Thursday, April 30, 2009

IP expo part two

the MC for the stage show was really funny. Mostly intentionally, and some unintentionally. Some of the humor was that kind that I don't really understand. Probably because I (as well as other audience members) was the butt of it. Making people uncomfortable can be funny - not that I was uncomfortable but I pretty much had no opinion on that aspect of the performance. It involved him going through the initially sparse audience and asking people's names, and then making fun of them. When he got to me, he asked my name, and on finding out my last name is Mann, he spent a minute or so pointing out that I was not a man, asking if my name was really Man, and asking if people said "hey, Man" to me. I said they did. that was that.

But to return to my topic - IP week concert highlights involving the MC were many. He definitely was committed to talking about IP and educating people on the need to register and claim their IP. His theme was --once you register, what happens? and he tried to start a catchphrase: "Ch-Ching!" (this refers to the sound of cash registers). Or later, he extended it, and said once you copyright it you become... Ch-Chingable. Now, the extension of this phrase and concept is interesting, because it involved the mental leap that IP proponents rely on which is assuming that creative works WILL be bought and WILL generate money for someone. This assumption is based in other assumptions:

1) that this is because creative works SHOULD generate money through their sale/license
a. because doing creative work is inherently valuable
-which ignores that some creative work may be crappy,
-let alone the idea --which many Jamaicans are comfortable with-- that some creative work is actively harmful to society
b. and maybe relies on the idea that good works WILL be in demand
-which assumes that a market will value works appropriately

So yeah, many, many artists I have spoken with make a critique of bad music which is popular these days, and they appear to mean bad in terms of content and the effect on public morals. In some other conversations, "bad"'s meaning has extended into poor music-making through being unoriginal or even sampling, but for the most part case people were talking about dirty, sexual, or occasionally violent lyrics. However, these are undeniably popular. Even though many people aren't paying for those dirty lyrics - at least not in terms of buying recordings (or they are buying bootleg DJ mixes of the hottest tunes), but they are definitely attending concerts, soundclashes and dances in order to enjoy them. So what is the market saying? In fact many musicians say that the market, or radios, or people, love this bad music..

Another interesting moment came from the MC commenting on a fashion show of clothing made out of garbage bags - where he said be sure to register your work, designers!

I don't think even in Jamaica fashion designs can be copyrighted, certainly in the US they are not.

He also told models that if they develop their own particular walk they should register that too. This - owning a walk- is also not possible, as far as I know.

But also, the re-appropriation of garbage bags as fashion was interesting. what exactly could be ownable there? Can we imagine an example where the garbage bag manufacturer might sue? If not, that's interesting too..

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'll post more from Boasy when things are quieter. But here is some of the fashion from the JIPO IP Day event. The first is dub poet Akin, also member of The Uprising Band.


trying to get the magnificence of his hat. The outfit was made by Mama G.


I don't know what to say about this woman except I wish I had tried harder to talk to her. Note the large arm tattoo peeking out!


This is Delroy


he is fabulous


down to his shoes


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Happy Intellectual Property Week.. part 1

Last week was IP Week here in Jamaica. the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office sponsored a series of events in order to promote and educate people regarding intellectual property.

There were some interesting moments from the concert celebrating creativity.

The first moment was that the concert was kicked off by a performance of maroons, drumming and singing and dancing. Maroons are an important cultural group in Jamaica, who claim connection to African traditions, and who are present at many events where Jamaica presents itself to outsiders, but also appear (from Jamaicans, including Maroons, that I talk to) to represent something about Jamaican-ness to Jamaicans... although again relying heavily on a relationship to "Africa" or sometimes more specific regions and ethnic groups.

What interested me about the performance was that I wasn't sure what the "property" was, and there seemed to be different and interesting implications for the basis of ownership. In this celebration of creativity in the service of promoting IP, I could see Maroons as claiming a collective ownership in their drumming patterns, but that ownership was also complicated by claiming a relationship to Africa that means that Africans could also claim ownership. I know some Africans who are unhappy with members of the Diaspora claiming african-ness and feel that there is some appropriation going on.. although the appropriation can also be a sign of connection, I wondered whether it ever leads to disputes or criticism over the rights of people descended from africans to claim ownership (and what kind of ownership) over the concept african, or particular practices that africans currently engage in.

I watched an interaction between a Rasta man who gave his name as a name I know from Nigeria. A Nigerian guy next to me said "that's our name. that's a name form my country." His tone of voice was ambiguous. He didn't sound angry, he sounded interested, but also like he was educating either the rasta man or other listeners. the conversation didn't continue, but it made me think about disputes over naming. People name themselves, their bands, their art in order to reference or tribute others, but sometimes the others don't take it that way. (I remember a conversation with the director of the Alpha Boys School where he was angry about a German ska band who had "taken their name." The school is a historic engine of ska musicianship with scads of amazing artists coming from it. It's possible the ska band was linking itself to that tradition, paying tribute to the school, and trying to demonstrate and educate musical history - but the director saw it as unfairly trading on the school's reputation)

to go back to the drumming and singing and dancing. I'm not sure whether the law could have protected anything about the performance. Of course, a recording would have been protected in terms of sampling.. but in terms of ownership of the drum patterns, or even the songs (which consisted of short, repetitive call & response phrases, some of which I have heard before in other performances).. the ownership implied here is not really I think what copyright is well suited to protect. There is a really interesting branch of international law based more in human rights arguments aout "cultural survival" - but also in negotiations over folklore and "cultural heritage" - but the kinds of arguments and justifications used to justify access or exclusion seem rather different. Certainly the US-style argument about copyright "incentivizing creativity" seems ludicrous in the face of people arguing for a centuries-old tradition.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


So I finally got it together to properly take pictures at Boasy Tuesday. Boasy (or Boassi, or probably another spelling) comes from "boast." It has to do with showing off, flamboyance, fabulousness. Such is the order of this street dance, which occurs once a week, starting after midnight, in a certain street in Kingston, bracketed by speaker towers, pan chicken sellers, and a guy selling (be still my heart) sprats & festival!

I took a ton of pictures, here is round one:



The guy with the big hair is a dancer called CH-CHING-CHING


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

more styley style

Million dollar smile! Short trousers..


cool embroidery on the shirt, the other side had a flower growing up the arm..


Monday, April 13, 2009

street fashion

In the downtime of the Easter holiday, I thought I'd upload some pictures of street fashion. People, especially men, dress incredibly here. I haven't taken any of street dances yet because it's too dark and crowded, but it' s people at their most flamboyant.

That hasn't stopped me from taking a few more in public places though.

I'll start with someone I met at a studio outside Kingston. (I did ask permission for all these photos btw)


Small string bag


Big Cuffs!


I think the center of the star ring has a lion head engraved in it but I can't remember. I was so dazzled.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

irritating to be so far away..

I'm continually missing Nettle.* As in, I feel the absence of this group, sometimes, when my mind wanders. recordings don't provide enough for me to really feel them, somehow. Even though I've never seen them live. I'm glad to know they do what they do and track their ripples in the music world with interest, but sad that I haven't been in the right state to see them yet. Recently, Wayne made it happen at Brandeis.. and the review in Bostonist sparked some thoughts in me.

"Near the end of the performance, one song touched Bostonist in particular and proved to be a definitive moment for the band. Although the song isn't originally by Nettle, Moroccan group Nass el Ghiwane's "Mamhamouni" proved to be quite haunting in its beautiful execution."

I wish there was more attention to this point, rather rather than disclaiming it ("although..") --it's entirely meaningful that the song that touched the reviewer was not an "original" to the band. Especially considering the emphasis on collaboration across space and time, and embodiment of distance as well as communication and simultaneity in performance. But more broadly in terms of why or how things affect us emotionally, in the spaces beyond analysis, as well as in the pleasures of analysis of an experience. I would like to hear a lot more on how or why the song that was "not original" was at the same time the most memorable and affecting.

*I love nettles, by the way (spot the odd invocation of the South Bronx in that otherwise informative article!). They were very important to the street medics I worked with in NY who were also involved with herbal medicine and decentralizing medical knowledge. It's really true, if you grasp nettles firmly and with intent, they don't sting you. Then again, the stings, while painful, increase circulation, bring heat to your joints, increase flexibility. While discussions of the band's name focus on the irritant nature of nettles, this is one aspect of their character. Nettles are incredible good for you, high in tons of minerals, good for kidneys and bladder..lots of good stuff. Apparently it is like hemp (without the countercultural tee-heeing) in that it can be made into fiber, fabric, paper.. Once we medics drove miles out of the city to a river, picked nettles and watercress and made the most amazing pesto - I lived on it for a week.