A report by Yasmine Peru for Jamaica’s Gleaner.
It is well documented that reggae and dancehall artistes have long had a love/hate relationship with radio, the most effective medium through which their songs are connected to the world. Many a singer and deejay have been known to throw temper tantrums and shout “Dem a stifle mi ting (song)!” when they don’t hear their ‘hit’ songs being played by radio jocks.
Veteran singer Barrington Levy, while acknowledging that this is not the best way to show discontent with the system, still believes that reggae music has not been given its fair share of play, whether in Jamaica or overseas. And it is for this reason that this artiste has always had a passion to own his own radio station. “I have a passion for this thing since living in England in the ’80s and I see the stifling that reggae get. It would get play on Sundays for two hours, and after that rap and everything else. I come back home from England, and I struggle and struggle and now we are added to the 32 radio stations that are here in Jamaica,” he said.
Although his Rose FM is labelled a community station, as per its licence, Levy believes it is more than that, and it is also fulfilling its mandate, which is “the re-education and protection of the traditional culture and history of the Jamaican people by providing a medium for the expression of our creative arts which includes, but not limited to, music, poetry, dub, drama and dance”. The Black Roses singer says this is the reason the people in Clarendon, where it is based, and also those overseas via its app, are tuning in. Of course, reggae and dancehall from various artistes are the music of choice, but other genres are played as well.
While outlining the various programmes on Roses FM, he also made his role clear. “I sing and I spend the money to enhance the thing. I am not on air and don’t have any plans to be on air.” While owning a radio station is not a normal investment for a reggae artiste, Levy thinks that it is a natural fit, especially in an environment where there is such an immense and ever-growing catalogue of music to choose from, and radio play continues to be what he calls “challenging”. However, he says that he is involved in other pursuits as well, which are directly or indirectly linked to his career as a singer. There is his Black Roses studio, also in Clarendon, which, when it is completed, will be able to provide limited accommodation for those who are interested in using the facility. “But that is not for right now. But is definitely commercial and we will be putting out Grammy-quality albums,” he promised.
Levy is also excited about his Big League stage show to be held in Clarendon, and which features his musical friends Coco Tea, Capleton, Tarrus Riley, Chi Ching Ching, Lady G, and a host of others. “Last year, Shaggy was our headline act, and it went exceptionally well. This time around, we are expecting no less because we have big-league acts, and we are also showcasing the return of Dr Love, so you know that is fun on a whole new level,” Levy said of the event which will be held at Roses Lawn in Carty Hill on February 23.