It was slow going in terms of chart action and sales for Jamaican pop music in 2012. But for a minor hit, dancehall/reggae was off the radar.
December figures from American sales monitor SoundScan presented a dismal picture with no album by a contemporary Jamaican artiste selling 5,000 copies in the United States.
While they made a lot of noise at home, dancehall's finest, which includes Busy Signal, Konshens and I Octane, failed to impress overseas. Sean Paul, commercially the most successful dancehall artiste, also floundered.
The enigmatic singjay Popcaan was the only dancehall artiste to pierce the Billboard pop chart. His song, Only Man, made a brief appearance in February.
Typical of dancehall, there was plenty of drama. Busy Signal spent two months in a US prison, a penalty for fleeing that country 10 years ago, while awaiting sentencing on cocaine charges.
Ninjaman, who spent almost two years in police custody on murder charges, was granted bail in March. He was soon back in the recording studio and made a muchhyped appearance at Sting, his old stomping ground.
Buju Banton served the first of a 10-year prison sentence for cocaine conspiracy and trafficking charges in a Florida penitentiary. He faces an additional five years for his conviction on a related gunpossession charge, but his resentencing hearing was postponed to investigate the report of juror misconduct.
His new attorney has filed a motion in a Tampa, Florida, Federal court seeking a new trial.
Critics in the US and Europe believed the most meaningful music out of Jamaica came from veteran singer/songwriter Jimmy Cliff. His Rebirth album outsold those of dancehall acts and made ABC News and Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 50 Albums of 2012.
Rebirth has also been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category. Interestingly, Cliff’s latest nomination came approximately 40 years since the release of The Harder They Come, the movie that made him a superstar.
Other ‘old stagers’ in the news were Ken Boothe whose song Artibella was sampled by rap icon Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion. Peter Tosh was posthumously awarded the Order of Merit, Jamaica's third highest honour.
Neville ‘Bunny Wailer’ Livingston, Tosh’s colleague in Wailers, was awarded the Order of Jamaica while influential trombonist Rico Rodriquez received a Silver Musgrave Award for his contribution to music.