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'Reggae music is slipping out of our hands'

ANGRY: Jamaican producer Winston 'Niney' Holness

VETERAN PRODUCER Winston 'Niney' Holness is warning Jamaican music industry players to educate themselves in order to reduce the capacity for the international community to rob the profits of reggae music.

Niney believes musicians in Spain have recorded several Jamaican songs in Spanish without the consent of the original artists and have paid no copyright fees.

"When we make songs, Spanish people take it and sing it different, and we don't speak Spanish, so we don't realise. Because of that, the Spanish artists don't pay us royalties and it slips right under our nose. I think the Spanish owe reggae music millions of dollars right now. Songs like Murder She Wrote [by Chaka Demus and Pliers] is in Spanish right now and I don't even think Sly and Robbie [the producers] know," Niney said.

According to the producer, who has recorded songs for artists including Bounty Killer, said a lack of education has marred the development of reggae music locally.

"The musicians are not educated. That is why reggae music slipping out of our hands. We need to educate ourselves because we are being robbed and we don't know. Right now, Europe have more than 80 ska bands but Jamaica are the ones who made ska, but a white people own that genre now and versions of reggae are also owned by other people, and when money comes for reggae, it goes to certain people," he said.

This elusive money for reggae, which Niney speaks about, also comes from certain endorsements by international companies like Sony.

Sony released a series of new music players last year, and launched the gadgets in New Kingston.

The company had stated in a release that the line of component sets was directly modified for the Caribbean. However, when skipping through the equaliser settings, there was no option representing the genre of reggae. Instead of reggae, there was the option of reggaeton, a genre that originated in Puerto Rico, created using elements of dancehall and reggae.


"These guys are making the money from our music. Reggaeton was made from a Jamaican single, Dem Bow. Every rhythm in reggaeton is the same drum pattern of Dem Bow and I never heard anybody collect royalty from that yet. So these people make an entire genre from reggae music and get the major endorsements, while we don't get much from our property," he said.

The producer believes Jamaica is the place for creativity and ideas. However, outsiders recognise it more than locals.

"Snoop [Lion] and Puff Daddy and these people come here for ideas because they see us with a pool of it and a strong culture. But we are not using it properly. Some of us not even produce clean things, they use nasty lyrics. But the foreigners will just take it, filter it and make the money for it," Niney said.

Reggae artist Chuck Fenda commented on Niney's concerns, saying he, like many reggae artists, was unaware his music had been copied in Spanish.

"I don't know if they are singing over any of my songs. But I would want to know, so I guess as of now I will start to listen keen. I don't speak Spanish but you can't hide a melody, no matter what language you put it in. God knows, it pains my heart to see certain things slip through our fingers. God don't give us more than we can bear, reggae a is Jamaican, no matter what," he said.

Niney, who is currently hosting a talent search, said he is looking for singers and deejays who can return reggae music to its former glory.

"I am aiming to make some good music that can make visitors want to come to Jamaica, because the music is not drawing a lot of people here anymore. When people come here, all some of them want to do is go to the beach," he said.

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