Yaniq Walford studies for Bass Odyssey brand
Yaniq Walford is part of the second generation in the family's sound system business, Bass Odyssey, based in Alexandria, St Ann ("From waaay out in the country!" as Bounty Killer says on many a dubplate). She was central to the trans-formation of Bass Odyssey's annual anniversary celebration into the Jamaica Sound Fest. This year's staging is on August 11 at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, Priory, St Ann, with Bounty Killer as the guest performer. Naturally, her memories of Bass Odyssey go a long way back into the 29 years the sound system marks this year.
"I remember being in primary school, and we used to have clashes, where we would beat the desk. They would pick if they were Bounty or Beenie, and I was always Bass Odyssey. This boy decided he was going to be Bass Odyssey, and I was supposed to choose another sound, and I said I would not play. I was in about first or second grade, it was about 1994/1995. That is when it got real, apart from seeing my father (Keith Walford) over speaker boxes. I would go look for him, and whenever I went, he would be working on a black speaker box," Walford said.
She has been through the ranks on the sound system and says now, "Even though I spend half the time in Jamaica and half the time in the US, I pretty much manage it with my brother, although he is in the main seat. I basically do the international, the online, anything to do with the marketing, the promotion, the administration. The technical stuff is much more my older brother, Dwayne."
Still, she remembers the days of being on phone duty, getting an education in Jamaican popular culture. Walford said, "I started studying marketing and communications in New York. I went to the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and did public relations with a minor in cultural studies. I did an MBA (Master of Business Administration) in marketing. By 18, 19 years old studying in high school, I started to answer the phone and so on. I use to get a likkle ting - pocket money."
Being Internet-savvy helped immensely. "I was in the social media age - it was hi5 and Myspace - I saw people like NSYNC were using it. I made pages for the selectors, and then when Facebook came around, I did that as well. I always knew that Dad went away for the weekend, but then I started seeing fan pages from Zimbabwe and other countries. I started keeping dances at UWI. I started working in the bar and getting into everything, learning it from scratch. When I went to do the MBA, I wanted to get Bass Odyssey to the Pepsi and Nike level. I was 23 years old. (Yaniq, who teaches, adds, "I have another life separate from the sound system.")
She is very clear and consistent about her objective. "I remember writing an essay in the seventh or eighth grade (at Immaculate Conception High School). The question was, 'What can Jamaica do to boost tourism?' I wrote about the music. I came second and got a little trophy. I want Bass Odyssey to be synonymous over the world with sound-system culture. I knew I could get so much further by leaving Jamaica, although I will always come back. It is not the people who support it (the fans), but the big players who have to push it to that level. The people who have to endorse it, they have a psychological block," Walford said.
The Gleaner asks Walford to name Bass Odyssey's top dubplate artistes and she says it is a hard call. "Bounty Killer - that is known. The relationship between Bounty and Bass Odyssey goes back to when we were just coming around. I have to say Buju Banton - the anthem (which beigns "this is the big bad Bass Odyssey from Alexandria") is the biggest in the world. Nobody else can play it. There is no other version, to my knowledge. Damian Marley - we have a lot from him. Luciano, Beres, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez ... It is so hard to pick five and I have not got to the newer artistes yet. Leave it at the legends, so I won't go on," she said.