Posted in Advertising, Branding, Caribbean, FIlm, Media, Music, Reggae

Kingston to come alive – July 7 – 11

Jamaica Film Festival Logo_JaFF

The Jamaica Film Festival, scheduled for Kingston, July 7 – 11, is shaping up to be a very exciting one showcasing the talents of the best and brightest in the Jamaican film industry. The festival promises to be a dynamic cinematic and cultural event featuring both local and international films. There will be business sessions, workshops and seminars, a music day with workshops and a live reggae concert at the Tuff Gong International Recording Studios. The exclusive beach party planned for Saturday promises to be lots of fun in the sun as well as a visual bliss as the majestic, rolling hills of the Blue Mountains, serves as a backdrop in the distance.

jamaica-film-festival.jpg

Importantly, work from 13 of Jamaica’s leading directors/producers/writers will premier, parading Jamaica’s content in front of an international audience primarily from the USA, Canada, the UK and the Caribbean; but with interest from a variety of other countries to include Australia, Argentina, Serbia and so many more.

Kingston will come alive with the film festival and patrons will have the unique opportunity to experience why Jamaica’s culture is so infectious. The city of Kingston offers an unparalleled culinary experience, a vibrant nightlife as well as museums and galleries rich in culture, coupled with the warmth of the Jamaican people. Tuff gong Logo

Kingston boasts having restaurants owned by and named after three of our iconic sports superstars, Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records, Courtney Walsh’s Cuddy’z and Chris Gayle’s Triple Century. In addition, Kingston is home to the fourth best place to have ice cream in the world, Devon House.  Its location was built in the late 19th century as the residence of Jamaica’s first black millionaire and is a masterpiece of Caribbean Victorian architecture.

Also home to the world-famous Blue Mountain coffee and Reggae Music, Kingston’s energy and vibe will revitalize anyone. A city with the seventh largest harbour in the world and various historic sites, Kingston has a variety of unforgettable experiences to offer that will last for a lifetime.

FILM IS JAMAICA’S BUSINESS

The festival seeks to promote Jamaica as more than just a backdrop location. Jamaica is currently experiencing a creative revolution where it has positioned itself as the cultural powerhouse of the Caribbean, producing outstanding creative products, services and talent. This has led to a deeper focus on developing the island’s creative industries in particular film, with the goal of becoming one of the thought leaders in the industry. The idea is for Jamaica to evolve into being the regional hub for creative talent and services, and having a national film festival will help solidify the growth that has to take place.

JAMPRO

With up to five production houses each with over four decades of experience in film and video production, the Jamaican technical skills base in this industry is of world and industry standards. The technical expertise ranges from world-renowned directors to our warm and hospitable drivers, all of whom maintain the passion and drive to make it comfortable for crews to work in Jamaica.

Jamaican TV has evolved and continues to produce relevant, entertaining and engaging content. Home to one of the longest running soap operas in the English speaking Caribbean, Jamaica’s Royal Palm Estate/The Blackburns has set the island’s TV industry a league ahead in the region. The TV industry is looking to continue to create shows that appeal to an international audience.

On the cusp of five feature films being released in the past three years (Better Mus Come, Rise Up, Ghett’a Life, One People and Ring Di Alarm), Jamaica’s emerging film industry has been given new life. More local content is being distributed internationally in countries like the UK, Europe, South Africa and Japan. The growth of the international film industry has set the stage for Jamaicans to further develop as content creators and lends the opportunity for our talent to be in high demand and recognised worldwide.

Prepared by JAMPRO Communications

F: https://www.facebook.com/JAMPROCORP

T: https://twitter.com/Jamprocorp

Posted in Advertising, Branding, Media, Music, Reggae

JAMPRO and Bob Marley Foundation sign agreement

KINGSTON, November 26 – In what could be considered a master stroke, JAMPRO, Jamaica’s trade and investment agency signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Bob Marley Foundation on Wednesday to signal both groups’ intention to partner for the Jamaica Film Festival 2015.

Marie Bruce, General Manager, Bob Marley Group of Companies who spoke on behalf of the Foundation, signaled the team’s intention to push the Jamaican message to every corner of the globe. Coming off a recent successful partnership – the Tuff Gong International acquired the global distribution rights for the soundtrack of Jamaica’s recent romantic drama, Destiny.

The company is the region’s exclusive licensee for international recording companies Warner Music Group, Disney Music Group, and Universal Music Group. This means that the movie’s official soundtrack will be released internationally on the Tuff Gong label, as part of the deal with Caroline Music, a division of Universal Music Group. The move, Bruce said, was a perfect fit and the Film Festival is just another way the country’s image can be enhanced.

20141126_111416

Also speaking at the briefing attended by a variety of public and private sector representatives, including financial institutions, was JAMPRO’s President, Diane Edwards, who indicated her agency’s mandate to create an environment where “Art meets Business”.

The President added that “JAMPRO’s attempt to consolidate efforts of the creative industries is bearing fruit and the hosting of a film festival in Kingston next July – falls in line with the development and subsequent monetizing of the sector – we deem as important. Jamaica’s reputation in the film industry is largely known as a location for filming, but a film festival is evidence of the industry legitimizing itself and building on the existing reputation of films professionals.”

20141126_110138

The Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. G. Anthony Hylton in his keynote says “this marks a truly remarkable partnership in building Jamaica’s cultural and creative industries, and to a larger extent, the economy. Having access to one of the biggest and most renowned Brand in the world is a massive achievement.” The Minister pointed out that having held the reputation of being the cultural and creative powerhouse of the Caribbean, being positioned as the major producer of creative products, through an event like the Film Festival, will help to attract a wide variety of attention and offer us a competitive edge to earn from the film industry.

The Minister has committed his efforts to “make” the location more attractive and competitive by maintaining, upgrading and adding facilities of the highest standards.

Joining via Skype was Paula Madision, CEO and President of Madison Media Management who has offered to sit on the Festival’s Advisory Team. She has extended the reach of her rolodex to bring the relevant persons to Jamaica who she says has a myriad of interests in the business of film making.

Paula Madison

JAMPRO’s Chairman, Milton Samuda in his closing remarks pointed towards the shift of JAMPRO in ensuring that the value chain for the industry is recognised and the right eco-system is required to make the sector flourish.

The festival is scheduled for Kingston, July 7 – 11, 2015 and there is a call for films out for Jamaican filmmakers to submit scripts/treatments by December 2 to be considered for selection. Interested persons can go to http://www.filmjamaica.com

Also in attendance were representatives from the Jamaica Tourist Board, University of the West Indies, EXIM Bank, Broadcasting Commission, Ministry of Youth and Culture, Jamaica Intellectual Property Organisation, Toronto International Film Festival, British High Commission, The Hynes Group and the Development Bank of Jamaica

20141126_102119

Posted in Uncategorized

Musical Volts of Holt: The Softer Side of the 1970’s

by Tony Morrison
Journalist/Communications Specialist
November 5, 2014

The 1970’s were, in many ways, a rough and turbulent time in Jamaica. Fuelled partially by cold war geopolitical intrigue, political violence ravaged the streets of Kingston and beyond, to peak relentlessly by the end of the decade.

Simultaneously, despite years of “downpression” by Babylon, the 1930’s-born Rastafarian movement was finally in some ascendance, and in addition to heavily influencing the ever-evolving Jamaican dialect, its message of rebellion paired perfectly with the infectious one-drop reggae beat and the lyrics of resistance which inspired freedom fighters as far afield as Zimbabwe and Angola. It was a time of rude boys, radicals, rebels, political firebrands, propaganda, polarization, hysteria, aggression, and guns. Lots of guns, and lots of blood.

John Holt 3

It was an era that truly needed a softer, ‘flip’ side to salvage some sanity, or at least a soothing soundtrack to counterbalance all the frenetic mayhem. Like the better ‘B’ side of a vinyl 45, and like Johnsons’ baby powder for an infant’s discomfort, the escape provided by John Holt’s voice was the soothing response to that demand.

Holt rose to stardom in the 70’s, but apart from the radical tone of “Police in a Helicopter,” which demonstrated the growing influence of Rastafari in his life and thinking, there was little radical or aggressive about him, and he was the vocal antithesis of the era he dominated so gently. The cult classic The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff hit movie screens in 1972, the same year in which Holt’s “Stick by Me” was the biggest selling single in the island. The former was to reinforce the notion that a wild west-inspired “bad man” lurks in the psyche of every Jamaican male, while the former crooned the broad hint that a soft-hearted lover boy lives there too.

John Holt 2

Bob Andy tells Rolling Stone that Holt’s voice was “a velveted tone like Nat King Cole,” and that “…he has the most unique balladeer voice in Jamaican music. Across the board, he was the voice of our era.” GQ magazine says “…ultimately, Holt’s legacy isn’t one track or album – it’s his unmistakable, high-voltage vocal that manages to be both narcoleptically soothing, prodigiously uplifting and quintessentially Jamaican…” As Britain’s The Guardian points out, only John Holt could pull off a song based on a silly and convoluted dream involving Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, a princess, three blind mice, Tom the piper’s son, Alice in her personal wonderland, and a duke and a duchess doing reggae. His writing and arrangement made it credible poetry, and his sweet, measured vocals made it beauty.

Holt was born in the Greenwich Farm, Kingston, in 1947, and by age 12 he was a regular at the then popular talent contests staged in a local theatre house and produced by radio personality Vere Johns.
Strangely enough, Holt described himself as initially shy and scared to sing, telling British journalist Carl Gayle in 1974, “School really wasn’t my thing…I preferred singing. I never attended singing class, though, I was scared. I was actually forced to sing in school by my friends; I didn’t have the nerve, y’know, to really go out and do it…”
After overcoming his fear, he would go on to temporarily torment another young hopeful whose stardom would eventually eclipse his own.
“I used to whip Jimmy Cliff’s ass, y’know…he was afraid. If he knew I was gonna sing tonight, for instance, he wouldn’t turn up.”

Holt sang his way to an incredible 28 awards in 4 years, and after being featured in the Star and the Gleaner, then the only two local newspapers, he was approached by then fledgling producer Leslie Kong, who negotiated a contract with Holt’s mother, since Holt was not yet of legal age. In 1963, when he was only 16, he recorded his first single for Kong on the newly launched Beverly’s label, “Forever I’ll Stay” with “I Cried a Tear,” on the flip side. “Forever I’ll Stay” reached number one on the RJR chart, and Kong paid him the “princely” sum of 33 pounds. Believing a top-selling record should yield much more, the young Holt walked away from Kong in disappointment. Holt then teamed up with Alton Ellis, who taught him to play the guitar, and together they recorded the best-selling “Mouth a Massie Liza” and “Rum Bumper” for Vincent Chin of Randy’s Records. Once again, Holt was disappointed with the money he received, and by now was disillusioned enough to think of giving up singing altogether, and actually “retired” for all of a year.

Then in 1965, he joined Junior Menz, Garth “Tyrone” Evans, and the not yet legendary Bob Andy in a group first called the Blinders. Menz left and was replaced by Howard Barrett, and the group was renamed the Paragons. This was the turning point, and with Holt ably taking on the role of writer and arranger in addition to vocalist, the Paragons quickly made a mark on the local music scene, producing a string of Doo Wop-influenced hits for Coxsone Dodd throughout 1965, and becoming a high-demand act for the island’s club and hotel circuit. The demise of ska and the rise of the slower-paced rock steady at the time was perfectly suited for Holt’s writing and singing style and paved the way for his solo career as a reggae crooner. This period saw hits like “Live and Love You,” “Love Dream,” and “Good Luck and Goodbye.” By 1966, however, Andy left the group to go on his own, and a period of turmoil followed before the group reinvented itself as a trio and secured a new record deal with Arthur “Duke” Reid and Treasure Isle Records.
One of the first recordings with Reid was “Happy Go Lucky Girl,” which was an instant hit, and in the coming months, hit after Paragons hit was to follow, including the violin infused “The Tide is High,” “Wear You to the Ball,” and the title track of their debut album, “On the Beach.” The group dominated the charts in 1967, and opened 1968 with two number one hits, “Silver Bird,” and “My Best Girl.” The nagging problem remained, however. For all this success, very little money was coming to them. The group attempted to start their own label, Supertone, in an effort to take control of their work, but with a music industry as corrupt as anywhere else in the world, the label never got off the ground, despite recording a handful of enduring classics, including “Memories by the Score” and “I’ve Got to Get Away.” It was the beginning of the end for the group, which did not see the seventies. Evans was the last to go, moving to New York in 1970, where Barrett had already gone.
Now on his own, Holt produced several hits for several producers, and by 1972 was firmly established not only as a soloist, but as one of Jamaica’s best, winning a procession of Best Male Vocalist titles to accompany his hits, which included “Stealing Stealing,” “Stick by Me,” “Strange Things,” and “Ali Baba.” International success and a big payday still eluded him, but that was about to change. Holt had met British sound system operator turned producer Tony Ashfield on Holt’s first trip to Britain in 1968. They met again when Holt returned to the country for a show two years later, and subsequent discussions led to the start of a joint project. Ashfield embellished Holt’s voice tracks with over-dubs of strings, horns, and flutes, and added the first rate background vocals of Blue Mink vocalist Madeline Bell and US Soul singer Doris Troy. By 1973, the Trojan LP “The Further You Look” was released, and topped the UK Reggae album charts. Some critics attacked the approach as a creative sell out, but the mix of raw, authentic Jamaican beats and slick British studio production struck the right crossover note with the British public, and the partnership persisted. Soon after, “A Thousand Volts of Holt” did even better than the previous album, and spawned the first of Holt’s major hits, a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make it Through The Night,” which peaked at number 6 on the UK charts in early 1974, and stayed on the charts for 14 weeks. By 1975, however, with the release of “2,000 Volts of Holt,” the partnership with Ashfield fell apart. Some purists actually rejoiced, and applauded the demise of what they viewed as an unfortunate flirtation with “Pop Reggae.” Holt was ahead of his time.
Two albums with producer Bunny Lee followed; “Superstar,” and “World of Love,” which was released in the UK by Trojan Records as “3000 Volts of Holt” in 1977.

John Holt 1

During a hectic touring schedule in 1978, Holt reunited with his former Paragons partners, Howard Barrett and Tyrone Evans, in the US. That meeting was fortuitous, as two years later, The Paragons were back in international music news as the group Blondie covered their 1967 hit, “The Tide is High.” The cover was a pandemic monster of a hit, and catapulted to number one in both the US and UK as well as in Canada and New Zealand, in addition to charting in Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. As writer of the song, Holt therefore has the distinction of writing the very first reggae song to top the US Billboard charts, and one of reggae’s first multinational hits.
Assuming his publishing rights were in order, this song should have been one of, if not the absolute biggest of his musical cash cows, as in addition to its initial global chart success with Blondie, it was also eventually covered by a plethora of artists, including UB40, Gregory Isaacs, and Dennis Brown. Notably, the British girl-group Atomic Kitten took the song back to global success in 2002, including making it number one in the UK and New Zealand in 2002 and making it a chart hit as far as in Turkey, where it peaked at number 4. In 2008, the cover by Canadian rapper Kardinal Official failed to crack the top 20 at home, but nonetheless sold gold, made it to number one in Germany, and hit the top 10 in both Israel and Turkey.
All this renewed attention and acclaim for the Paragons led to the 1980 Island Records release of an album of newly recorded material from the group, titled “Sly and Robbie present The Paragons.” Despite positive reaction to the effort, Holt resisted the temptation to reform the group and stuck with his solo career. In 1982, he teamed up with the top reggae producer of the day, Henry “Junjo” Lawes, who by then had already unleashed dancehall phenomenon Yellowman.
Of this union came the major Jamaican hits “Sweetie Come Brush Me,” and “Fat She Fat,” both a tad more hard-core than his usual style, and also the banned and seemingly out of character but well rendered “Police in Helicopter.” The latter was an indignant chastisement of Babylon’s persecution of the planters of the good ganja weed, and became an anthem of marijuana advocates all over Europe.
After dominating the 70’s and holding his own in the 80’s, Holt eventually had to leave the spotlight to a procession of new, younger acts, and to the emerging dancehall offshoot of roots reggae, but his stature as an elder statesman in the industry never waned, and so he never really left the radar. Jamaicans are nothing if not sentimental about their music, and so in addition to being a Sunsplash and Heineken Startime regular during the 90’s, he continued to the end to be an in-demand act for retro and vintage shows at home and abroad.
Holt never changed much over the years, never compromised his style, and maintained his trademark manner of being slower and more romantic than most of his contemporaries in rock steady, and those who would follow through reggae to dancehall. As a result, he probably has more claim than most to being the artiste who most deserves the title of being the chief forerunner of the lovers-rock sub-genre of reggae made so popular in modern times by the likes of Beres Hammond.

In October, 2000, Holt enjoyed the enviable distinction of performing three sold out concerts in England (two at the Apollo in London and one at the Symphony Centre in Birmingham) under the patronage of no less than Prince Charles, and backed by not only Lloyd Parkes and We the People Band, but also none other than London’s finest, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The union was as unforgettably flawless as it was unprecedented. Holt did 22 specially arranged songs each night plus 10 a cappella, and as a bit of Jamaican “brawta,” lovers rock ace Freddie McGregor appeared as special guest for the third show.

Fittingly, John Holt was awarded the Order of Distinction (Commander Class) by the Jamaican government in 2004, for his sterling contribution to Jamaican music. He was not to see the end of 2014, and after being diagnosed with colon cancer in June, he collapsed on stage at the One Love Concert at Milton Keynes in England in August, and then passed on October 19 in London at age 67.

He is survived by his wife Valerie, ten children, twenty grandchildren, over 40 albums, a global legion of fans, a reputation as a gentleman in a fickle business, and a legacy that will shine as long as music lives.

Tony Morrison

Posted in Branding, Music, Reggae

State of the Music Symposium – Day 2

KINGSTON, March 1 – It has been established that education is to be a key ingredient to the development of Jamaica’s music industry – that was a recurring sentiment expressed by members of the Jamaican music industry at the inaugural State of the Music Symposium held at JAMPRO in association with the UWI and the Jamaica Reggae Industry Associations (JARIA). 

Image

While a session was dedicated to the “Education” subject on which Seretse Small, Steve Golding and Ibo Cooper spoke, the clear message was that there are different levels of education which were to be undertaken to ensure the industry remains viable. The arguments ranged from the 

  • formal setting of the classroom 
  • use of patois to teach English 
  • re-engineering of the practitioners for greater awareness 

The presence of Chronnix and Gramps Morgan though was well received as the general audience felt it was that the “artiste were sharing and becoming part of the decision making in the industry.” Gramps spoke on the Changing Business Models panel and focused on Radio where he has been a host for at least five years. Morgan in his deliberations spoke of the lessons he has learnt as he journeys into a new aspect of the business, but wants an opportunity to “play music on Jamaican radio.” He also lamented that the Jamaican story is still largely untold and wants the Music Industry players to be a large part of that. 

Chronnix and his management team sat in the audience; but his actual attendance was well received. 

Image

In earlier presentations, Dr Deborah Hickling and Jeremy Harding spoke from different perspectives, but agreed that Policy needs to meet the Practitioners – the language needs to be consistent along with the aims and objectives for desired results. 

Studios – home based or big studious – have they changed the Sound? Some suggested it did, while others didn’t, but the voices of Ibo Cooper, Mikie Bennet and the Chimney Music representative agreed that apprenticeship was crucial to the technical growth of that side of the business. 

Kellisa McDonald spoke on the topic Artistes as Entrepreneurs and issued a challenge to the leaders in the industry to use innovation, incorporate more visuals in the music and to use music as a tool to analyse social behaviour. McDonald is part of the set up for Chronnix. 

Day TWO looks at 

  • The State of Legislation: Media and Music
  • The Business of Music Events, Festivals and Promotion
  • Artiste Management and Music Business Personnel Development
  • Operations and Associations: How to make them more efficient and effective?
  • The State of Music, Film and Publishing
  • The Way Forward

Speakers are to include Nigel Staff, Herbie Miller, Clyde McKenzie, Johann Dawes and Kellie Magnus and Dr. Sonjah Stanley Niaah. 

Image

Posted in Uncategorized

THE BUSINESS OF ENTERTAINMENT

Image

 

As we explore the benefits of entertainment and sport to the Jamaican economy, it seems we have to re-define the business of entertainment and how it can be tailored to suit the needs of the industry while at the same time create economic opportunities for the major stakeholders.

We have been lead to believe that entertainment is largely about talent, however as the time flies by we are seeing where packaging is becoming the major tool to the Brand of Entertainment. However, because Jamaica is a developing country, it may be easier to work through a process to get to the ultimate goal of having a vibrant entertainment industry.

Let’s take a look at some keys areas of focus (not in any particular order at this juncture). We have to set some clear guidelines and define the following:

  • Creative Process
  • Product
  • Financing Plans
  • Distribution
  • Language
  • Technology – animation, #D
  • Education
  • Evolution of the Business
  • Value added – film, fashion, merchandising
  • Licensing
  • Content Monetization and Storage

Jamaica’s culture has been influenced by the success of Bob Marley which has set extremely high standards – one which has made Bob into an international icon and making him one of the most recognizable names and faces on the planet.

We see the demand for pictures, clothing, and records of Bob even 32 years after his death and his family, mostly of musicians and entertainers have carried on the legacy he worked hard at. The industry has evolved and changed since the 1980s and while there are far more opportunities, there are signs of convergences with the product meeting at common points. There is now little or no separation with a singing career and an acting career. Both are meeting closer and closer and what that means is PACKAGING…to suit the demands of the market.

Jamaica’s advantage is its history, heritage, culture, locations, allure, mystique, but should be carefully packaged along with the human element to showcase all those factors. Maybe, just maybe, we should invest in telling our stories and distribute them ourselves. So we need a script, we have the talent, showcase the music, film on our own locations and tell the world OUR stories. One thing I ask, begin the process in schools and work our way into developing this gold mine we are sitting on and let’s get this RIGHT. What say you?