By Joelle Simone Powe
ButSeeYa is a mini-documentary series about Jamaicans with controversial views and not afraid to express them openly.
Many of us are too timid to stand publicly when we hold an unconventional opinion for a host of reasons. We fear recrimination. We fear isolation. We fear ridicule. And so, instead of speaking out, we whisper our truths behind closed doors- the proverbial verandah talk.
ButSeeYa seeks to applaud those who are not afraid to speak out, as well as encourage others to come forward and say their piece. ButSeeYa celebrates the full diversity of national opinion. In this episode, we centre stage Maxine Stowe, a music industry veteran and cultural provocateur.
Her illustrious career includes working with top Jamaican artists and international record companies such as VP Records, Sony, Tuff Gong, and Studio One. With her business acumen, movie soundtrack curation, and marketing expertise, Stowe helped launch many Jamaican artists, including Diana King, Mad Cobra, Super Cat, and Jimmy Cliff, in the worldwide market. She is responsible for pulling together the soundtracks of Dancehall Queen (1997), Cool Runnings (1993), Bad Boys (1995), and Third World Cop (1999).
Stowe’s uncle, Clement Seymour “Coxsone” Dodd, founded Studio One, the first black-owned recording studio in Jamaica. It was at Studio One that the original Wailers trio – Bob, Peter Tosh, and Bunny- recorded their first songs. Working with Dodd as a young woman after abandoning the brick-and-mortar walls of an Ivy League college, Maxine worked closely with Sugar Minott as a label manager. Sugar Minott and Stowe fell in love and got married, and had children.
In more recent times, she managed and cared for Bunny Wailer until he passed. He bequeathed control of his estate and intellectual property to Maxine, resulting in an ongoing court battle with his family. In the documentary, Maxine arms herself with Bunny’s rod and jacket, “channeling his energy and strength.”
Maxine’s wealth of years as a significant player in the industry and personal connections to other influential players, including family and romantic connections, has made her a key voice to seek out to understand the Jamaican Music industry.
In ButSeeYa “Why Jamaican Music Nah Mek Money,” Stowe lays bare the racial, cultural, social, and political challenges that undercut Jamaican economic potential. She says there is an American and European preference for lighter skin musicians- closing the doors on some of our most talented darker-skinned performers.
Additionally, she proposes that while Jamaican music is a fully collaborative enterprise, economic rights, and rewards tend to focus on the individual star, making it difficult to maintain a cohesive team that can reap the rewards together over time. For Stowe, the local political rivalry has also played its part in stunting industry growth. In this ButSeeYa episode, Maxine recounts witnessing artists falling apart because of political differences. How can an industry grow if the major contributors cannot talk to each other and freely collaborate?
Given our globally recognized talents, Jamaican music should be a larger part of our export economy. We undervalue ourselves and mis-prioritize our efforts. In the ButSeeYa mini-documentary, Stowe lays out a clear case for obstacles facing the industry and outlines some possible solutions. May the money grow as large as the international brand recognition.
Jamaican music punches above its population and geographic size. We need to better monetize this global impact. Music could become one of Jamaica’s biggest economic anchors. We have to believe in ourselves and radically rethink our approach. Build out the right systems, and the money will follow.
Watch ButSeeYa: “Why Jamaican Music Nah Mek Money” on AdtelligentTV on YouTube.