Some years ago Caribbean writer and cultural commentator Ian McDonald caused a minor stir when he criticised today’s popular music, in particular dancehall and soca, calling it mindless, shallow and mechanical. Similar, more light-hearted criticism of dancehall came from popular Barbadian calypsonian Red Plastic Bag in his hit song Ragga-Ragga. Musician and University of Guyana academic Deryck Bernard took on McDonald and put up an informed defence of popular and folk music.

McDonald was not entirely wrong in identifying some of the characteristics of the popular music and contemporary generation popular culture, but he was wrong in his sweeping generalization about popular music. Bernard countered well, but perhaps the best rebuttal may be found in the music itself, in any cursory glance at Bob Marley and Sparrow, or at a closer examination of Buju Banton.

Excellent rebuttal is not hard to find, and it certainly presented itself in Buju Banton and Third World, the two class acts in the recent Guyana Music Festival, produced by Kashif and Shanghai at Guyana’s Providence Stadium a week ago. A largely accurate picture of what happened there is captured in excellent coverage by Stabroek News writer Iana Seales (29.10.07).

There were several interesting factors that came together in that concert which demonstrated that while mindless crowd-following and clich