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Guyanese musicians to demand more airplay, copyright legislation

Eddy Grant addressing a meeting of the Guyana Music Network (GMN). Partly hidden is GMN Founder, Burchmore Simon. Seated next to him is Tourism Minister, Catherine Hughes.

The Guyana Music Network (GMN) intends to petition government to enact modern copyright legislation to ensure those artistes can earn a fair livelihood from their talent , and also ask government to compel the state-owned radio station to play at least 50 percent of Guyanese music to stimulate demand.

“This is not an anti-government thing. It is anti-piracy,” GMN Founder, Burchmore Simon told a well-attended meeting at the National School of Music Tuesday evening. Simon said he would seek a meeting with President David Granger and ask for an increase in the number of hours that Guyanese music is played on the radio stations run by the National Communications Network (NCN). He said if that fails, musicians would picket the Homestretch Avenue headquarters.

Also addressing the meeting was world-renowned Guyanese superstar, Eddy Grant, who called on musicians to picket NCN to pressure the company into giving airplay to locally produced music and help shape a Guyanese identity.

Along with the protesting outside NCN, Grant called on the GMN to target the Minister of Culture and call on him to take steps to increase the percentage of local music being played on the State-owned radio stations. “You need to get the Minister of Culture and pepper his ass (and say) ‘Hey boss, hey boss, come, you see that thing that going on on the radio’ . As a matter of fact, you all should picket the blasted radio station…and you can stay there for a week. You watch all over the world you see  how protest does work,” he said, adding that many parliamentarians buy bootlegged music.

GMN MeetingGrant, however, differed strongly with the GMV about the need to petition government to replace the 1956 Copyright Act that Guyana inherited from Britain at the time of Independence in 1966, saying that all that Attorney General Basil Williams needs to do is to adopt one of the several models of copyright laws and pass it in the National Assembly. “Sign it and leh we mek we money, sign it and leh we look after we pickney,” he said. He urged the musicians to see themselves as a powerful and influential constituency who can decide the outcome of a general election.

Grant argued vigorously against appearing to beg government for an entitlement to a law that would protect and help the music industry to grow. “My attitude in all this: I ain’t beggig nobody. I want talk to the President- send a representative to the President: Boss with all due to respect to you, you know what our condition is. We don’t need 10,000 or 50,000 letters or a hundred thousand letters to tell you what is wrong in this country,” he said.

Junior Minister of Agriculture, Nicolette Henry, during her contribution to the 2015 National Budget debate, highlighted the importance of protecting the interests of the various segments of the creative industry but she did not say how that would be done and made no mention of copyright legislation.

Tourism Minister, Catherine Hughes could not give a clear commitment when the law would be passed because Culture is not her ministerial portfolio but she promised to support the call and make representation to her cabinet colleagues. “We have to have copyright laws that are relevant and contemporary,” she remarked.  Hughes said she was sympathetic to the cause of the musicians because, as a media practitioner, she had been a victim of copyright violations.

Hughes agreed with Grant that there should be no need for a petition, but precise questioning from singer, “Melissa ‘Vanilla’ Roberts, the Minister said it would not be unhelpful. “I don’t think you need to do it, that we should be responsive to the issue and start putting the legislation in place,” said Hughes.

Asked specifically if a petition containing 10,000 names would help in eventually taking the legislation to Parliament, the Tourism Minister said “I think it could be an advantage in terms of saying publicly when you start to articulate the issue that ‘we got 10,000 people that this should happen tomorrow’… but it doesn’t prevent us from going forward with or without it,” said Hughes.

The Tourism Minister preferred that the GMN documents its demands in a policy paper and dispatch it to government for various forms of assistance such as public awareness, and working with the Broadcasting Authority and the soon to be established Film Commission.

Intellectual Property Lawyer, Teni Housty, in brief remarks recommended that instead of ordering the closure of nightclubs at 2 AM, they should be mandated to play Guyanese music from 2 AM to 3 AM.

Citing his Ring Bang musical philosophy, Grant urged Guyanese to love themselves, love their creations and buy things they make or create.