Corporate sponsors watering down sound clashes - industry players disagree

August 11, 2017
Yaniq Walford
Robert Russell

Sound system clashes, which have long been a prominent fixture in the dancehall industry, have evolved over the years with some clash events attracting sponsorship from big brands and major corporate entities.

Though having these major players on board provides the sound clash promoters with the much-needed resources to expand the event. Yaniq Walford, promoter of the Jamaica Sound System Festival, formerly Bass Odyssey Anniversary, believes some corporate sponsors are watering down sound clash authenticity with overbearing stipulations.

As a result, she said they have had to turn down sponsors for their sound clash festival which will be held this weekend.

"A sound clash has to be hardcore. It has to be explicit", Walford said. "It doesn't do much for building [Jamaica] as an entertainment brand when [sponsors] say what will appeal to what kind of people. Sound systems thrived for decades because it appealed to Jamaican people, and altering it is what will kill it."

However, Reggae Sumfest organiser, Robert Russell, opposed the view that corporate sponsors are detracting from the authenticity of sound clashes by making certain stipulations.

He said when sponsors make requests such as eliminating expletives and the bashing of certain groups, it does not detract from a good sound clash staging.

"I don't think that's what sound clash is about. I think it's about dubs and music. Throwing words at each other in a sound clash is good, but you don't have to use profanities to do it. The way to clash with somebody is to prove that you are better equipped to play music that is appropriate and has the impact of competition as opposed to resorting to lewd lyrics and expletives. I don't think that makes you a better sound system in a clash," Russell said.

Dennis Chung, CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, explained that sponsors often make strict stipulations because they have a brand to protect.

"Remember the whole issue the other day about the discriminatory ways in which people used to sing against gays and it had some international issues arising. Those things do affect brands and therefore people have to be very careful about their brands because these things get out and have a long lasting effect on the brand," he said.

He added that he recently came across some statistics at a tourism-related event which highlighted the type of music tourists visited the island to enjoy.

He said reggae music was at number one, suggesting that visitors crave clean music.

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