Veteran producer Sly Dunbar says hype is killing Jamaican music industry

Esteemed drummer Sly Dunbar says hype is killing the Jamaican music industry.

The esteemed duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare

“The artistes probably need somebody to guide them,” he said. “Just like Motown was like a general school that people would sit with the artiste and show him wrong from right, what you shouldn’t do, what you shouldn’t say and such, but I think there’s a hype factor in Jamaica which everybody is hype. I think this is killing the whole industry.”

Dunbar was speaking on the state of the current music climate during In the Reggae Studio, a Reggae Month feature which aired on the Entertainment Ministry’s social media on Saturday.

“Likewise if I tell him change a pattern and give him an idea him will try it. We have that mutual respect for one another throughout the years and it nah go change.”

– Robbie Shkespeare

Besides the usual criticism that younger producers rely heavily on computers to do the work, Dunbar also said artistes shouldn’t take what the public wants to hear for granted.

“The state that the music is in today, I think it can get better if the artistes did apply themselves and check sometimes what the people want to hear,” he said. “We should look at it by saying ‘I wonder if the people gonna like the record?’ because most of the time when Robbie and myself were making a record, we always think of the public. We never did satisfied with ourselves with the record; we try to carry it cause we might feel good about the record but the guy in the streets seh, ‘Bwoy we nuh like it enuh’.”

Dunbar alongside bassist Robbie Shakespeare have earned legendary status as the most innovative rhythm section in the history of reggae and dancehall. The rhythm duo has been kicking it for over four decades, a feat they attribute to humility and respect.

“There’s a lot of respect fi each other, we never forget where we come from,” said Dunbar. “We always respect people around us and we try to understand the whole industry and what it’s all about and what it takes for someone to survive in this crazy music world.”

Shakespeare added, “We meet pon good terms and it was always music and we still have that… If we come een and Sly a play a drum pattern and I playing bass line and him seh, ‘Change dah line to so and so’, mi nah seh, ‘No mi nah change it cause a dis me a feel’. Likewise if I tell him change a pattern and give him an idea him will try it. We have that mutual respect for one another throughout the years and it nah go change.”

A major turning point in their career which inspired their humility came after going on tour with Peter Tosh (through The Rolling Stones) in 1978. They appeared before their first major audience, a crowd of 110,000 at the since demolished John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, North America.

“Memba when our time to play we seh we a go mash up dis and tear it up,” Shakespeare recalled. “We seh we a go show rock and roll how reggae strong and powerful. When we go out deh and look up, Peter Tosh start tremble. Mi foot dem feel like lead…couldn’t look up, nervous. And from deh so mi learn never put down nobody music…  Dah tour deh more than any tour teach we fi be more humble.”

Per Shakespeare, they’ve recorded more than a million records and have been the masterminds behind massive records for stars like Grace Jones, Gwen Guthrie, The Rolling Stones, No Doubt, Maxi Priest, The Fugees, Bob Dylan and Chaka Demus & Pliers.

The rhythm twins released the album Red Hills Rd in December which bears 13 tracks.