Vaccine a glimmer of light for the entertainment industry – Frankie Campbell

Frankie Campbell, frontman for the musical aggregation Fab 5, is hailing the start of Jamaica’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, noting that the vaccine seems to be the best way out of this predicament the world has found itself in, and “the sooner most of us can get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to some sense of normality”.

But Campbell, who has been quite outspoken regarding the lockdown of the entertainment industry and the attendant challenges, which has seen a partial or total income wipeout for several players, is nevertheless cautious in his optimism. “With the availability of the vaccine for a certain category of Jamaicans in the first instance, and over the next 18 months gradually reaching most of the population, it has given the entertainment industry a glimmer of light in the almost total darkness we have been living through over this past year,” Campbell stated.

The president of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates, who has, in a previous interview, described the industry as being “on life support,” remains consistent with his theme. But unlike others who see the vaccine as an immediate panacea, Campbell is looking to next year before there is any real difference. “Indicators are pointing to the country not opening up to entertainment before January 2022,” he told The Gleaner. “This, then, will mean that most performers would have been out of meaningful employment for over two years. This, therefore, leads to the question, how many of us musicians, singers, DJs, technicians, stagehands [and others] can survive to restart after another year of unemployment?”

Campbell also questioned the viability of staging a virtual show, given the new rules which came into effect on March 1, and which Prime Minister Andrew Holness dubbed “drastic measures”, because citizens were not displaying the level of responsibility and compliance necessary. Public gatherings have been limited to 10 persons.

Virtual Shows Hindered

According to Campbell, “To make matters worse, with the spike in COVID cases and the new numbers allotted re public gatherings, even most virtual shows being taped would be illegal, as the performers and crew would invariably be over 10 persons on set. Producers are now cancelling or postponing virtual events, in keeping with government protocols.”

Like Campbell, Lenworth ‘Squeeze’ Samuels, president of the Jamaica Association of Professional DJs, Promoters and Sound System Owners, is looking to the vaccine for hope. “If we want to party again soon, we got to take it so we can get to work. I am imploring everybody to get it as soon as possible so that we can get back to normal. There must be a ‘normal’ that we can return to,” Samuels said.

But he quickly expressed his reservations. “But, are we all going to take it? For it to be effective, 85 per cent of us need to take it, and right now, they can’t even get so many of the people to wear the masks. We have to be responsible as a nation. Everybody wants to get back to work, but not everyone wants to follow the protocols,” he lamented.

The Fête Dayz iRadio conceptualiser is leading by example and already has an appointment [overseas] to get his COVID-19 jab.

In his summation, Campbell, whose Fab 5 band celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, declared, “Touring musicians desperately need a solution to this pandemic, and as we have been doing ever since going to Africa and some other parts of the world, being vaccinated seems the most practical solution in the short term. As most of our traditional markets are looking to reopen their borders, will we be ready to access these marketplaces, doing what we do best, spreading Jamaica’s culture through reggae music to the world?”

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