With less than a month to go before Jamaican dancehall reggae artiste, Tommy Lee Sparta, is expected to headline the opening of Portsmouth carnival with a concert at the Arbeedee Cinema on February 16, there are mixed feelings about the whole affair.
Concert organizer Cabral Douglas, has dismissed suggestions that Sparta, a controversial figure in dancehall music, has been accused of glorifying demonism during his performances. Sparta, aged 26, whose real name is Leroy “Junior” Russell, has described his style as “Gothic Dancehall”, and often features dark subject matter, according to the Wikipedia website.
In an interview with DNO, Ellen Paul, the coordinator of Youth on a Mission for God, said that eight days before the concert, on February 8, there will be a day of prayer, fasting and education at the Achievement Learning Center in Pottersville. This will be for the young people to show their displeasure, she said.
However, Paul said she is not against the individual, in fact she would like to meet him, but the message. “I’m not against him; I’m against the lyrical content of his song.” She said that the island already has “enough of violence and death, and we cannot continue to unleash those demonic words to our youth.”
Solomon John Paul, an employee of the Portsmouth Town Council whose private security firm has been contracted to provide security for the Tommy Lee Sparta concert, does not share that view. Asked about the lyrical contents of Sparta, Paul said that people interpret songs differently. “Everything has two sides, but my take on it is looking at the good impact it will have, not only Dominica, but people in Portsmouth.”
He said that he hoped that everything would go off peacefully “as God himself would like. But as to if I don’t want it around. No I cannot say that.”
According to Paul, the concert will bring opportunities to men who are unemployed but trained security officers to earn some money. “If they work properly,” he said, “who knows if something comes up I would pick them up again; so it is a good thing.”
Mayor of Portsmouth Cleave St Jean said that as a community leader he would not have chosen this artist. He said that people need to be sensitive about these things. However, he said, “We are going to see what the people want.”
Meantime, in a release from organizer Douglas, who is also the part owner and manager of the Arbeedee Cinema, he said that Portsmouth is currently in the process of rebranding its tourism product as a centre for entertainment. “So we are delighted to have our carnival open with a performance by Tommy Lee. We believe it will attract not only national but regional guests to our shores,” said Douglas.
He also noted that Tommy Lee’s lyrical content could assist in uniting the town of Portsmouth. “This year he sends a positive message of upliftment. Hopefully the youth in Dominica and Portsmouth will be inspired by him,” he said.
Tickets ($50 regular and $100 VIP) are available from the Arbeedee Cinema (Portsmouth), Bulls Eye Pharmacy (Roseau), Graphics Record Shop (Roseau), Miss Bay Shop (Grand Bay) and A&A Low Price Centre Calibishie.