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"A threat to the future of the Jamaican music business"
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"A threat to the future of the Jamaican music business"

There are fears that the recent jailing of two major Jamaican reggae stars in the US could herald a clampdown by foreign immigration and law enforcement agencies on the Caribbean music industry, writes Graham Rowe, 22, Jamaica’s Youth Ambassador for Entertainment.

Mark Myrie, also known as Buju Banton, was sentenced to ten years in prison on the 23rd of June for conspiracy to traffic illicit drugs and related offences.

Denroy Morgan was arrested on the 14th of September and charged for drug possession. Buju Banton is and will always be a reggae icon and Denroy Morgan has been for many years a warrior, leading the charge against the obscurity of the genre on the international stage.

While reggae fans worldwide wish peace be with the former and justice be served for the latter, artists should take note as both situations may impact on reggae in profound ways.

While individually their cases may be unrelated, foreign law enforcement and immigration assets may not see it that way. These two cases may be noted by foreign authorities and taken as a reason to put greater scrutiny and pressure on the reggae industry as a whole. If foreign law enforcement takes it as a trend for reggae artists to be involved in illicit activity the results will be less than good.

That is not to say that anyone is going to “fight out” the reggae industry, but if these agencies decide to do some ‘dynamite fishing’ there could be some collateral damage. Two ways we could feel the pinch are tighter visa restrictions and increased probity concerning income generated in these countries by reggae artists.

Visas are a simple way of regulating the flow of foreigners into their territory. But should the reggae industry be profiled as an appendage of the drug trade? Should we expect to see an increase in the requirements for getting a visa, a decrease in the number of artists issued visas, and the number of ‘stage crew members’ issued visas to ‘help’ them on their trips?

The decrease in exposure and income from the shows, dubplates or appearances would be a heavy blow to the industry. The authorities will undoubtedly increase their interest in income generated by reggae artists inside these countries. While there is no arguing with paying taxes, it is highly unlikely that most reggae artists are currently paying taxes generated on money earned abroad.

The increased awareness of the tax man will see a decrease in the money taken home by reggae artists and a decrease in the overall bottom line of the industry, delivering another punishing blow to the industry in Jamaica as it stands.

Up and coming reggae artists are going to have to be much more savvy – public relations and promotions-wise – to develop their careers and keep the industry alive in these potentially hostile times.

That being said, all hope is not lost. There are a number of under-utilised strategies that may be employed to keep income turning over in the industry. I will explore some of these strategies for up and coming artists in my next article.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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