Teino Evans, Entertainment Coordinator
Dancehall artistes are planning another counter attack on beer giants Red Stripe in what is shaping up to be an epic battle.
The artistes say they are now prepared to perform for free during at least one major event as long as there are no Red Stripe products being sold or consumed at the venue.
So far, artistes such as Beenie Man, Elephant Man and Voicemail are among those willing to take this stance.
"Dem (Red Stripe) cyaan tek a stand 'gainst we an we nuh tek a stand 'gainst dem," said Beenie Man in a telephone interview from New York yesterday.
"Wi need fi know what wi doing, because dancehall is our music. A nuh Red Stripe alone wi a tek di stand against, but even wid di whole 2 o' clock lock-off ting to."
A statement issued by Red Stripe recently expressed its intention to withdraw sponsorship of live music events, including Reggae Sumfest. It stated: "While our most recent efforts through the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors have met with some measure of success, some performers continue to propagate, through their live performances, violent and anti-social lyrics. Red Stripe will not be party to this, and thus we have taken the very difficult decision of withdrawing sponsorship from live music events. Consequently, Red Stripe will not renew our contract for title sponsorship of Reggae Sumfest and Sting. We will, however, ensure that our brands are made available whenever and wherever our loyal consumers enjoy premium alcohol beverages."
Since this statement was released, however, several artistes such as Mavado, Spice and Mutabaruka have voiced their displeasure with Red Stripe's stance. Having mentioned their disgust during performances and in interviews the artistes now say they are ready to take things to another level.
Beenie Man says he originally wanted to do a free performance at the upcoming Reggae Sumfest show. That plan fell through so he has decided to plan the free show himself.
"Wi need fi keep dis free show fi fight back 'gainst all these people who a fight 'gainst dancehall. Mi did waan do it a Sumfest, but dem done have dem ting line up, suh mi definitely a plan a show an mi only need di artiste dem fi support it. Not support for me, but for di entire Jamaica," Beenie Man told The STAR.
According to Beenie, "dem (Red Stripe) lef Jamaica an gone a Europe gone sponsor rock show, cause dem have a rock show wey dem a sponsor right now. Suh we as Jamaicans need fi stand firm together an mek dem know wi nuh like wah dem a do."
In the case of Elephant Man, he says he is onboard with the decision and is encouraging the artistes to unite for the cause.
"If di artiste dem a unite an stand up fi sum'n, I'm with them. Suh if di artiste dem sey dem a guh come together an do a free event without Red Stripe being there, I'll do it. If Red Stripe a guh gwaan like dem waan withdraw an hurt di dancehall den we haffi do sum'n bout dat," Elephant Man said.
He said that there must be more to Red Stripe's decision than meets the eye and artistes should not be blamed.
"To me, Red Stripe cyaan sey dat we (artistes) promoting violence, suh dat is why dem nah guh sponsor dancehall show, 'cause ova di years dem a do it suh why stop now? Ninja Man, Cutty Ranks, Super Cat, di whole a dem a did gangsta artiste wey do gangsta song, suh we nah do nutt'n different," Ele said.
He continued, "Dem fi come out an sey a sum'n personal an stop put di blame pon di artiste dem. Dem a back Sumfest how long now wid di same artiste dem, suh why now?"
Ninja Man, however, was not too concerned about Red Stripe's decision. "Mi nuh need sponsorship from Red Stripe or nobody," he said.
He, however, recommended, "Dem need fi try sort out wha problem Red Stripe have wid di music fraternity. Dem get enough out a dancehall artiste now dat's why dem can gwaan suh. Every one a dem products a artiste use to promote dem an mek dem big. But it simple, wi get back to the days of the '80s, mek wi leggo di sponsorship an start promote wi own ting again, without all the rules and constraints wey these sponsors come wid," Ninja said.
When THE STAR spoke to Oneil from Voicemail, he had his own theory of how a boycott from them could have an impact on the Red Stripe products.
"We have several weekly dances that are held, so if we decide to come together and boycott their products then wi can put a dent in their sales and send a serious message," he said.
"We can all sit here an beat 'roun di bush, Diageo don't give a ... about violence in Jamaica, the real reason, personally, I think it has a lot to do with the gay-bashing lyrics and Red Stripe don't want to come out and say this is the legitimate reason why we are pulling out."
Despite this stance, however, there is still no sign that the corporate giant is about to retract their statement. When contacted yesterday, Maxine Whittingham, head of Corporate Relations, told The STAR, "We have taken a particular stance and we issued a statement and we stand by that statement."