Festival a marker of sound system democracy
Yaniq Walford makes a distinction between Bass Odyssey Entertainment putting on Saturday's Jamaica Sound System Festival at Grizzly's Plantation Cove and Bass Odyssey sound system participating in the celebration of its renamed anniversary event. It is the latter which Walford, part of the Alexandria, St Ann-centred sound system's second generation (after her father, Keith) emphasises is part of a broad-based Jamaican entertainment and economic dance sector which she readily contrasts with the party scene.
"We have a lot of colleagues and we are playing around Jamaica. The party scene, about five or six people control it. Is the same people a keep the party them. When it comes to dance, you have the farmer, the shopkeeper putting on events. If on a weekend Bass Odyssey plays at six events, is six different people in different parts of the island," Walford explains.
So, for Saturday's festival in Priory, St Ann, which marks Bass Odyssey's 29th anniversary, she said, "We are capping off something that is vibrant. We are capping off something that is at the core of Jamaican entertainment. We have something that is thriving and we do not need a purge."
The festival features Bounty Killer in a sound system performance, "original dancehall style", as Walford puts it; Black Blunt; Kosmik and Atlantic One carrying their equipment, as will Bass Odyssey. Dynamiq from South Sudan, and Chiqui Dubs from Panama are the participants from outside Jamaica. Guinness Sounds of Greatness 2018 champions Game Changaz - which faced Black Blunt and Panther in that contest's climax - find themselves on the bill with those they have beaten recently.
While Walford clarifies that it is not a clash, she is mindful of the sound system arena's inherent competitiveness - even for the sound system whose 29th birthday is at the festival's core. "Can Bass Odyssey hold its own? We have a young cast of selectors, but a lot of persons know Bass Odyssey from the cassette days. Can they hold their own against the young guys?" Walford asked. "It is not a clash. I would never call it that, but the environment is similar in that are you going to hold your ground."
Lack of sponsorship support has been a recurring issue for the festival, but now Walford says that Wray & Nephew Ltd has come on board as a major sponsor. "We are about preserving the authenticity of it (sound system culture). We aim for Jamaican entertainment for Jamaicans," Walford said, noting that visitors come to Jamaica to participate in that aspect of our culture.
Describing the sponsorship arrangement as "comfortable", Walford said "we do not feel as confined." She says that on Saturday night, the Jamaica Sound System Festival will provide a platform for entertainment within the laws of the land.