I read with interest the recent Jamaica Gleaner story of local entertainers hustling for a piece of the entertainment dollars in the industry.
This issue is like whales coming up for air, blowing through their blowpipes and then submerging again on their way to their annual migration.
If you can use this issue to understand the personality of most Jamaicans, this is a classic one. To borrow a colloquial expression, “they can’t bodder”.
Jamaicans are never good at fighting for anything without being led. Look at the issues we readily fight for: LGBT issues, LGBT issues and oh yes LGBT issues headed by pastors and you get the picture of where the passion lies.
It has nothing to do with their own economic benefit and livelihood and more to do with their false sense of morality. It’s a plantation syndrome that sadly some in the country are only too happy to remain, feeling ‘secured.’ But I digress.
This issue needs a leader to organise and demonstrate to the entertainers that their talent is, like most things in Jamaica, being outsourced to foreign entities. The careless and shameless comment by the so called entertainment director quoted in the story, is to be expected as most of these ‘directors’ are really not Jamaicans and so have no ‘navel string’ tied to this country that is feeding them.
The issue is this. Deliberately and precisely, the hotels have been seeking foreign entertainment to replace the burgeoning cost of local entertainers that have been experiencing diminishing returns.
Yes the local talent has some part in the blame game. For years they have assumed the position of the lazy creator; if it is not broken, don’t fix it. Talent with no innovation is like a paper weight, it just there, occupying space, accomplishing nothing except dead weight.
The economic realities hotels faced with years of this artistic deficiency was needless to say economically senseless. Their entertainment dollars did not meet or exceed guests’ satisfaction or perception.
Enter the Dragon that lies just 90 miles from the coast of Negril. The Spanish culture itself is dynamically colorful and sensuous, integrating the rhythmic music that compels them to dance and express a culture that is not seen in Jamaica nor its millions of guests.
It is this perception of a more glitzy, professionally staged offering and a music that is globally liked and marketed particularly with the help of the pop influence of international Latin artistes, that the Latin option was introduced and now seems to be successfully accepted and appreciated by the consumer it was intended to entertain, the guests.
No one, including Entertainment directors or General Managers can or should use the common argument of similarity when addressing the issue of perception using Latin over Jamaican culture. They are not the same. Our cultures are different as paella is to Ackee & Salt fish.
Perception is reality and when the producers of entertainment insidiously feed their guests with an overdose of Latin glitz accompanied with a side dish of pop, salsa and a sprinkling of some Jamaican rhythm, the guests are led to believe by this cultural indoctrination, that this type of Entertainment in Jamaica is the new Black.
No sir. Salsa is NOT the new black. It is a false narrative as much as saying Jamaicans are just like Cubans. Birthed from a State run entity, Cuban entertainment and entertainers enjoy privileges Jamaican entertainers have never enjoyed from their own government. That is not blaming anyone, it is what it is.
The cost of producing a similar conference of performance for a Jamaican group is comparatively higher than the Cubans. Their price point will be comparatively higher, so it’s good business for the Hotels to hire the Cubans. It’s the dollars and cents of the business that few entertainers find it hard to swallow.
How do we resolve this ? A good place to start is for the Jamaican government to have a serious look at its Entertainment portfolio and for the first time organize the sector into economic productivity and their social and cultural relevance, and with specific attention to the sector’s continued development towards professionalism.
With all the hoopla of Jamaican entertainment, most are still far from a professional entity and that is what is bothersome in Jamaica, the professionalism of everything. That in itself is another discourse but the problem starts at this intersection, professionalism is nothing in Jamaica.
The local entertainers are slipping away from the doors of employment and they have no leader. The hotels are maximizing their entertainment dollars and they are happily experiencing the benefits of economies of scale.. It’s not cheap entertainment that is replacing the Jamaicans. It’s professional entertainment. Until Jamaica gets professional in every aspect of the sector, we will continue to see the drip, drip of our culture and yes Latin will be the new Jamaica.
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