“I want to disturb my neighbour, ’cause I am feeling so right I want to turn up my disco, Blow them to full watts tonight In a rub-a-dub style” ……… BOB MARLEY ………
The Jamaican Noise Abatement Act was designed to govern sound in public places and its effect on people and the environment. Although not written exclusively for music events, the Act creates guidelines regulating the timing of music events, mandating an end time of midnight on weekdays, and 2:00 AM on weekends. The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) has lobbied in support of the needs of the live music industry while respecting residential neighborhoods. JaRIA’s recommendations to legislators were highlighted recently by former chairman Ibo Cooper. They include the implementation of regulations that allow for zoning and the establishment and measurement of decibel levels by the police in the enforcement process.
The implications of the Noise Abatement Act are far reaching. It touches the lives, and business activities of residents and music fans in the hills of St. Andrew where the internationally famous Kingston Dub Club operates. It impacts the livelihood of practitioners in the music industry and vendors at entertainment events. The community of Negril is probably most affected by the administration and abuse of this law. In the 1980’s, as Negril began to boom, the average tourist became enchanted with Jamaican rum, reggae and vacations that enhanced a cultural understanding of the island. Along Negril Beach and West End, music events occurred nightly with the stars of the day (Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, etc), and introduced many visitors to the island to the sound of reggae music. Currently, the enforcement and apparent abuse of the Noise Abatement Act has led to a curbing of the live music entertainment scene that put Negril on the map by restricting venues tightly to mandatory hours and closing down musical entertainment at the discretion of hotel complaints.
Jamaican music has grown in popularity as a result of sound systems and live music events staged around the Island. For several years now there has been an ongoing debate in Jamaica about the regulation of sound systems and music events staged in open public and private spaces. The issue has been an extremely contentious one, including accusations of hypocrisy on the part of Government and the police in the treatment of loud street parades during Jamaica Carnival, versus the treatment of Dancehall events. A video also surfaced recently in social media alleging bribery and manipulation of the police in Negril in an effort to protect the interests of private hotel owners and their guests.
Government consultations on the Noise Abatement Act should seek to create balance between the actions of the police, the livelihood of operators in the entertainment industry, and the rights of private citizens and tourists.