Build It, They Will Come
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
This quote, often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, is excellent advice for all. As for artists or creatives, I believe it is important for each one to have a vision. One must know his or her direction and be guided by some philosophy. Many of us have ideas and emotions we want to share with others, however, sometimes, we are plagued by doubt, lack of resources and even basic infrastructure to execute some of our projects in the manner we envision them. Nevertheless, we must create. After all, it is what we do.
It can be frustrating as a lover of art – or in this case, more specifically, music – to experience monotony. In recent times, I have observed many who felt that way about the entertainment scene here in Kingston. Having grown tired of the typical party options, as well as some of today’s popular Dancehall, these people desired and flocked to alternative events and spaces.
This shift, I believe, is part of what gave rise to the ‘Reggae Revival’. And by this, I mean not so much the group of artistes we associate with the term, but the increase in live Reggae shows circa 2010 – 2013, followed by the spread of Dub events, which seem to have replaced the live shows. The Revival is a part, and is one of the first signs, of this shift, which is a deviation from the norm – Dancehall.
Another sign of this shift is the increased popularity of Soca among Kingston’s partygoers and the emergence of EDM events. I am neither predicting the demise of Dancehall nor do I want to see it, but there are clearly growing audiences of people attending events that may be new, unique or simply not the popular option. As an organiser of what has been Kingston’s most consistent Hip Hop event – Pay Attention, which ran from 2012-2015 – I know how hungry people are for a different experience and how satisfied they are when they discover it. I also saw it while playing my role in Manifesto Jamaica events during 2010-2011.
I never ever thought I would be a ‘promoter’. (That is why I always refer to myself as an ‘organiser’.) But it was Manifesto Jamaica that thrust me into that position and gave me the impetus to later start a Hip Hop event with my partners, since we wanted something like that to attend, as well as a platform to perform our music. The journey with Pay Attention has been incredibly fulfilling and it has taught me that if you build it, they will come. (Not saying you don’t have to ‘promote’ lol).
The Pay Attention team aka The Council (Photo by Yannick Reid)
In recent times, I have been pleased to attend other events that I would consider ‘different’, and most certainly, bold. In 2015, I had fun at Turn Up, a Trap and EDM party held by Innovo Entertaiment. I would love to see another. To me, it was very much a Hip Hop party, which is always welcome. Also, starting in that year was The Listening Party, a producer showcase series I am most excited about. The beatmakers featured on the three stagings so far have ranged from Hip Hop to EDM to Dancehall and I’ve enjoyed the event each time.
Another fresh series, New Wave, has a Making the Beat segment, which allowed the featured producers to not only play, but talk about their instrumentals. It also had an AUX cord segment in which anyone from the crowd could play a song they like. I found that interesting.
On Thursday nights, I like to pass through the live jam at Constant Spring Golf Club. It’s free, the bar has very reasonable prices (surprising for such an ‘uptown’ place), and sometimes, I want to hear some Rock, Blues etc. I wish the Poetry Society of Jamaica fellowship was every week, but whenever I am not in the studio on that last Tuesday of the month, I do my best to be there.
There are a quite a few alternative options for entertainment in Kingston once you keep your ears to the ground. Sometimes, I hear people – mostly those outside of my creative circles – complain that everything is the same. But they are the ones that think what radio plays is the only music out there and the events advertised are the only ones happening. I do not blame them for they know what they are exposed to. These are the people hungry for something different. So, build it, they will come.
I believe now is the time for any creative with a vision of something out of the ordinary to bring it to life. Let nothing stop you. You have something. And there are people out there that want it. You may have to go and find them. But at least build it, they will come.
Inztinkz of The Council / Pay Attention and Joan Webley at Nanook (Photo by Machel Witter)