Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“Who Mash Up Reggae?”

Review of CPR Panel Discussion by Sheron Hamilton-Pearson

Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn was the setting on Wednesday May 5, 2010 for the continuing CPR* (Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music) forum discussions. The community was invited to participate in the first of a series of forums on the controversial topic “Who Mash Up Reggae?” with a focus on the responsibility of radio DJs in the dissemination of that genre over the airways. Moderated by Sharon Gordon and hosted by Carlyle McKetty both from the Coalition to Preserve Reggae Music, the event was streamed live at, where an archive of the occasion is available for review.

The panelists bringing their particular expertise and commentary were long-standing radio DJ – Bob Frederick, formerly of WLIB whose dulcet tones can now be heard on WVIP the brokered radio station operating out of New Rochelle. Dexter Blake , popularly known as “Father Linkage” owner and CEO of Community Radio Station, Linkage Radio and Howard Davis, aka Junior Raddix, music producer. Opening statements from each panelist were followed by a commentary from King Simon fka Simon Templar who gave a potted history of his longevity in the radio industry. Templar invoked the spirit of Marcus Garvey when he spoke about ownership of news medium, a point reiterated by Bob Fredericks who also briefly touched on the present woes currently experienced by stalwart Caribbean newspaper Carib News whose 30 year distribution is in jeopardy after support was pulled by rival, Rupert Murdoch-owned, Caribbean Life. Fredericks, in response to various audience comments about the proliferation of ‘mortgage company infiltration of brokered stations, explained that economics predicate that the sponsor is king, though in his effort to bring formatted radio to brokered stations, he is attempting to bring programming that harks back to the ‘good old days of WLIB’ with its major Caribbean presence.

Dexter Blake was not reticent in admitting that radio DJs have much to answer for in relation to the state of the reggae industry and the unspoken rule of payola. The listening public who bemoan the lack of quality music now understand that the industry has been overrun by those with deep pockets who pay to play. Of course the quality of the music being produced suffers tremendously as quality music is replaced by hype with no regard to the tenets of upliftment, enlightenment or education on which reggae music was founded.

The second commentary was provided by Carter Van Pelt, veteran musicologist WKCR 89.9 FM, Eastern Standard Time host and long-time CPR supporter and previous panelist, shared his dream for community radio stations owned and operated by a discerning listenership with a heartfelt plea for the death knell of brokered radio and its concomitant corruptive practice of payola.

The discussion was lively, heartfelt and earnest in its attempts to seek solutions and set an agenda for a change in the way reggae music is represented to the listening public. The forum also touched on ways in which some relief can be provided to local and international artists who are not given an opportunity to put their music in the arena without having to pay to play. The gathering also went some way to provide networking opportunities to those local artists who attended by allowing them unfettered access to the music industry insiders and djs at the event. Lady Ann was not bashful in accusing radio stations of not playing her music as evidenced by her light-hearted banter with Dexter Blake of Linkage Radio. The public also came up with some cogent points on what they thought could be remedies to the malady facing the radio industry. The hosts were quick to point out that all comments, suggestions and questions should be addressed to for inclusion in a formal document addressing the matter.

The CPR forums are building in momentum, let’s hope that those movers and shakers in the industry who were notably absent will see and feel the winds of change and not be left crying in the cold when the sands of time shift and ushers in a new day.

* CPR is a charitable organization working to raise the bar in the creation, development, promotion and presentation of reggae music. CPR conducts educational forums and presents music events to raise funds to research, codify, curate and disseminate literature regarding the music.