THE HISTORY OF THE JFMAU
Our Jamaican music is, and has always been, unquestionably the most desired, influential and intoxicating music on the planet. The rich Jamaican musical heritage expressed in our mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, and dancehall sounds have broken barriers, created history and continues to impact the music Industry globally.
Despite this feat, Jamaican Musicians and Artists were not always treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. The need thus arose for an organization that would seek to protect the rights of these individuals who faced inequality of any kind, including segregation, discrimination, classism, racism, exploitation and poor pay among others. In pursuit of this mission the Jamaican Federation of Musicians (JFM) was born.
In 1958, the JFM proudly received its first constitutionally recognized status, operating under standard Trade Union Laws. Roy White, a Band Leader and Trade Union Congress (TUC) activist was its first President, and was critical to the formation of the Union.
Following Roy White was then VP Sonny Bradshaw who became President and made substantial changes and contributions leading to the further development of the Union. A Union Handbook setting out the CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS was created. It also included notes on such things as Duties of Members, Penalties, Objects, Benefits, Welfare Fund, and the Rights of Members. Executive Officers to support the President were identified as 1st, & 2nd Vice Presidents, Secretary, Asst. Secretary, and Treasurer.
As the Union became entrenched and actively involved in the Industry, the JFM acquired the support of Lawyers for the Union, including Tony Spaulding and P.J. Patterson. In the 1960s the Union moved to create Union Bandstands to protect the livelihood of its members. A Directory of all Union Members from across the island was created, and officers were appointed in the different constituencies to support members.
Originally, JFM membership was only available to singers and musicians. However, as performing artists such as dancers, folk and cultural groups, variety performers became members, the name JFM became JFMAA, the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliated Artist Union. Following Sonny Bradshaw, Seymour ‘Foggy’ Mullings was also President for one year.
In 1978, Mr. Headley Jones acceded to the Presidency operating from Montego Bay, the heart of the Tourism sector. By then the Union had garnered utmost respect, power and recognition. All Musicians and artists were required to be unionized members and present their Union ID cards before any performance or before setting foot on a stage in Jamaica.
After a considerable number of years the Union regrettably became dormant but was rekindled in 2016 by Karen Smith, one of Jamaica’s iconic performers, and Lowell Lawson, veteran musician and social justice activist. They formed a Steering Committee with past presidents Desmond Young and Headley Jones, and key industry players guiding the process. Many changes were made through this transformational leadership including constitutional review, a new minimum rate sheet, the reintroduction of work contracts, implementation of Life and Health Insurance plans, all managed by a sixteen member Executive Board and new Committees.
In 2017 JFMAA was re-registered as the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and Affiliates Union, JFMAU, to protect not only singers, dancers and musicians but to include all entertainment practitioners in the Industry. In that same year, Karen Smith was elected by an overwhelming majority, becoming President of the administration serving from 2017 - 2021. Lowell Omar Lawson, then Vice President was subsequently elected in February 2021 to President of the JFMAU. His administration now seeks to continue building on the legacy of this great Union.