– Baldwin Howe

 A militant set of Reggae/Dancehall artistes have initiated a bold counter move of their own, in reaction to the announcement made earlier this month by Red Stripe Beer to sever their association, in terms of sponsorship, from ‘live music events” that they say, “encourages and facilitates the use of violent and anti-social lyrics.”The justification given by the artistes for their counteraction is quite understandable.Most of the artistes think that, in light of this development, one good turn deserves another.They say their ban is just an equal reaction to the beer company’s move.

mavado.jpgA few of them have even gone on to voice their opinions openly.Popular dancehall deejay, Mavado, is of the feeling that if the company, (Red Stripe), feels that it should withdraw its support of dancehall related entertainment events then dancehall artistes and supporters of the genre should also withdraw their support from Red Stripe Beer and the company’s other products, (Guiness etc.)

beenie-man.jpgBeenie Man also is annoyed at the beer company’s move has also been quoted in the national media as saying that this is the second time that Red Stripe has taken this action.He said in essence that, people don’t attend dancehall events to listen to beer and stout bottles workout. They are willing to sponsor ‘rock’ shows in Europe but don’t hesitate to dis’ national promoters and artistes. He thinks it is just an attempt to try mash up de t’ing.He further vented his feelings by saying the artistes and events assist in making Red Stripe Beer and Guiness stout sell.That the artistes work hard in assisting to promote Jamaican music and its products and Red Stripe Beer is a Jamaican product.Beenie Man is advocating that all artistes and dancehall supporters should stop drinking Red Stripe and Guiness and start to drink more Magnum Tonic Wine.Beenie Man thinks that artistes and supporters of the dancehall genre should not support the products of companies that, by their actions, are boxing food from the mouths of promoters, artistes and their children.

spice111.jpgFemale deejay sensation, Spice, also holds the view that if Red Stripe Beer have slapped a ban on the dancehall, then is only fair that the people the ban affect should respond in kind.Spice was recently quoted in the national media as saying that she don’t think the dancehall fraternity should have anything to do with Red Stripe Beer. Her opinion is if Red Stripe withdraws from supporting dancehall events and artistes, then the dancehall fraternity should also withdraw their support from them.

The current furore, as it relates to the ban and counter ban, came about when, on April 4, 2008 Red Stripe Beer issued a public statement to the effect that the annually held Reggae Sumfest and Sting ‘live’ show events are no longer going to enjoy being main beneficiaries of the company’s sponsorship of their events.This action amounts to rescinding of the agreement they had with the organizers of both events.The public statement read in part thus:“Over thee years, however, a very negative trend of glorifying violence has crept into some aspect of the music, causing consternation among well-thinking Jamaicans and others, at home and abroad.This has far-reaching and damaging implications for the industry, and for Jamaica as a whole.”

In further proffering their position to institute a counter ban on Red Stripe Beer, most of the artiste argues that the dancehall genre share a major part of the responsibility in assisting to popularize the product among patrons who support dancehall events.It their view, when ’live’ stage show events are held, (Sumfest, Sting etc.), patrons do not pay to come and be entertained by Red Stripe Beer, they pay their money to see and hear a Bounty Killa, Mavado, Beenie Man, Sizzla Kalonji and others acts advertised to perform.

Dancehall artistes are not alone in expressing disgruntlement over Red Stripe Beer’s decision.

Popular poet and broadcaster, Mutabaruka, has also voiced his views on the matter.This he made public during a performance he was giving at the Liberty Hall, on King Street, in downtown Kingston.In essence he opined that the realization is that it is not really violence that is being fought against, it is the position most, if not all, dancehall artistes take against homosexuality.He noted that violence has been in the national music for a very long time. The reality, he observes, is that Red Stripe Beer is pulling out because the powerful lobbyists of the gay community has also done so.He considers Red Stripe Beer’s action to be a hypocritical one.

Maxine Whittingham-Osbourne, the head of corporate relations at the beer company, in responding to the impending ban said in the national media that her company is disappointed about the brewing developments but is adamant in remaining firm regarding its stance.The Red Stripe Beer executive further stated that the artistes’ reaction to the decision is a sad affair and if it is truly the case the company expresses its disappointment but will, non-the-less be standing by its decision.She said that it is not Red Stripe Beer’s modus operandi to be retaliatory and the company will be seriously assessing the current situation to see what initiatives could be developed as Red Stripe Beer in not against the music industry.

Another part of the company’s statement made it clear that Red Stripe Beer will be ensuring that its product and the various brands it distribute are conveniently made available whenever and wherever loyal consumers enjoy their premium alcoholic beverages, despite the beer company’s withdrawal of sponsorship to Reggae Sumfest and Sting.

Whittingham-Osbourne further sited the fact that the sponsorship withdrawal was in keeping with Red Stripe Beer’s corporate strategies and values.In her view, the key matter is the situation that currently exists wherein Jamaica now wears the label of being the murder capital of the world, and in that regard, the company think it needs to take stock of all the factors that are contributing to this prevailing trend.It is Whittingham-Osbourne firm opinion that the glorification of violence in our music in not complimenting Jamaica’s current situation.

We here at Reggae Times will be closely monitoring the current situation between the Red Stripe Beer and the dancehall fraternity/music industry with the hope that some rational understanding will prevail, for the full benefit of Jamaica and all concerned.


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