Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jamaica Music Conference 2018 // Constructive Conversations: Dialogue. Decisions. Development.

This weekend, Kingston, Jamaica will be bustling with artistic activity and progressive energy focused on the future of Jamaican music, as the Jamaica Music Conference (JMC) hosts their 6th annual edition of this education and networking event. The JMC's theme this year is "Constructive Conversations: Dialogue. Decisions. Development." with the goal of continuing to "provide a platform for independent music professionals to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions in the music industry."

The JMC will take place from Thursday, November 15 through Sunday, November 18 at a range of venues across Kingston. Hosted mainly in the Edna Manley College and at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, locations around the town from beaches to restaurants are also on board as community partners for this important celebration.

The population of Jamaica is currently around the same mark as the population of Toronto: just short of 3 million people. Nearly twice the size of Canada's largest city, at 10,000 square kilometers, the power and international impact that Jamaican music has had on the world over the past few decades is undeniable. Not only has Jamaican music shaped the identity of the island, but it has also been the unofficial ambassador of the country's values, vibes, and visions.

While the island has changed considerably from the days of Bob Marley travelling the globe sharing lyrics and rhythms of hope and prosperity, the culture and impact of reggae music has also changed--naturally. The sounds have evolved, the industry has new players, and the musical landscape has become digital...and instant. With this evolution, and the emergence of social media and global communication, the essence of Jamaica is easily transferred and the sounds of the island becoming more universal as well.

On the evening of Monday, November 12, Coleen Douglas, the Media Coordinator of the JMC was featured on the weekly radio program "The Vibe Drive with Chris Dubbs" on Toronto's VIBE 105.5fm, to speak about the upcoming conference, and
motivate those who are interested in the music industry to be aware of the event, and the ways in which attending will be beneficial to aficionados of all backgrounds. Douglas noted the universal appeal of reggae music, and stressed that it was a common topic of discussion that would be explored at the JMC.

With recent mainstream chart-topping songs from pop artists like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, rappers like Drake, and obvious influence on a number of rhythms and movements, the topic of "cultural appropriation" was mentioned as an element of concern to the Jamaican music industry, as well as something that potentially has an effect on the music's prosperity.

Douglas mentioned that the passion for reggae music oversees is evident, and as a result, the various panels and meetings taking place during the conference would specifically address how to market and communicate music internationally, and also how to utilize the influence of the sounds and style of Jamaica to the benefit of the industry at home.

"We want to encourage others in the diaspora to come home," said Douglas, speaking of the conference's impact on Jamaican ex-pats who are always welcome to attend and lend their perspectives on the ever-growing music industry. "We want them to visit Jamaica not just for a holiday, but to take part in the development."

Chris Dubbs, who has been an on-air radio host in Toronto for over ten years, has consistently been committed to promoting the genre of reggae music in Canada, as well as the surrounding culture. Canadian born to Jamaican parents, Dubbs realizes the role of the reggae music practitioners in helping to not only share the music of Jamaica, but also to provide access to resources and opportunities for growth.

"I'm hoping to continue to use my platform to promote the development of the reggae music industry here in Toronto, but also back in Jamaica," said Dubbs. "As radio professionals, we have a responsibility to play the music and give it air-time and exposure, but also to strengthen the industry itself by spreading positive messages and making sure that the artists and the listeners have access to the music and the supporting industries that will help our culture grow."

During their interview, live-to-air on the Vibe Drive on Monday evening, Coleen encouraged brainstorming, and asked that listeners and reggae music lovers utilize the Jamaica Music Conference online platforms to communicate with one another, comment on initiatives, and also share their thoughts on the industry and what is required to make it successful for everyone.

"The Jamaica Music Conference lends to tourism opportunities," said Douglas, declaring that the town of Kingston (aka Music City), was not only a hub for artists during the JMC weekend, but also other industries that contribute to the growth of Jamaica's cultural infrastructure. She stressed that music "connects" individuals, from merchandising to the tourism industry, and that the JMC, the music industry, and related events have a "ripple effect on the full economy" of Jamaica.

Reggae, an important element to the culture of the Caribbean island, is being used as a point of interest to this discussion and others. During the 4-day JMC weekend, the panel discussions and educational sessions will be complemented with community service opportunities, nightlife events, as well as "fun in the sun across Kingston." This will all occur to a backdrop of the "information exchange between the who's who of reggae and mainstream music entertainment, and up and coming talent," according to the JMC.

The conference expects just under 1,000 attendees this year, of all ages, including a range of artists, writers, musicians, producers, event promoters, DJs and sound systems, journalists, managers, and other industry practitioners from here in Canada, as well as across the U.S., Europe, and Caribbean.

Topics for panel discussions and presentations will include women in music, making money from digital content, and music publishing basics. to name a few. Special guest participants and performers include Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGreggor, and Tifa, amongst other experts from music and academia. On schedule for entertainment this weekend: a celebrity football match, a "clean" sound clash, an open mic showcase, and morning meditation and yoga sessions on the beach with well known facilitators like Kamilah McDonald and Jason Worton. A full agenda of the activities and sessions is listed on the JMC website.

"Reggae is Jamaica's gift to the world," said Douglas. "The Jamaica Music Conference gives us the opportunity to improve life, offer practical ideals, and move forward."

Registration for the event is open at www.jamaicamusicconference.com, and additional information can be obtained by connecting with their social media outlets on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.





Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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