Artistes’ role examined

WHAT IS the moral responsibility of the Barbadian artiste?

This thought-provoking question was raised by the Director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit, Cheryl Willoughby, as she contributed to a panel discussion which focussed on Culture and its Impact on Violence in Barbados.

“I recognise as lyrics in the music become more sexual and more violent, I am seeing more open lewdness. I am seeing the bastardisation of sex occurring in fetes and other public places where our young people gather.

“I am concerned that although we are seeing this type of activity taking place, it is being promoted by promoters across Barbados where young people are gravitating towards these events,” Willoughby said, while speaking at the discussion which took place at the Queens Park Steel Shed, on Wednesday evening.

The Director also asked the members of the panel whether they believe that artistes have a moral responsibility to the public when promoting their art form. She inquired whether artistes can be restricted to “certain lyrics and activities” when they are performing for their audience.

“I recognise that a lot of our young people are actually going after the glamour and the sexy image that some artistes have in order to be just like a particular person,” Willoughby said.

Prominent entertainer Eric Lewis, who was a member of the panel, said while he believes that artistes should have some kind of moral responsibility, much consideration should be given to an artiste’s educational background, where they live, the friends they keep, and also their ability to sing.

Lewis was adamant that people who can sing “don’t sing foolishness” but resort to meaningful lyrics and melodies.

“You play to your demographic. Red Plastic bag knows who he is appealing to when he sings a song. Plastic Bag is a singer and he is a writer, he has a group of people he will sing to. There is a fella now on the block, let us call him Hard Water. Unless he can sing, he will never be able to attract the people that Biggie Irie or Red Plastic Bag will attract.

“So he will come and shout because there is a group of people who want that shouting. And in his shouts, it will be filled with violence. Now, he is not talking about shooting, he is not talking about killing,” Lewis said.

The entertainer continued, “But listen to the descriptive lyrics that he will use in his wuk up songs. I gine juck a bumper, I gine stab a bumper, I gine brek off a bumper, I gine kill a bumper … If he tries to sing a different kind of song with his voice, because he can’t sing too good, he will not make it. There is a group of people that he is appealing to and he don’t care if the song play on radio, because he has YouTube at his fingertips.

“He does not care about CBC [Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation] showing his videos because he and his friends could get a nice HD [High Definition] phone, record a video, edit it, and put it up on YouTube the same evening. The same sweet song that Plastic Bag is singing will get 5 000 views and his views by tomorrow morning will be two-and-a-half million views because he knows who he is appealing to.”

Radio personality Salt, who was also a member of the panel, agreed with Lewis that an artiste’s social background and upbringing has much to do with how they see their moral responsibility to society. The radio personality said as far as he is concerned, artistes focus more on their image than on their talent in order to keep their target audience interested.

“If the people that you appeal to will laugh at you, or you will lose street credit for coming out with something with a different message … You will find that some of the more popular artistes won’t have no moral standards to guide them, because as I say, a man could only know what he know,” the radio personality said.

Meanwhile, calypsonian and Radio Program Manager Ronnie Clarke, made the point that an artiste’s moral responsibility, according to what is acceptable by society and law, verses their moral responsibility to their own morals and standards, will inform what they create and put out. (AH)

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