Saturday, May 30, 2009

The End of an Era

It is official; the Asylum Night Club has closed its doors, after a 12-year run of being an institution on the Jamaican Dancehall landscape. May 26, 2009 the once hottest nightclub in Jamaica welcomed its last set of patrons and slipped quietly in the annals like its predecessors such as Cactus and Mirage. Open six nights per week it hosted theme nights such as everybody free between 17:00 to 20:00 lines long so till it bend cause ole niggah love freeness After Work Jam on Friday nights. Girls Gone Wild and Ladies Night held on Sunday and Tuesday respectively which in its hay day was the definition of ‘Gal Bush’ sadly for the guys anyway the caliber of women slowly fell off. Arguably Thursday nights became the most important night after the inception of Bembe as it became the habit for patrons of Bembe who were not done partying to matriculate to Asylum.

To be honest this closure doesn’t come as a surprise. The end of Jamrock came amid much speculations and false closure dates which made for such conversations such as:
“Yu hear say the British dem a keep a thing up a ‘Sylum?”
“But wait ‘Sylum nuh lock down already?”
Eventually Asylum went the way of anything and anyplace that lost its newness and shine. It felt much like a sweet pepper to borrow from Pampute, it was big but it stopped being hot. Sadly the last memory of Asylum for me anyway is leaving from Bembe after making many a detours and silly stops along the way only to find an almost empty club. Which made us all wonder, “Are we early?”, but we weren’t, we were just witness to a slow death of an entity with a very full life.

In a release by Nite Time Promotions (Brian 'Ribbi' Chung et al) stated;
"Nite Time Promotions will eventually be reopening the venue at the opportune moment under a new name with a great new image. The space that formerly housed Asylum will now be available immediately for rental by the owners of the property. We wish to thank our extremely loyal patrons, staff, promoters, sponsors and all other partners that have shared the journey and the dream with us over the last 12 years."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Implications of the Noise Abatement Act

What more, what oonu want de poor people do?
Every dance whe dem keep oonu mek it curfew ­
Operation Ardent, Buju Banton

Protect and serve my ass, I am so tired of police shutting down dances. Really? 3am is an acceptable time to roll up and say; “Plug out and shut down.” When you are in the middle of the St. Andrew metropolis, you know, those none residential type areas.
Recently I strutted through Uptown Monday, on this particularly clear and warm night with a good mix of people creating a decent enough vibe. The crazy Japanese girls in their kimonos and some lost looking white boys perusing the actions of the ‘Dagga Masters’ and frozen in awe as the Negresses ‘Dash out dem hole’.

So it was somewhat painful to see uniforms moving intently towards the sector, not to say turn down but instead turn off. Leaving patrons-me-to wonder if the only buildings in the immediate and not so immediate surroundings are commercial structures, which are closed until the next business day, why is it necessary to flex the muscles of justice so taut? One would think that with a crime rate as high as it is in Jamaica, it would be a good idea to keep the ‘criminals’ occupied at least during the witching hours in order to ensure the safety of the uptown brown people.

It is painfully obvious that the Jamaican government doesn’t care about Dancehall and in most cases that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that they don’t care enough to do anything that would remotely be sustainable and positive in advancing the culture and people who choose to inhabit the space. It is due to this stand off relationship that this feral freedom and innovation thrives. However there has got to be a line and it seems the law keeps overstepping it. Presently our good tourism minister (Hon. Edmund Bartlett) cowers in fear the day when Barack ‘buss’ Cuba big. But instead of actually taking a good look at what we have and how we can improve it we have noise abatement acts to keep us in line.

At present Section 3 of the Noise Abatement Act, which came into effect in 1997, states that ' person shall, on any private premises or in any public place at anytime of day or night (a) sing, or sound or play upon any musical or noisy instrument; or (b) operate, or permit or cause to be operated any loudspeaker, microphone or any other device for the amplification of sound, in such a manner that the sound is audible beyond 100 metres from the source of such sound and is reasonably capable of causing annoyance to persons in the vicinity'. To me this “Act” feels more like a guideline and is fraught with vagueness, which ultimately leaves this law so open to interpretation. For example what constitutes as an annoyance and to whom? And is there a machine to measure decibels past or exactly to the 100 meters from the source of the sound and what is the appropriate level?

The scope of offense is as follows; the first aspect of the offence relates to the Noise Level. This is measured in terms of the distance from which the sound is heard. The second aspect deals with whether the sound is “reasonably” capable of causing annoyance to persons. Both aspects must be examined before it can be considered that an offence has been committed.

The second aspect which seems purely subjective depends on factors such as the area in which the noise activity is taking place, the time of day and the nature and duration of the activity. In which case, the police may act on their own initiative and assess the situations. Which has caused the confiscation of equipment and left many promoters seeing red and patrons feeling cheated as not enough party was got for their money spent, both before and at the event. The act states that:

Where the noise occurs in the vicinity of any dwelling house, hospital, hotel infirmary, nursing home or guest house, between 2am and 6am on Saturday or Sunday morning and is audible beyond a distance of 100 metres, it will automically be presumed that the noise causes annoyance. The same applies from midnight to 6am of the following mornings:

Really midnight that’s a suitable time? Please.
Now here’s the million-dollar question. If in a Global Recession, inflations only going one direction and an already strapped for cash government with factories and bauxite plants that provide employment shutting their doors forever, can we afford to treat the music and culture the main lure for the oh-so-important tourists in the same business as usual manner as we have been doing for so long? Sadly I really don’t anticipate silver linings for these dark clouds instead maybe Portia on a $200 000 note.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bob doesn't 'fit the bill', says Ziggy

By Steven Jackson
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Quadruple Grammy award winner, Ziggy Marley does not want his father reggae icon Bob Marley on legal tender, opposing the position of cultural stakeholders.
Ziggy... Bob Marley is already a national hero, whether the government says so or not
"Me no inna that," said Marley in Sunday Observer interview. "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar, we no inna that. Hugh Shearer is good, put him on the $5,000 bill. Me alright with that."
The images on Jamaica's legal notes are reserved for heroes and prime ministers - and is amongst the highest honour, but Marley implied it would solidify the reggae icon as a part of 'Babylon' - the system he opposed. He, however, was not against Bob Marley becoming a national hero as it would represent the people's will not the system.
"Bob Marley is already a national hero, whether the government says so or not. We already know he is our hero. So it's up to the government whether they want to get on the people's side," he said.
Internationally, Marley is the musical equivalent of revolutionary icon Che Guevara; locally he is a national hero in waiting. Ziggy Marley told the Observer that politicians will one day elevate him to hero status for political expediency.
"Even when he was around he did so much good things for people. During the One Love concert, which other man could have brought Eddy and Manley on stage in such a turbulent time to say peace in Jamaica. Is only a hero could have done that. We have to respect Bob for more than the music but what he stands for," argued Marley on Marley in reference to his father.
The Bank of Jamaica released souvenir Bob Marley coins in 1995 and 2005 in commemoration of Bob Marley's 50th and 60th birthday. These thick gold plated coins are in denominations of $50 and J$100 and cost US $100 (J$8,900) and US$400 (J$35,600) respectively. But cultural stakeholders on Thursday told the Observer that they wanted Marley on legal tender charging that he best represented the majority. Instead, some see the new khaki-coloured note as a political counteraction to the $1,000 bill which bears the image of Michael Manley, former prime minister and PNP politician. The government plans to unveil the new $5,000 note on tomorrow, following the steady loss in value of the country's highest tender $1,000. Ziggy Marley argued that trade liberalisation has caused the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar - a global policy reducing import tariffs in an attempt to spur competitiveness.
"Is a strategy long established in economic system of the world, where the poor countries have to suffer for the richer countries. Free trade where they say open up your market and they say buy American apples (and so on) so the things we grow a yard are more expensive than the things from foreign. That is just the way they enslave the poor countries just because we need to borrow some money from them."
Hugh Shearer served Jamaica as prime minister from 1967-72. He led Jamaica during its most prosperous period of economic growth since independence - growing at some six per cent a year versus the anaemic one per cent during the last 20 years.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Like a Slave Without Papers

An alleged thief who wandered onto the University of the West Indies campus in his quest to procure a laptop received an epic ass whooping by Jamaica’s finest minds (May 5, 2009). The man, 35 years old Cesar Okonkwo of an Alexander Road Kingston 13 address. Who breached the security fencing at the back of Irvine Hall was accosted by a group of men from the near by Chancellor Hall. Apparently after retrieving a school bag with books that the man had allegedly stolen he was beaten by students just before being rescued by the police.

While crime levels soar and our government struggle to find ways to cope with this monster, the need for new and more effective ways of dealing with crime and by extension the criminals would be an obvious way forward. Who else to offer possible alternatives to the problem than young fresh thinkers able to assess problems and find solutions those older dustier and more steadfast minds would overlook. As from time immemorial, university students provided the way forward via sit-ins or student protests on injustices at home and world wide. It is therefore sad to know that given the opportunity to pick up the gauntlet in this seemingly insignificant incident our bright young intellectuals opted for the ignorant draconian approach. I’m sure they made their benefactors proud.

It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. No doubt in certain areas we are truly insane. We elect public officials on a curry goat and beer mentality and then act surprised when roads don’t get fixed, basic infrastructure not put in place and no one sees said elected official until next election period. It is also insane for us to think that some how as the world crumbles around us God will spare us as long as we hold tightly our bible and hate the other in our very systematic and tribal manner (PNP vs. JLP, GAZA vs. GULLY).

It seems the older we get as a nation the dumber we become, until now the knee jerk response to any and every minor/major alleged infringement on rights is met with a block road congregation and a 7 and 8 o’clock video-light feature and toothless hollers of “WE WANT JUSTICE!” Scarcely thinking, we even know what the word truly means anymore, after all we were the ones that sold our souls to a gun culture, and looking the other way for scarce and now non-existent benefits. Universities are supposed to provide hope that at least the coming generation will be better and brighter than the one so corrupted now.

Education or the privilege of being able to call one’s self an educated person comes not only from attending classes, passing tests and handing in assignments on time, but in how much of what was learned is then internalized and how actions have changed due to this new knowledge. It’s super easy to beat a thief, kill a murderer and lynch anyone that doesn’t look or act according to your values. Seriously, does one NEED a higher education in the, oh so complex skill of raining down blows on a petty thief?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lawya Mi Seh Eh Nuh

Popular Deejay Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer finds himself in legal hot water with media personality and show promoter G T Taylor. Taylor is suing Kartel for breach of contract due to Palmer’s non-appearance at Taylor’s annual Christmas Extravaganza show held on December 25 at Independence Park, Black River in St. Elizabeth. Taylor seeks reimbursement for damages to his name as a promoter with a public apology by Kartel also he seeks the return of monies paid as a 50% deposit for his appearance in the tune of J$150,000.

Kartel a headlining act for the show was M.I.A. for his 12:30am slot even after allowances were made by Taylor in order to facilitate the Deejay’s performance at another event ’March Out’ held the same night. Taylor who is apparently pissed off since to date nether Kartel nor anyone from his camp can provide an explanation (good or half assed) for his absence after Taylor allegedly made numerous calls to both the artist and his publicist. Understandably annoyed Taylor states that the artist did the same thing the year before (2007) however in that scenario no contracts were made out and the deposit was returned. Other un-litigated no-shows included Bounty Killa and Macka Diamond but they appeared on air on Irie FM and made public apologies.

It was only Taylor and his attorney Donald Gittens who were present when the case was called in the Black River Resident Magistrate’s court yesterday (May 6, 2009). However Gittens informed the court the he had been in dialogue with Kartel’s attorney Seymour Stewart via telephone who told him that his client is ‘putting the money together for repayment’.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Celebration Of Life

May 2, 2009 proved to be a very busy night indeed. So many potentially good events were slated for that night. I opted for the Spragga Benz show because of the lineup and the fact that it was a really good cause compared to the excesses of Yush. To be honest it didn’t live up to the expectations of many patrons. Maybe it was the awesomeness of the lineup or the relative cheapness of the tickets or just the venue that made this stage show a miss. Life Fest was a celebration of the life of his 17-year-old son Carlton Grant Jr., who was controversially killed by police in downtown Kingston, August 2008. Also, proceeds were in aid of keeping at risk children in school especially those in 5th and 6th form. The show was hit by very important no shows, most notable that of Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Tanya Stephens, apologies were made but I really don’t need to explain how one feels when they expect and pay for something and not get it. The venue was Backyard, 126 Constant Spring Road, St. Andrew, which is pretty in the heart of what is considered Uptown residential areas; you know the type of people who call the police and they actually turn up for things such as noise disturbances. Tickets sold for $1000JMD and for an inexhaustible lineup of stars seemed almost too good to be true. The show ended somewhere in the region of 2:30-3:00 am. A ghastly, and ungodly hour for any stage show to end, especially in Jamaica. Honestly it may have been better to have kept a good show down by Red Square instead of a half assed one at a non-threatening venue.

Who stole the show? That was between Fire Mumma Queen Ifrica and the cool cool Jah Cure who both gave somewhat memorable sets. While Sizzla Kalonji gave an average performance he didn’t go as hard as he used to and especially in a case where you don’t have any sponsors to offend (to paraphrase Spragga) it was sort of expected for him to go harder. Spragga Benz gave an impassioned performance of “Leave all Vengeance” which had me thinking, “Does this nigga know that there is a battalion of police just outside the gates especially when he sang the part about going out in some Spaghetti-Western-Dirty-Harry manner?” It wasn’t a great show, it was barely a good show, but it has potential with its heart in the right place. Now if they work out the organizational kinks and possibly a different location then maybe Life Fest will be the one of the premier shows to attend in the annual calendar of events.

Long Live the King

There was much elation at the Weekendz bar last Saturday May 2, 2009 when Poor and Boasy was crowned King of the Dancehall in the Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall competition. It didn’t come as much of a surprise, he was the crowd favourite from the start. Yes there were times when he fell off, but for the most part he gave very consistent performances over the life of the competition. Coming from much hardship being a ‘Street yute’ he presented us with the ultimate Cinderella story. He is easy on the eyes and talented so he made it easy for us to romanticize the situation and to some extent be romanced by the idea of him. He gave the streets a face and a very powerful voice. It’s no longer okay to ignore the children of the ‘red, amber and green’. No longer okay for us to sit in our nicely air conditioned rides as the sun abuses the asphalt to present them only with a mirage of a better day that for most will never come. “Some one should do something about that” “Why don’t they go find work/go back to school?” Whatever the case we are very content with ourselves until the next stoplight. Because no matter how much our spirit is disturbed, no matter how much the thought of helping our brothers and sisters less fortunate, it is always some one else’s problem.

Along with his kingly raiment-his robe, his crown, his ring - bestowed to him by the last year’s Queen Baby Tash, the symbolic trappings he received helps with the production of his first single and music video. Without a doubt that is the easiest part of his dowry. Already his writing style thus far is very upbeat and catchy. He’ll definitely create some earworms that go further on the chart than his predecessors have managed to get. Will he be able to cross over? Only time will tell, depending on how much and the quality of grooming he receives. Already his swagger is being compared to early Gargamel/Buju, right now there is no higher honor.

Amid the Poor and Boasy hysteria, patrons banged on any and everything they could find, eventually they tore down a whole part of the wall facing the road. They shouted his name and catch phrase, which made such an unholy noise it made one wonder if the earth would suddenly open to swallow all who stood there. So much emotion wrecked his face it was hard to fathom what was in his heart, which seemed to be quite possibly one of the happiest and most overwhelming moments in his life to date. Yet our society would not allow him the simple release of one tear to roll down his cheek. It was easy to get caught up in the waves of happiness and delight. But for me what crept in was concern and sympathy, the burden of $1,000,000JMD in a recession would not go too far. Couple that with the host of ‘latchers ons’ and ‘fren-emies’ this sudden fame and fortune brings my only hope is he finds some one or something to keep him grounded.

Tikki was crowned Queen by last year’s king Singer Jah. While not my favorite (Destiny) I am sure she will do well or hopefully better than last year’s winner Baby Tash.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall

Oh ho Poor and Boasy again! By now if you haven’t been familiar with that statement then truly you have been living under a rock for the past few months. This, the second installment of the Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall, is proving that is does have some degree of staying power in the Saturday line up. It is also proving to be a vehicle for developing new talents that under normal circumstances may otherwise be left aside. The Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall is basically the American Idol for Dancehall. This means contestants go through the wringer, in a short time testing their range as an artist and ultimately battling each other for an opportunity to shine or remain in the realm of Iron Balloon for a year. It’s a hardcore dancehall boot camp, which engages the viewers to vote for their favorite prince and or princess to move on to the next stage of the competition all the time toughening the skin and grooming the potential heir to the throne.

Dancehall is about characters and in the Kings and Queens competition there is no shortage of them. One needn’t go farther than the reoccurring characters of judges and host. Producer extraordinaire, Cordel 'Scatta' Burrell has achieved some fame with his chat topping rhythm Coolie Dance. While not as scathing and witty as a Simon he does have his ‘WTF’ moments, and at times it’s very hard to agree or see what he sees. For example “Kelly Killa sound like Merciless on the toilet.” I don’t even want to know how or why he was privy to such information or when he implied a few weeks ago that Poor and Boasy got thus far on pity votes.
The renowned dancehall artiste General Degree sometimes appears to be the bleeding heart among the three judges. Maybe it has to do with his first hand experience as an artiste and going through much of the anguish and embarrassment which he is presented with nightly and the fact that in all this he refuses to be the one to crush someone’s dream. Personally I like when he has one too many Magnums and rambles a little or when he just probably wasn’t listening and when it’s his turn to comment he goes “Yeah! Wha Miss Kitty say.”
Which brings us to the fluffy Diva herself. Broadcaster Miss Kitty is the embodiment of the fact that a female who has street ‘cred’ can conduct herself as a lady. That is a refreshing and positive example for all the little divas to be that watch the show. She offers intelligent and constructive criticism for those who will listen. All in all she keeps the Motley Crew inline while also being the muse to many of the songs presented by the contestants. It is clear the judges have fun at their job while at the same time has the deeper understanding that the task they choose to undertake is a very important one. The other female in this get up is Empress and every night she proves to be more than just eye candy with a really nice booty. But Jesus H. Christ if she sings ‘Welcome Back’ one more time bang! Zoom! Straight to the moon!

The first airing of Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall took place on Saturday January 5th 2008. Princes and Princesses vie for a million dollars and a video and production of a single, the necessary tools for the debut of a superstar. Now in its second season we are presented with finalist Poor and Boasy, a window-washing pauper turned Dancehall Prince. His style and flow is unlike any you have ever heard, in this case it’s a good thing, and he has the swagger to back it up. Also in the Magnum court is the fair lady Destiny from the sunshine city. It is very hard to believe that she is not already an established artiste as she clearly has stage presence and has proven to be very versatile thus far. She moves with a seamless ease of motion from singing melodic hooks to battling her fellow princess Tikki, spitting counteractions and venomous battle lyrics without missing a beat. Tikki and R.C. are the other finalist in the grand finale which airs this Saturday May 2, 2009 at the Weekenz Bistro and Bar. If you have the opportunity to, please go out and support your favorite, try to get there for 8pm-ish, the show airs on TVJ at 9p.m. sharp.

After Magnum check out Life Fest at Backyard, literally up the road from Weekendz. Live Fest features an excellent bill including Sizzla, Queen Ifrica, Jah Cure, Chino, Wayne Wonder and High Octane, Damien 'Junior Gong' Marley, Stephen Marley. While the line up for Life Fest is crazy it’s a session with a good cause, it is an education improvement drive of which the DJ is no stranger to. The show is promoted by the Carlisle Foundation, named for Benz's 17-year-old son, Carlton Grant Jr., who was controversially killed by police in downtown Kingston last August.