Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Wednesday | October 14, 2009
Home : Entertainment
Seretse Small has a giant heart for music
Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer

Seretse Small

Seretse Small is an extraordinary Jamaican musician. He has been involved in almost every aspect of the music industry and has demonstrated a great degree of stick-to-itiveness. Not only is he the CEO of Griot Music, but he is an accomplished jazz guitarist, who has made it his mission to take the Jamaican music industry on an uncharted course.

The concept (of changing the industry) germinated in the summer of 1995 when Small went on a travel and work programme to the United States (US). His love for music, and knowing that Quincy Jones, his hero, attended Berkley College, influenced his decision to enrol in their summer programme during his stint in the US.

"It was a wonderful experience and helped to chart the course for my jazz career," said Small, who acknowledged that his love for jazz should also be credited to his parents' love for the genre.

Also at Berkley College that summer, the experienced music educator learned the "concept of publishing as the heart of the music industry".


Like the Griot (storytellers) in African culture, the aim of Small's music company is to tell a story. "I am more committed to being a storyteller. I am more concerned about story than (musical) notes. We wanted the company to be about people who have a story to tell," Small said emphatically.

The strategy was to use weekly shows called Live Music Nation to find artistes and songwriters. But the company encountered difficulty. Lack of finance prevented them from getting the right artistes. In addition, the Jamaican economy was spinning out of control and created a ripple effect, thus resulting in Small abandoning his plan. By the end of December 2008, he had to lay off his staff at Griot Music and moved his company into Cyber space.

With what he called the "colo-ssal failure" of his first big show experience at the 1984 JamFest, the former music minister is not daunted by the change in his musical course. He has accepted "that mistakes were made. I took on too many responsibilities. We need to partner with people who are good at marketing and distributing."

However, he believed that it was necessary for him to wear the many hats to get people's attention. And he felt that the experience has helped him to recognise his strength - producing live shows.

Music-based projects

Life's wheel continues to turn and this Jamaica School of Music graduate and his online company must find ways to stay afloat. "Our strategy is to create more music-based projects and low-risk ventures, such as recording, as well as scale down the live shows," said Small. In the meantime, Small is keeping all options open, considering moving to the north coast to take up a job offer as musical director.

"I am looking forward to making more music, finding musicians and songwriters and continuing to work on the web. I know the challenge of working online will be different from live music, but I am not giving up," said Small.

Among his musical achievements, Small has taught music at different levels - from primary to tertiary, including heading the music department at his former school, Excelsior Community College. At these institutions he implemented new projects and conducted a music camp.

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