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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 June 2007, 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK
Music video booms in Jamaica
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Jamaica

Jay Will and M.I.A
M.I.A (middle) flew from London to shoot with Jay Will (right)
It is a sunny morning and a group of rakish young men are dancing to music on a boom box in the shadow of rusty containers and a moored ship at Kingston's Port Royal.

The dancers are rehearsing a curious mix of dancehall, hip hop and Bollywood under the watchful eyes of a young local music video-maker.

Not far away, inside an air-conditioned trailer van, British-based singing star M.I.A is putting on make-up for the video of her latest song in which the dancing boys will feature.

Why is M.I.A shooting her latest video on a faraway Caribbean island?

"Hey, the Jamaican cats are the best dancers any day," says her assistant, a young girl in a frilly pink dress who sashays away to check out the young dancers gyrating under a scorching sun.

M.I.A is just one in a long list of musicians who are flocking to Jamaica to shoot their latest music video these days.

The island, home to reggae and dancehall, has become the music video destination for stars as diverse as Willie Nelson, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, Shaggy, Sean Paul, and Damian and Ziggy Marley, children of Jamaica's reggae superstar Bob Marley.

Thriving industry

Jamaica exploded as a music video hub three years ago as digital film technology drove down costs - the island, birthplace of reggae, already had the music and the jive.

Some two dozen music videos are shot on the island every week, all produced for anything between $5000 and $15,000.

Carleene Samuels
As long as the music thrives, the music video industry will boom
Carleene Samuels, producer

It also helps that there is a clutch of popular local music video channels - Hype TV and Reggae Entertainment television are among the most popular- on the cable, which fuel a raging local demand.

So sought after are directors that Jay Will, who has shot a Shaggy video and is now shooting the latest M.I.A one, has shot some 60 music videos in the past two and a half years.

Will says Jamaican music videos, which borrow heavily from hip hop videos and are imbued with a colourful local feel with great dancing, have reached a wider audience today thanks to play on youtube, myspace and popular dancehall and reggae music television channels in the US and UK.

The flourishing industry also keeps a lot of trained film-making talent employed in a country where feature film-making is still in its infancy.


"Music videos sure keep a lot of people employed. Many of these people are talented people trained in international schools," says Brian St Juste, president of the Jamaica Video and Motion Pictures Association.

Carleene Samuels, Jamaica's top music video producer, is one of them.

She says that half the music videos made every year on the island are of top quality, while the rest need to do a lot of catching up.

Video-makers like Will and Rasa Kassa are much in demand for bringing a particularly Jamaican verve and feel to their work.

Jamaica dancers
Jamaica is trying to build on its music video success
Most of the videos are shot in a day on gruelling 12 to 14 hour shifts, and on the waterfront at Port Royal, there is hectic work as the sun appears and then vanishes behind the clouds.

"As long as the music industry thrives here, music videos will thrive as well," says Ms Samuels, sitting in her trailer and furiously replying to work proposals on her Blackberry.

The explosion in the music video industry in a way has emboldened the local film industry to try make more features in a country where money is expensive to borrow - this year the island will produce five feature films, up from one feature a year.

"People here like stories around music, and gangland tales," says Natalie Thompson, a local producer.

Jamaica is also trying to woo big budget Hollywood to shoot their films here. A Disney production, Cool Runnings, was partly filmed on the island in 1993.

Recently, a Hollywood comedy License To Wed, starring Robin Williams, was shot extensively on the island - the film is scheduled for release in July.

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