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Calls are Being Made to Protect Indigenous Creole Music from Exploitation

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Contact: Claudia Monlouis

Thursday, May 05, 2005 - While St. Lucia’s Creole folk music may this year be enjoying a record amount of exposure at St. Lucia Jazz, calls have made for folk artistes and government bodies to act quickly to guard the indigenous music from over exploitation.

Officer in Charge of the Folk Research Centre (FRC) Mr. Robert Lee says seeing the music grow and gain momentum with an international audience is of cultural significance for the island. Mr. Lee advised artistes to do their homework early and join the move to copy write their creations.

Mr. Lee disclosed that St. Lucia’s Queen of Song Dame Selipha Sessenne Descartes was recently signed up as a member of the Hewannorra Musical Society (HMS) and, and he further suggested that is the direction in which the folk artistes must go.

“Even though that song of Sessenne may be used in a Jazz styling, or you take a Jab Duplesis song and you do a jazz styling, that’s the man’s song. And no matter what form you develop it into you owe him royalties. So St. Lucians have protection under the Copy Write Act and also with HMS.”

Meanwhile General Manager of the Hewannora Musical Society Mr. Steve Etienne says St. Lucia’s indigenous music may be protected through branding.

“St. Lucia Jazz is a great opportunity for us to showcase our uniqueness to the rest of the world. However we can play a greater role in protecting our indigenous music. I believe government and certainly the Intellectual Property Office will be able to advise in that direction. We can follow the example that has been demonstrated in other countries where they plan or they set out to protect what is theirs. For example the Champagne region of France only wine produced from that particular area can be classed as champagne. This is part of the protecting something which is indigenous to yourself.”

Mr. Etienne says there are lessons to be learnt from the region’s recent history. “We’ve seen how Trinidad lost the right of patent for the steel pan, which I understand is now owned by an American company. It’s very sad indeed to actually use something that you regard as yours but if you do not seek protection for it and take the steps to make it your legally then it can certainly go.”

Local composers Ronald “Boo” Hinkson and Monty Maxwell performed several folk songs which were infused with modern genres at St. Lucia Jazz 2005. The effort to expand Creole folk music was started some years ago by notable St. Lucian musicians and included the works Luther Francois, Francis Regis, Augustin “Jab” Duplessis and Amate.

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