Entertainment

Copeland Forbes Reggae Embassador

Howard Campbell

Friday, October 13, 2017

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IF there's a soul in reggae music who does not know Copeland Forbes, they must have just got into the business. The affable 72-year-old has been in the music industry for over 50 years, serving as road manager, manager and booking agent to a who's who of reggae.

Among the acts Forbes has worked with are Bob Marley and The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Third World and Black Uhuru. He has travelled the world countless times.

On Monday, National Heroes' Day, Forbes will be awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer rank) by the Jamaican Government for his contribution to Jamaican music. Recently, he spoke to the Jamaica Observer's senior writer Howard Campbell about artistes he has worked with, places he has seen and the reggae industry.

HC: In all your travels, where would you list as your five favourite countries and why?

CF: 1. Thailand

2. Cuba

3. Germany

4. Switzerland

5. Japan

Their uniqueness, culture and music.

HC: You are a cook. Which country has the most fascinating food.

CF: None of the countries' food fascinats me, as I always cook my own food wherever I travel.

HC: How many times have you been to Australia? How has reggae grown there since you first visited? What cities are the strongest markets?

CF: Been there approximately five times. Reggae music has grown tremendously over the years, to the fact that we did a video shoot of Peter Tosh's major hit Johnny B Goode where we included the Aboriginal tribe in the video. Strongest markets are Melbourne, Sydney, Byron Bay and Gold Coast.

HC: Which artistes or musicians are scared of flying?

CF: Robbie Shakespeare, Duckie Simpson, Marcia Griffiths, Ken Boothe and John Holt.

HC: Do you ever get tired of travelling?

CF: No, I don't. I always sleep and just relax.

HC: What makes a good reggae booking agent?

CF: Must have a passion for reggae music. Must understand and know the artiste's pulling power in the different markets. Booking agents should from time to time attend some of the live performances; agent and artiste should have a good working relationship and trust. Be a good negotiator. Capable of solving problems and helping artistes achieve their goals.

HC: Is it easy to book Jamaican artistes today? If not, what are the challenges?

CF: Not as easy as years ago. Challenges are: lack of good management and professionalism, lack of knowledge of the artiste's value in the different markets. Most of the materials are not up to international standard. Lack of knowledge of the music business and industry.

HC: Who are some of the most fascinating music industry personalities you have met?

CF: Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Danny Sims, Don Taylor, Rob Hallett (formerly of AEG Ltd and now owner of Robo Magic in London), Stevie Wonder, Don King, Johnny Nash, Don Cornelius of Soul Train, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Sly & Robbie and Chris Blackwell.

HC: What was the most eye-opening thing on your visit to South Africa with Jimmy Cliff in 1980?

CF: Witnessing 110,000 fans (black, white and coloured) holding hands and dancing in the (Soweto) stadium while Jimmy was performing his version of No Woman No Cry which sold over one million copies in South Africa. Another eye-opener was while walking on the street in Cape Town, we met a black man playing his guitar on the street side. He attracted the attention of Jimmy Cliff's bass player- Jimmy Senya Haynes, who took him to the hotel where the group was staying. Haynes gave him a lot of encouragement and motivation. That guitarist is Jonathon Butler, now rated among the top jazz guitarists in the world. The biggest eye-opener was the segregation of blacks and whites who could not use the same facilities.

HC: Do you ever think of retiring or slowing down?

CF: Slowing down, yes, but not retiring.

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