The announcement by Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of the government’s major budgetary allocation for inner city development was welcomed. It is also very good to see that this is an initiative for which there is support from the opposition Jamaica Labour Party.
It is my view and that of many other Jamaicans that serious development within our inner city communities must be the country’s number one priority, particularly if we want to rescue ourselves from the intolerably high levels of crime and violence. Many of us also believe that our music, music producers, performers and media outlets can play a very significant role in inner city development.
No one can challenge the fact that music and entertainment provides the greatest source of motivation, empowerment, awareness building and livelihood opportunities for the youth population all over Jamaica. Jamaica’s music has also clearly demonstrated its ability to compete on the world stage of popular music and win, and is therefore clearly one of our better export products.
What role therefore will our music industry be called upon to play in this very important inner city development programme? Where do we start? Who should take the lead? Is the government ready to treat with and recognize the efforts of persons and entities within the music industry to organize and build relevant structures? Are members of the music industry ready and willing to trust and partner with government? These are some of the questions that jump at me as I think about this tremendous opportunity to turn things around in Jamaica, land we love. If we fail to utilize our music and music resources as a significant part of the proposed inner city development programme, we will certainly be wasting a lot of time and money.
In the past few years there have been several studies and reports done by local, regional and international scholars and economic development experts and agencies, including more than one UN agency, which all point to Jamaica’s music and entertainment as the best solution for economic growth, export expansion, youth employment creation and the reduction of poverty. The case being put forward for music to have a significant role in the development of our country is therefore not based on emotion, and is backed by research. We have a tendency in Jamaica, however, to do and commission studies and reports that we apparently both fail to circulate and to implement. The music industry in Jamaica has been over-studied and over reported in the past 10 years, yet our decision and policy makers still keep asking for data and supporting information to justify the call for focus and emphasis on this sector. To them I would say, “Go read the studies and reports, and stop asking the music makers to prove their case”.
The Jamaican music industry has come a long way in recent years in an effort to structure itself. There are still some in the industry, however, who continue to be heavily burdened with the counter-productive baggage of mistrust, envy and grudge. Those of us in the industry who are ready for the challenge of nation-building will therefore need to put down our baggage, talk less, and do more. We need to also accept the importance of the role of our music in the nation-building process and act more responsibly.