Sound Check 1, 2, 3
The Caribbean media has joined an entertainment company and regional artistes to spread the message of AIDS awareness, particularly during the current Digicel Reggae Festival which ended on Sunday.
Local company South Central, has partnered with the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership in a project called Super Sound Check, and by next month some of the top reggae artistes will be advocating the need for responsible behaviour on TV screens across the region as part of the current Live Up campaign.
The man behind Super Sound Check is Richard Haynes, head of South Central and longstanding leader of Baje International masquerade Crop Over band.
“I was approached last year by the head of the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership, Allyson Leacock, to do a workshop with key DJs and artistes. So I suggested why not also do a television show and interview artistes from the Reggae Festival behind the scenes, getting their views on HIV.
“When the artistes speak, young people listen and we can therefore play a role in behavioural change,” he added, noting the meaning behind the “sound check” was for listeners and the artistes to “check themselves”.
Now in its second year, Super Sound Check will reach106 media houses in 24 countries.
Last year it was hosted by Miss Barbados Leah Marville and youth ambassador Corey Layne, and this year Layne is back alongside co-hosts Ainsley Reid and Alex Jordan.
Reid, a Jamaican, is one of the publicised “faces of HIV” in his homeland and has been living with the virus for the last 19 years. He is also programme co-ordinator for the greater involvement of people living with AIDS in Jamaica.
Layne, meanwhile, is the island’s youth ambassador for AIDS awareness, while Jordan is a BBC-trained broadcaster and anchor of Slam 101.1 FM radio.
“Super Sound Check should be edited and ready for screening by June 1,” said Haynes. “We have done this on a shoestring budget, and have been able to achieve it because all the artistes agreed to do it pro bono. All respect to the artistes for giving such incredible input free of cost.”
His crew includes videographer Selwyn “Get Bizzy” Browne and boom operator Marc Gibson.
According to Reid, the Reggae Festival, produced by FAS Entertainment, represents an important piece of Caribbean culture, and is a prime platform from which to launch the AIDS awareness campaign.
“We are steeped in music . . . it makes our people gyrate and so on, but it also reminds us who we are. The artistes’ response therefore makes Super Sound Check an important vehicle for social change. It’s really a path toward getting to zero in terms of new infections, stigma and discrimination, and deaths.
Noting that “33 people die every day in the Caribbean as a result of complications from HIV-AIDS, and 50 people get infected daily,” Reid said the artistes reside in these same communities “…so we have to engage them in the same discourse in order to create change in himself or herself as well as others”.
Calling for expanded partnerships with the church and governments, Reid said the region’s economic challenges meant having to do more with less. “We therefore have to look at things like tax breaks and so on to businesses and entities supporting the fight against AIDS,” he added.
From Layne’s perspective, when Super Sound Check is finally aired, the artistes’ response will be a major catalyst for behavioural change.
“When it hits the air and people see their favourite artistes are responsible and advocating for their fans to be responsible . . . they will be further educated, and education has to be a major silver bullet in fighting HIV,” he stated.
“We also have to look at the contradiction of using a condom,” he added. “People use condoms the first, second and may be the third time but after that they decide this is my girl or my boy. That side needs to be marketed.”
Layne said while many youths were abstaining, abstinence was also being marketed “in the most incorrect way”.
“It’s being sold as no sex. No, abstinence is wait until the right time and with the right person.”
He added: “Artistes have the capacity to kill or save their fans. Last year we interviewed Richie Spice, Conshens and others; this year it’s Beenie Man, Lady Sawh, Wyclef and Sizzla, all of whom have great followings, with fans crossing over generations. So if the AIDS message is to be effective, governments and organisations should invest in projects like this.”
The project, said Layne, has six planks: get your “know” on (education), get tested, speak up, respect, protect, and take action.
All that remains is for Caribbean people to listen out for Super Sound Check.