Female artistes want more of Sumfest pie

July 12, 2016
File Spice went all out with her fairy-like costume in 2012. She is one of the big names for this year's event.
Raine Seville
File Lady Saw
Joe Bogdanovich, left, head of Summerfest Productions, and Robert Russell.

The organisers of Reggae Sumfest have been forced to respond to suggestions that the festival, which takes place in Montego Bay, St James, later this month, is bias against women.

Only three women, Spice, who is arguably the number one female dancehall artiste in the island, Clymaxx and Ishawna have been booked for this year's show, leading critics to declare that it is a 'bullfest'.

Robert Russell, a member of Summerfest Production, which is staging the July 17-23 festival, conceded that more women could have been included in the line-up. "To be honest, we could have had more. It was perhaps an oversight,? Russell told THE STAR yesterday. "We expect the three that are booked will do very well. We look towards a good Sumfest, the production will be first world and we have spent a lot of money on it."

Several female artistes when contacted, told The STAR that they were upset about being excluded from the line-up. However, they refused to speak to the media out of fear that they would be blacklisted from the event.

Even Spice, who is one of the three female artistes booked for the event, said that she did not wish to comment on the issue.

Raine Seville, however, told THE STAR that women have always faced an uphill task in the music industry. "We, as women, have always been fighting for years for our space in a male-dominated industry. It would seem as if the industry only allows for the support of one female artiste at a time," Seville said. "Sumfest is one of Jamaica?s biggest platforms to showcase talent to the mass, so it is very sad to see that coming from last year, where so many talented female artistes represented so well on the Sumfest stage, to now where it has been cut down to only three females, while there are over 15 male artistes on the line-up."

There were 14 female entertainers in the show last year, among them Raine Seville and Vanessa Bling, who have been overlooked for this year's staging.

Lady Saw, who closed the show last year, has since converted to Christianity.


Miss Kitty, 'Curvy Diva' to host beach party

Russell pointed out that in addition to Spice, Clymaxx and Ishawna, media personalities Miss Kitty and Yanique the 'Curvy Diva' have also been booked for the festival. The divas will be hosting a beach party at Aquasol Theme Park, starting the festival on Sunday, July 17.

Olimatta Taal, outspoken publicist for Sizzla Kalonji, agreed that the festival was blatantly sexist. She also believes females should address the issue at hand instead of whispering behind closed doors.

"You are going to have to be strong and full of inner-strength. The fact that your voice is not being heard because of fear of the consequences is also indicative of sexism. But this is a global thing. If you look at the Oscars and Hollywood, female actors have been getting less pay than males," she said.

Sherone Joseph, chief financial officer at overseas-based reggae label, Island Jams, told THE STAR that more must be done to highlight women in music. "It is obvious that women are underrepresented in dancehall-reggae music. It seems like our culture is only willing to allow one or two females through the door at the same time," Joseph said. "In every other genre of music, women are well represented. I think having more women in the business will increase the visibility of the music on an international scale, and possibly propel it to the top. Women sell, and there isn't a lack of talent."

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