By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Jamaica
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.
M.I.A (middle) flew from London to shoot with Jay Will (right)
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Jamaica is trying to build on its music video success
"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
"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.