Veteran music industry insider Copeland Forbes says the current generation of entertainers are making drug abuse a thing of the past.
He spoke with the Jamaica Observer at Patricia House last Friday, where the Gregory Isaacs Foundation handed over part proceeds from its Red Rose For Gregory show, to that drug rehabilitation centre.
“Di younger acts dem now, I think, because I don’t see it, are more conscious now. I don’t know where that consciousness is coming from but I am happy that di young ones coming up now can carry on an’ stay far from it (crack cocaine) ’cause somehow dem realise it’s not good. Dem see some examples an’ hear some of di stories of what happened to di oldster dem an’ they have gotten more awaken an’ stay weh from it,” said Forbes, a trustee of the Gregory Isaacs Foundation.
According to statistics from the National Council on Drug Abuse, in 2016, 75 per cent of Jamaicans have used alcohol, 30 per cent of the population have smoked cigarettes, and 28 per cent have used ganja. Male drug use is higher than among females and the average age for abuse of alcohol and ganja/cigarettes is 17 and 16, respectively.
Forbes said young artistes are still big into ganja, but believes they are less likely to try hard drugs.
“You gonna see a lot of dem with a spliff in dem mouth. Di legalisation of marijuana globally pushed dem like, if you don’t have a spliff, you don’t look like you in line — like a hype ting,” he said.
Forbes thinks the prevalent use of hard drugs among previous generations of Jamaican entertainers was due to international influence.
“Some of the older entertainers would get a likkle touch of it an’ realise seh it’s not good for dem, but then they get di full-on experience of it, because of the association with di big acts overseas kinda lead dem into that. If di singer dem over foreign do something, dem waan do it to; if dem Jerry Curl dem hair, dem waan do it to,” he said.
Forbes has been in the music business for over 50 years. He has been road manager, manager and booking agent for artistes such as Bob Marley and The Wailers, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Third World, and Black Uhuru.
In 2017, he was awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer rank) by the Jamaican government for his contribution to Jamaican music. He recalled working with Isaacs who had a well-documented struggle with drugs.
“I can tell you one thing, I not going shame fi seh it, di last two years of Gregory life, he stayed away from it. He had a song name Hard Drugs… We found a tape that he did by himself, talking about his experience with that whole thing an’ him seh if him was suppose to live his life over again, he would never gone down that road or recommend his worst enemy to go down that road,” Forbes related.
Isaacs died on October 25, 2010 at age 59.
Vivette Anderson, administrative director at the Patricia House, agreed with Forbes.
“We haven’t seen any young artiste come in for help. I think what happened to the older guys was the crack cocaine. For the younger generation, it’s the ganja-grabba ting so you wouldn’t see any of them coming in for that. It’s the grabba (spiked tobacco) that is the real killer,” she said.
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