Takeaways from Jamaica’s Island Music Festival From left to right Clive Mono Mukundu, Wyclef Jean and Shaggy at the just ended Island Music Festival held in Jamaica

Clive Mono Mukundu-Own Correspondent

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts, and Culture Nicholas Moyo, was invited to participate as a panellist in the second annual Island Music Conference in Jamaica. 

After careful examination, his department concluded that having a musician actively engaged in the music industry alongside Moyo would greatly benefit the arts sector. 

Considering my expertise in being a practicing musician, scholar, and writer, I was the perfect fit for the requirements they were searching for. 

The conference spans five days and brings together professionals from the music industry, government officials, administrators, and videographers. 

During the event, participants engage in workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches on a variety topics, including copyright law, artiste management, media relations, social media strategies, record deals, industry and government policies, wealth management, investments, insurance, publicity and branding, videography, and sync and scoring. 

After each session, there was an opportunity for questions and answers, which I actively participated in. 

I was extremely impressed by the attendance of Jamaican artistes at the conference. 

Artistes ranging from current popular figures like Spice, timeless hit makers such as Sean Paul, Beenie Man, and Shaggy, and respected elders like Mutabaruka, as well as up-and-coming talents, were present every day.  

This demonstrated their eagerness to learn. 

Moreover, all the artistes left their egos behind, as evidenced by the absence of bodyguards and special seating. 

They freely mingled with everyone else. 

While superstars inevitably received requests for selfies, the Jamaican artistes, known for their humility, graciously fulfilled everyone. 

The conference had a packed schedule, with five to seven sessions and events taking place each day from morning until evening. 

Some events even extended late into the night. Due to the extensive programme, it is not feasible to cover all the details in this article. 

Therefore, only what I think was the most significant content will be mentioned. 

The keynote speeches delivered by different speakers at the conference were highly sought-after sessions that attracted a significant audience every day. 

The information presented was both valuable and practical. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote speech delivered by Wyclef Jean, a well-known Haitian singer-songwriter currently living in the United States. 

He is famous for his contributions to the Fugees band, where he collaborated with singer/rapper Lauryn Hill. 

Wyclef Jean impressively came equipped with visuals and audio to enrich his speech, and occasionally he would even incorporate singing or dancing, providing a distinct and memorable experience. 

Wyclef asserted that the true influence in the music industry is derived from owning and comprehending the business aspects of the field. 

He recounted a discussion with his father where he had foreseen a future of destitution upon declaring his profession as a musician. 

Wyclef credits his ability to negate this prediction to his understanding of the music business. He asserts that his ownership of several highly popular songs around the world brings him a significant yearly income. 

Included in his impressive portfolio of songwriting achievements are collaborations on well-known tracks such as “My Love Is Your Love” by Whitney Houston in 1999, “Maria Maria” by Santana, and “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira. He stresses that the revenue generated solely from these three songs is considerable. 

Additionally, he highlights that he still receives payment whenever Shakira performs “Hips Don’t Lie,” regardless of whether he is directly involved in the performance or not.

He mentioned that he earns extra money from Rihanna’s “Wild Thoughts’ produced by DJ Khaled because it includes a portion of his track “Maria-Maria.” 

He explained that whenever the total number of streams for both songs reaches a billion, he gets paid. He earned millions of dollars when the movie ‘Mission Impossible’ used his song “Ready or Not,” which he originally wrote for the Fugees, even though they performed a different version of the song.

He noted that syncs are a major part of his earnings, where songs and visual media like films, TV shows, ads, video games, and trailers are combined. 

He proudly claimed to have 30,000 syncs and expressed satisfaction in not having to rely solely on playing the guitar to earn a living. 

He believes that these syncs will support him for life and generate wealth for future generations, much like his inspiration, Bob Marley. 

He offered a valuable piece of advice to artistes, encouraging them not to abandon a song that fails initially if they believe it to be a good one. 

To illustrate his point, he shared the story of the song, “Maria Maria,” which initially received a poor response when sung by the original artist he wrote it for. 

However, it became a successful hit when it was later re-imagined and performed by Carlos Santana.

During the question-and-answer portion of his speech, there was a light moment when a new Jamaican artiste asked a question. 

The artiste spoke in heavy Patois, which Wyclef, despite his familiarity with the language from spending time in Jamaica, couldn’t understand. 

The same goes for everyone who was not Jamaican – we couldn’t make out a single word. 

Fortunately, Wyclef reached out to Shaggy for assistance in interpreting the artiste’s question. 

Vivian Scott Chew delivered an informative keynote speech on February 22, 2024, discussing her experience as ShabbaRanks” manager in the dancehall industry. 

Her talk focused on the trajectory of Shabba’s career, starting from his signing with Sony and concluding with the re-percussions he faced after refusing to retract his anti-gay remarks, which led to his professional downfall. 

She expressed that when Shabba Ranks was initially signed to the Sony record label, she insisted on recording his music in Jamaica using local studios, producers, and songwriters to preserve the authenticity of his sound and prevent it from being diluted by American producers. 

Her request was granted, and they recorded their first single, ‘Trailer Load of Girls’, which was released in May 1992. 

I believe that this serves as a valuable lesson for artists all over the world. 

I am aware of several Zimbabwean artistes who relocated abroad and began working with Western music producers, causing their unique sound to be lost. 

This is also discussed in Steve Roskilly’s documentary about “The Bhundu Boys’. 

According to Roskilly, one of the biggest mistakes ‘The Bhundu Boys’ made was collaborating with British music producers when they moved to the UK. 

They were advised by their record company to return to Zimbabwe and work with local producers to maintain the original, distinctive sound that had initially made them successful. 

However, when they did return to Zimbabwe, they produced the music themselves and ended up adopting a more Westernised sound. 

As a result, their record label immediately dropped them, further intensifying existing tensions within the band that ultimately contributed to their breakup.

Vivian mentioned that for Shabba Ranks’ initial video shoot, she was given a budget of only US$25,000, which she considered very low according to American standards. 

In comparison, other artistes signed to the same label were receiving figures surpassing US$100,000 each. 

However, she made the most out of the limited funds and employed what she referred to as ‘Jamaican street promoters’ to distribute the video and song in various places such as barber shops and social gathering spots, where people frequently gathered. 

As a result, the video and song eventually gained popularity and became a hit.

Before recording their second single, the record label informed her that Shabba Ranks’ pronounced Patois accent would not be comprehensible to Americans. 

However, she persistently chose to preserve his authentic style and allowed him to sing in Patois. 

Despite initial concerns, the single still achieved success, effectively demonstrating that language does not pose a hindrance. 

During the middle of her keynote address, she extended an invitation to the present Minister of Arts in Jamaica, Olivia Grange. 

Before she was appointed a minister, Grange was actively involved in Shabba Ranks’ management team, which led to their collaboration. 

Furthermore, she had the opportunity to work with various other artistes, including Patra. 

The esteemed minister provided significant advice for artists, particularly new musicians. 

Her primary recommendation was for them to acknowledge and be grateful for the influence of those who came be-fore them and to seek guidance from experienced individuals who have paved the way they aspire to follow. She highlighted the importance of humility and being open to learning, referencing the example of Shabba Ranks. 

Additionally, she emphasized the proverb, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Additionally, she offered guidance to musicians regarding their awareness of the specific field they belong to. Reiterating her statement, she emphasized that possessing talent alone is insufficient, as it results in undervaluing oneself. 

She further stated that artists need to acquire comprehensive knowledge about copyright law, publishing processes, split sheets, and the current alterations being brought about by technological advancements within the music industry.

She expressed her frustration with the lack of willingness among current artists to accept guidance and advice from older individuals, which she believes is crucial for their development. 

She used Shabba as an example, explaining how they, as a team, made all decisions for him, including his clothing and haircuts, to create a buzz around his name. 

This included glamorous activities like riding in limousines with a group of girls and bodyguards. 

However, she cautioned artists against allowing this hype to go to their heads and emphasized the importance of remaining humble. 

One piece of advice she stressed was the necessity for artistes to maintain professionalism by not skipping events or demanding excessive amounts of money that are beyond their status. 

The conference was primarily focused on panel discussions, which concluded with question-and-answer sessions. 

An especially significant panel discussion centred on artist management and took place on February 21st. Colin Gayle, currently leading, ‘The Africa Creative Agency’ after relocating to South Africa, shared invaluable insights drawn from his extensive background as a former manager for renowned artists including D.J. Jazzy Jeff, Kenny Latimore, and 50 Cent, among others. 

The speaker started by noting that it is the manager’s responsibility to enhance the existing talent and abilities of an artiste. 

This implies that the artist should possess some skills or qualities beforehand, rather than relying on the manager to perform miracles and conjure something out of thin air. 

He expressed that an artist needs to have their vision and dreams before seeking a manager’s involvement. 

He emphasized that laziness has no place in the music industry, and the only successful individuals he knows are those who work tirelessly for at least 19 hours a day. 

He concluded by stating that a manager utilizes their experience, expertise, and connections to continue the artist’s journey. 

Quoting him directly, he stated, “I dedicate myself around the clock, and I expect the same level of dedication from others.”

According to Natalie Pros, a panellist at the management discussion, managers must work with individuals who possess inherent talent, as those lacking natural ability will not yield favourable outcomes.

In her concluding remarks, she stressed the significance of starting with a strong song, stating that success hinges on this pivotal aspect. 

She explained that while some artistes may prioritize publicity and appearances, without quality songs, all other efforts are rendered futile. 

Therefore, she urged artistes to dedicate time to crafting exceptional songs or consider employing songwriters to achieve this goal. 

She also mentioned how artistes require that magnetic charm and presence which immediately captures attention upon entering a room, and she acknowledged that this quality can indeed be learned. 

Nicholas Moyo took part in another significant panel discussion. 

The host started by quoting lyrics from Bob Marley’s renowned song “Zimbabwe” and then went on to introduce him.

Moyo was attending a panel discussion on government policies regarding the arts in his role as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sports, Recreation, Arts, and Culture. 

During his speech, he highlighted the government’s commitment to enhancing the music industry, specifically referencing the recently finalised NDS-1 document and other government initiatives. 

Furthermore, Moyo emphasized that his participation in the conference itself signifies the ministry and government’s genuine dedication to improving the condition of the arts. 

The Guadalupe government representative expressed that their government aids their artistes by sponsoring them to perform at international festivals to gain recognition.  

So, if there is a festival in Zimbabwe that presents a potential opportunity, the Guadalupe government will contact the organizers and request a performance slot. 

The hosting entity is not required to provide any payment, travel expenses, or accommodations, as all of these arrangements are handled by the Guadalupe government. 

They simply ask for the chance to perform and receive exposure. 

In exchange for this opportunity, the musicians will actively assist in promoting their country.

If implemented correctly and wisely, the actions being undertaken by the government of Guadalupe mentioned previously have the potential to yield highly positive outcomes.

As I finish, I want to acknowledge my admiration for dancehall artiste Shaggy. 

My admiration stems from two factors primarily:

Firstly, his profound understanding of the workings of the music industry. 

He would occasionally interject to assist the panellists in answering audience questions. 

However, he admitted that he still needs to familiarize himself with some of the more recent systems in this digital age.

Additionally, his dedication to sharing knowledge and promoting success among his fellow Jamaicans left a strong impression on me. 

Notably, he serves as the chairman of The Island Music Conference, demonstrating his commitment to empowering his nation. 

Furthermore, he emphasized that he does not discriminate when collaborating with others, regardless of their popularity or desire to exploit his fame. 

This approach serves as another means of uplifting his country. 

I also noticed that he played the role of co-mc throughout the entire event, from the first day to the last. 

I already stated in the introduction that there was an overwhelming amount of information presented at the conference, too much to include in a single article. 

Therefore, I will conclude at this point.

Mono Mukundu, along with Nicholas Moyo, the Permanent Secretary in the Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture department, attended the Island Music Conference in Jamaica from February 21st to 25th.

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