Several Jamaican dancehall and reggae artists, whom have had their United States visas denied, inexplicably, according to strewn headlines across the Caribbean region. However, it has caused some to wonder whether the position taken by the superpower is a direct response to the Jamaica Government’s prior refusal to extradite Kingston Strongman Christopher Dudus Coke.
The list of artists affected includes Mavado, Bounty Killer, Aidonia, Beenie Man and DJ Ricky Trooper and Vibes Cartel.
There was no explanation from the US Embassy in St. Andrews Jamaica as to why the men’s visas had been denied. All had travelled to the United States without any major incidents of criminal conduct or serious charges being brought against them for years.
One glaring issue that has caused contention between America and Jamaica however, is the one involving Coke, and as the old Jamaican adage goes: “You rarely see smoke without fire.”
Though some speculate that the backlash against the artists, could also be in response to lyrics promoting violence and anti-gay sentiments.
Whatever the reason, the move to ban the performers is one that has sent shockwaves throughout the Caribbean, and many are curious to see what will happen next.
The government of Jamaica has said the methods used by American investigators to bring charges against Coke were obtained illegally.
He is accused of being the leader of the “Shower Posse,” which US authorities claim controls an international drugs and guns network.
The gang is believed to control Tivoli Gardens, an area of, Kingston, which Golding represents in parliament.
Last week, the prime minister admitted that his party had sanctioned the hiring of a Los Angeles-based law firm suspected of lobbying Washington on behalf of Coke.
Golding had long denied any knowledge of the firm’s hiring but ultimately apologized to Jamaicans via a statement on television.
“In hindsight, the party should never have become involved in the way that it did and I should never have allowed it, but I must accept responsibility for it and express my remorse to the nation,” he lamented.
Golding had argued that Mr Coke should not be extradited because the evidence against him had been obtained illegally by intercepting mobile phone calls.
The Prime Minister has since signed the documents necessary to begin the process of extradition.
The United States insists the extradition request “was properly prepared and submitted”.
The prime minister added that he offered his resignation, but his party had not accepted it.
The American market accounts for a vast amount of the yearly income of dancehall and reggae artists and the music and culture have become one of Jamaica’s largest exports.
Shows can range anywhere from six to fifteen thousand US dollars for an artist, depending on the individual’s notoriety or the format in which the concert is planned, in terms of whether a live band will back him/her or if the act will simply perform over pre-recorded tracks.
These funds are usually distributed among the community and by the artists, who many times themselves become demigods of sorts in their neighbourhoods.
“It’s a man money dat give him don-ship in Jamaica brethren,” said local Jamaican Barber Timothy Clarke.
He added that men like Coke had done much good for the community of Tivoli Gardens, despite the one-sided picture painted in the media.
However, he accepted that the enterprise known as “Showa” had its share of run-inns with the law and over the years a “Sherwood Forest/Robin Hood culture” has existed in the impoverished Island nation.
The folklore surrounding Jamaican gangsters or dons and area leaders, as they are known, has been well documented throughout the years with tales of political manipulation and control at the forefront of the struggle for power.
In the early 90s, Coke’s father “Jim Brown”/Lester Lloyd Coke was burned to death, while awaiting extradition to the United States.
It was alleged that his death was out of fears he knew too much.
“It is because of what some deem as a plutocracy that exists in Jamaica why artists and those involved in illegal enterprise are intertwined and woven into the fabric of what is aspired to, and this synergy is what has caused the international community to become weary,” said Seamstress Shirley Clarke, who hails from Kingston.
Presently Tivoli Gardens has been barricaded and fears of violence and unrest are running high as Jamaica prepares to extradite the man known to many as “Presi,” (short for president).
And with artists such as Twins of Twins delivering renditions of the popular Miley Sirus song, “A party in the USA, with lyrics that affirm, “Dem want take Presi away, dey must be craaaaazy, that can’t gwan inna JA,” the attachment and involvement of the people is a real concern of the government’s.
The US on the other hand, has said it will do what is necessary to see that justice is done.
Lawyers for Coke have filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, challenging the extradition proceedings against him.
The move came one day after a magistrate at the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court issued a warrant for Coke’s arrest.
Meanwhile, the situation facing Dancehall continues to erode the industry that is reeling from travel restrictions and bad press.
Though promoters and artists alike, say they are hoping for a change in the tide with the current co-operation of the Jamaican Government.