Local music industry angry…


November 4, 2000

“WE have won round one, but it looks like a long fight,” was how acting president of the Recording Industry Association of TT (Riatt), Kenny Phillips last night described the result of yesterday’s protest march through the streets of Port of Spain.

The Riatt protest, organised to lobby for legislation that would mandate radio stations to air no less than 50 percent of local music daily, was but the public demonstration of concerns of the artistes and industry officials.

Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj one week ago received from Riatt a draft of the proposed legislation and met with representatives of the recording industry. “He agreed with us wholeheartedly and immediately said he would include it in the Telecommunications Bill that was scheduled to come up for review,” Phillips said.

The dissolution of Parliament has, however, affected the legal process by which Riatt expected to secure its position. “We will now be speaking with all major political parties, as the announcement of the general election has now changed things somewhat,” Phillips said.

Yesterday’s demonstration was delayed for more than one hour by a torrential downpour that began around noon, precisely the time it was supposed to move out from its Woodford Square meeting place and course through the capital city. Speeches by a number of popular artistes, including David Rudder and Sprangalang rallied the crowd of more than 100, but by that time the clock had run out on the permit granted by police for the march. Riatt officials had to hurriedly get fresh approval from the Police Commissioner’s office, so that the demonstration could proceed.

The march then ran its full course, south on Frederick Street, then west along the Brian Lara Promenade, before turning back north to get to the Attorney General’s office, for the planned symbolic presentation of the full petition. Officials were not allowed to go into the building, as security personnel there said they were not advised to admit them.

Along the route, protestors chanted a short calypso chorus composed by Pan-Kaiso monarch De Fosto:
“Fifty percent is all we asking for

Fifty percent local music and more

Play we music, we only want to live

Fifty percent the government must give.”
Phillips said partisan interests were scaring the public into thinking that it was a reckless move to have more inane songs on the air. “There are people going around suggesting that Riatt wants to hear more jam and wine music on the air. That is not our goal,” Phillips said. “We are demanding a 50 percent split of local to foreign music, much the same as many other developed countries have done, to protect their cultural products.

“What happens now, is that jam and wine music is all that radio plays when they do condescend to play local songs. The recording artistes, who want to hear themselves, are making more of that kind of music, because radio has caused them to think that it is the only kind of music that will get airplay. It is a Catch 22 situation from which we have to break out,” Phillips said.

Yesterday, the Chamber of Commerce issued a release condemning the lobby and saying that, if successful, it would infringe on the rights of persons conducting radio business.

“How could it infringe on anybody’s rights?” Phillips asked. “Right now, the public has no rights at all. The public has no say in what it wants to hear. We are asking for 50 percent for music of Trinidad and Tobago and people in control of radio are saying that the public does not want to hear that. The public can only want to hear what it knows and if they don’t play enough local music to give people a choice, what do you expect them to want?” he said.

Apart from Riatt officials, representatives of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco), Chutney Foundation, Parang Association, pop-rock and rapso artistes, gathered to lend support to the cause. The more forthright among them singled out WEFM 96.1 and State-owned 98.9 Yes FM for special mention.

Among the popular artistes who took the journey were former national calypso moanrchs, Black Stalin, David Rudder, Singing Sandra, Terror, Duke, The Mystic Prowler and Gypsy and reigning monarch Shadow. Arrangers Leston Paul and Pelham Goddard, show promoters William Munro and Frank Martineau and veteran musicians Roy Cape and Andre Tanker were also on hand to lend support.

Terry-J at I-Level