JIS News

Story Highlights

  • After the successful staging of this year’s Independence Signature Conversations, there is a call for the event to be an annual one.
  • ‘Signature Conversations’ was one of the programmes that the Ministry of Youth and Culture introduced for Jamaica Festival 2014.
  • The Conversations included entertainment and encouraged comments and questions from the audience.

After the successful staging of this year’s Independence Signature Conversations, there is a call for the event to be an annual one.

‘Signature Conversations’ was one of the programmes that the Ministry of Youth and Culture introduced for Jamaica Festival 2014 and involved a series of free public discussion sessions during the months of July and August, to inform and engage audiences on cultural issues.

The hundreds, who turned up at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) downtown Kingston to participate, enjoyed the discussions, which explored issues relating to the recognition of the Jamaican maroons; the contribution of local musical icon Bob Andy; and the contribution of Jamaican-born cultural theorist and sociologist, Stuart Hall.

The Conversations included entertainment and encouraged comments and questions from the audience.

Director and Curator of the Jamaica Music Museum and Coordinator of the event, Herbie Miller, expressed pleasure at the success of the Conversations, and the public’s response. “It must be a calendar event…where we have discussions on the social, cultural, socio-political ideas through the arts,” he states.

Mr. Miller commended the Ministry for organising the Conversations as well as the members of the various panels, who participated in and led the discussions.

“All four of them were successful beyond our expectations, especially because of the short time and what we had to work with in putting them together,” he stated.

He described the turn out as “quite good”, despite the distractions caused by the 2014 FIFA World Cup and other pre-Independence activities.

He said that the sessions have enlightened Jamaicans about the potential of the arts and “how they can package culture and how we can have fora, such as these, to educate and entertain at the same time.”

Mr. Miller said that there is a need to educate young people through the arts. “The arts are so attractive to our people. They strive on it and through the arts, we can communicate all of the history and sociology and everything that we want to convey,” he noted.

Recalling the first Conversation held on July 6, titled: “Rasta Reggae Music: Bob Andy, Songwriter Extraordinaire,” Miller said it highlighted the importance of “notating and archiving the music composed and created by our great artists.”

This session examined the quality and songwriting art of Jamaican singer and songwriter Keith Anderson famously known as “Bob Andy”. The veteran singer, who was honoured at the session, shared some of his experiences during the 1970s. Participants also had the opportunity to commend him for his contribution to the development of Jamaican music.

One of the surprises, Miller noted, was the large turnout at the penultimate Conversation on ‘Stuart Hall: Representation and Jamaican Identity’.

“People had so many choices and yet, you think of someone like Stuart Hall, an academic of the highest order, not as well known in Jamaica as he ought to have been, and yet we had quite a good turnout,” he said.

“That was a surprising one for me, because it wasn’t pop culture, it wasn’t roots culture, it is very cerebral, very intellectual and yet people came out and say they had read about Stuart Hall for a class where they had studied and they wanted to be here,” he continued.

Ancil Lee, who attended all four Conversations, told JIS News that he was enlightened and stimulated.

There were a lot of things that I didn’t know about ‘Bob Andy’ and I left still wanting to learn some more about the songs he wrote and production of the most powerful music,” he said.

Mr. Lee said the discussion on Stuart Hall was also interesting. “Very little is known about him, I had to go and do research because I wanted to know who was this person, so (attending) enlightened me,” he added.

He is encouraging more persons to attend events hosted by the IOJ and said he will be making every effort to tell more people in his community.

“The onus is on me to take the message to them that when things are happening at the Institute, they need to participate because something interesting is always happening,” he added.

Mr. Miller said the staging of the inaugural Conversations has given him ideas on how to engage future discussions.

He stated that the Signature Conversations held in the middle of the year, would be a “perfect extension” of the annual ‘Grounation,’ by the IOJ, which is a cultural exposition in celebration of Reggae/Black History Month.

The next Grounation is scheduled for February 2015 and will focus on the drums of Africa as well as the drums of Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, North America and Jamaica.