between dancehall and radio. Part of his dancehall presentation style, is telling stories about the creation of particular records even in the throes of sound system clashing which enhance the introduction immensely. So he will say, for example, that one morning three men went to a particular studio (which he names and also says the year) and when they left they had no idea that they had cut a reggae anthem. Then he says, The Abyssinians and plays Sattamassagana.
That is one way of doing it. I recall in the early 1990s when House of Leo on Cargill Avenue, near Half-Way Tree, was the Thursday night Stone Love spot, Rory with his superb voice, introducing tracks with something like, “now as we enter the voice of Mr Johnny Osbourne ….”, then he would intone “riiiiggghhtt” and the dance was on.
At the risk of offending the broadcasters who do name vocalists (because I cannot identify them all, even if I did know them all), I give the example of Patrick LaFayette’s Mixlr show, where the performers get their due credit. As they do on Gary I and Mitzie’s show on another radio station. And that is what it comes to giving credit for, as JaRIA’s Ibo Cooper said at the discussion, credit is the musician’s rÈsumÈ. With the volume of music being produced in Jamaica, sometimes you hear a song once and that could have been the beginning of appreciating a performer’s body of work, but you never hear their name.