DoT song decision hits wrong chord

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The Department of Tourism’s decision to
use an overseas advertising agency to compose a song about the Cayman Islands
for its worldwide promotions next year has angered many in the local music
community.

George “Barefoot Man” Nowak a musician
in the Cayman Islands for over 40 years, has long advocated for local artists.

“What is upsetting is that this is not
the first time,” he said. “It is typical for decision makers these days to say
if it is local, it can’t be any good. Why someone who has no intimate knowledge
of Cayman is more equipped to write something about Cayman than those who live
here is not rational in my opinion. It just does not make sense.”

The song, which was written and composed
by New York-based advertising agency Chowder, is not the first assignment the
agency has undertaken in the Cayman Islands. The company also did work for the
Cayman Jazz Fest, the NFL Quarterback Challenge, and the “Close to Home, Far
from Expected” and “The Day I Died” Hospice Care campaigns, to name a few.

Cayman Music and Entertainment Association President Jean Eric Smith noted
that local musicians were allowed to participate in the tourism song’s
production.

“Though it was unfortunate that we were left out of the initial stages of
this particular project, the Department of Tourism and the relevant
stakeholders have invited the local talent on Island to put a Caymanian face on
the lyrics and melody that Chowder has devised, and the Association has been
asked to provide singers and players of instruments from its ranks to do so.”
He added that each of the local musicians who contributed in this regard would
be paid.

Some artists have declined to take part in the exercise, however.  

Barefoot Man said: “Them asking Caymanians to sing the song is to pacify
us. It’s a slap in the face to the local musicians. It’s like having a Cayman
cooking festival and flying in a chef from New York or Chicago to make lobster
and rice and peas.”

Chuck Quappe, another well-known local musician and part of the Sea n’ B
band, believes local musicians should at least have had a chance to write the
song.

“Most local acts, including ours, play for charities and contribute to the
community, and it would have been nice to have an opportunity to compete for
the job. We are not entitled, but we should have been allowed to compete. There
are several agencies and writers on Island that could have done a great job.”

Mr. Quappe said he thought it would still be good for local musicians to
participate in the song’s rendition.

Mr. Smith agreed, adding that it was too late to “cry over spilled milk”.

“At the very least, now we are getting something instead of nothing,” he
said. “Those who say we should not do it now, after being overlooked in the
beginning, have made a personal decision, but as president [of the Music and
Entertainment Association], my decision cannot be personal. My job is to keep
the channels of diplomacy and communication open. We are not 100 per cent
happy, but we have to play the game.

“Last year, Hi Tide, a band from Cayman that has had international
recognition, were given an opportunity to promote the DoT worldwide with their
song Open Invitation and we have to try to give and take.”

Artists chosen to help to put a local face on the new jingle were Angie
Manderson, Barrie Quappe, KK Alise and Jamesette Anglin. The background vocals
for the Caymanian rendition of the foreign penned tune were provided by 15
schoolchildren from George Town Primary, with additional background vocals by
Lammie Seymour, Hubert Campbell and Mr. Smith. Contributions were also made by
Samuel Rose on bass, Derby Jennings on keyboards, “Jah” Mitch Ebanks on guitar
and Wayne Roy Randal on drums.  Mr.
Smith, who produced the new version of the song, along with Charles Gregory of
Hopscoth Studios, joked that, “We have put a reggae vibe to it by taking what
was a Texas barbecue and turning it into a Cayman fish fry with fritters, on
the beach. We have now Caymanised it, you know?”     

The slogan for the new DoT campaign is “Cayman Kind”.

A statement from the DoT released late on Thursday, 2 December, said the
objective of the undertaking was to secure a “30 second instrumental and vocal
production to be used for US television spots; a three-minute instrumental and
vocal version of the song in its entirety; and a five-minute instrumental and
vocal version, which could be used for viral videos, internal marketing.”

There was mention of why an overseas firm was used to write the song,
although the press release stated that the music and lyrics provided were in
line with the strategic objectives of the DoT and resonate in the minds of US
consumers.

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Local musicians at Hopscotch Studios, back, from left, Derby Jennings and Jean Eric Smith; in front, from left, Charles Gregory and Adrian Rowe.
PHOTO: STUART WILSON
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3 COMMENTS

  1. Maybe someone should tell the DoT to turn on the radio or read the newspaper – Caymanian musicians go hard and it’s a shame they aren’t being supported by their government.

    JG just got nominated for a Grammy for work he did on Eminem’s new album. You tellin me his work doesn’t appeal to US listeners?? Bull.

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  2. I’m with the musicians on this one. There is no good reason this should have left the Islands to be done. We have so many local talented musicians and singers, you can’t actually believe that selling yet another piece of the local people’s chance for getting themselves known was necessary DOT. Shame on you.

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