Sunday, July 5, 2009

Merrick Needham responds to John Maxwell's 'A FI WI! ANO FI DEM!'


Response to 'A FI WI! ANO FI DEM!'


Thursday, July 02, 2009

I read with interest but also in respect of two particular paragraphs, some disbelief, John Maxwell's full-page piece under the heading above, in the Sunday Observer of June 21. John is an old friend and someone for whom I have much regard, as well as respect for his writings in many subject areas, notably including the environment - and for whom I wish the best of health.

However, in his article written on the 50th anniversary of the launch of the former Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation he stunned me just as much as he stated, of the
JBC, "We stunned Jamaica."

Immediately after that short sentence, he went on to write of "the Jamaican accents which had never before been heard on radio. Until then two kinds of diction were permissible on Jamaican radio: the clipped BBC accents of Dennis Gick and his ilk with their JB Priestley plays, or the real (and occasionally fake) American accents of the announcers on Radio Jamaica".

John, you graciously apologised in a subsequent letter to the editor for your omission of any mention of Sonny Bradshaw's unquestionable contribution to Jamaica's music development, especially through the JBC in its earliest days. However, I really feel you owe a similar apology to the RJR of the 1950s and all the many Jamaican-sounding Jamaicans whose voices and talents were regularly heard on that station throughout the decade that preceded the advent of the JBC.

"Jamaicans heard... for the first time at last, the voices of Miss Lou (Louise Bennett-Coverley), Mass Ran (Ranny Williams), Charles Hyatt, 'Pro Rata Powell' (Ken Maxwell), Jack Neesberry (sic) (Carol Reckord)."

No, John; with the possible exception of Carol Reckord they had all been on RJR repeatedly in the decade before the JBC existed. How could one make the accusation that Jamaican accents "... had never before been heard on radio", when Archie Lindo was an RJR staff broadcaster throughout the 1950s, so was Ken Maxwell in the first couple of years of the decade; Alma Hylton (later MockYen) similarly was a staff broadcaster through the second half of the 50s.