Dancehall acts shun festival competition

August 03, 2017
KipRich performing at Sumfest in 2011.
Tommy Cowan

Veteran artiste and manager Tommy Cowan is recommending that contemporary dancehall and reggae artistes enter the annual JCDC Festival competition in an attempt to both revive the competition and add variety to their musical repertoire.

The JCDC Festival Song Competition is usually held during the Emancipendence season and was once a competition that saw established acts like Derrick Morgan, Desmond Dekker and the Aces, Hopeton Lewis, and Toots and The Maytals vying for the title against lesser-developed acts.

However, fast-forward to 2017. The competition has fallen on hard times, which has led the organisers to cancel this year's staging, vowing that next year will be bigger and better.

Cowan, who won the competition in 1967 along with his then group The Jamaicans for the effort Baba Boom, is batting for mainstream acts to step up to the challenge.

"Do not underestimate the power of this thing, and it has the potential to do what it used to do for our music. Right now, Toots Hibbert is touring the world, but there is no place in the world he can go without singing Bam Bam. A good Festival song resonates with the people and the Diaspora, and they will treasure it for years," he said.

national value

The manager believes contemporary acts ought to be humble and participate in the competition since it can add national value to their careers.

"You are not too big for this competition, and it is also a form of national pride," he said.

However, dancehall artiste Gage believes that the competition should be used as a medium to expose new acts.

"Give the youth dem a chance. Mi nah tek nothing from dem. I don't think it would benefit the no-name artistes if established acts were to participate. These days a favouritism run the business, and so they won't get no justice. I agree the competition would have been nicer, but the young artistes would not have been treated fairly," he told THE STAR.

popular songs

The deejay also said that the decision of the organisers to change the format of the competition to popular songs instead of Festival songs a few years ago may have affected its popularity.

"The music should be all about Festival, and so they should make it like a genre, so the music will have a unique sound. If the music don't sound like Festival, it should not be able to enter," he said.

In the same breath, dancehall artiste KipRich told THE STAR that he would prefer if developed acts were used as mentors or headliners for the JCDC events. According to the singjay, it can damage one's career if one loses a competition to a developing act.

"They can book us to help pull crowd and mentor the young acts dem. That way, we help the competition, and we don't feel embarrassed when we lose to a lesser artiste. Why would you work so hard to build your brand then go in a competition with a small-fry artiste and lose? That can damage your career," he said.

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