Left: Winston Blake, of Merritone Disco (left), endorses the need for a regulatory body for sound systems. Also in the picture is singer Peter Lloyd. - Contributed
Right: Jack Scorpio (centre) gets the party under way at Black Scorpio's 37th anniversary, held at La Roose Restaurant, on Saturday. - Colin Hamilton
By Teino Evans, Staff Reporter
"Mi neva get dah memo deh!" That was the response of one musical selector when The Star queried whether he was aware of a special licence that sound systems in Jamaica needed in order to operate.
Sound systems in Jamaica have been in operation for years, Merritone Disco, King Jammys, Black Scorpio, Stone Love and others, but for these and other sounds, there is no formal body or organisation to govern or even monitor their operations.
Some veterans in the business say there is grave need for some form of regulatory body to govern the operations of sound systems, as currently, it's a free-for- all business.
Winston 'Merritone' Blake, who describes himself as "the last of the foundation selectors" said, "The only thing you need to enter the sound system business is money to buy the equipment. There is no criteria, no standards, nothing."
Blake, who has been in the business for more than 50 years also added, "We want an organisation more than anything, laws that they adhere to. The sound system is not regulated and anybody who feel dem have a money and want to get into it, can do it. We need to get some rules and regulation and if we don't do it, the police needs to set out some regulations."
Although The Sound System Association of Jamaica is listed in the directory and even has a website, many believe that the Association exists only on paper.
"They have a membership but there is nothing to convince me that it is functional," Blake said.
"After Louise Frazer-Bennett died, her daughter took over (The Sound System Association of Jamaica), I never knew it was something hereditary, I thought persons had to be elected."
Efforts by The Star to make contact with the association were unsuccessful as the only number listed in the telephone directory appeared not to be working.
Black Scorpio's son, Jermaine Johnson, said, "The whole thing (sound system business in Jamaica) is like a freelance, underground thing. In Jamaica most of the sounds are not licensed, but it's not as strict as in Europe. We will get away with like burnt CDs and stuff out here and that's why 45s sell more in Europe and is still the biggest thing there."
One may, however, raise the question as to why the sound system concept, which first became popular in the 1950s has not had proper representation and formal structure even until window.
Blake offered one theory that, "The hardest thing is to get our people to come together. We don't need to come together to make it work but we need to do so in order to get more recognition and benefits."
Dread, a selector on the Adonai sound system said he agreed that sound systems and other music entities were in need of proper representation.
"Naturally, this is something that not only selectors need, but everybody in music, so we can gather and discuss issues affecting the music. But everybody is for themself, is a dog-eat-dog world. But if everybody could link and come together and even have a body that represent us and ensure certain benefits, then naturally the thing would be better."
He added, "It's only sad that eggae music weh a bring in suh much foreigner inna di country nuh have nuh formal structure and organisation."