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Jamaica International Podcast Network to amplify Jamaican voices, issues and solutions

Published:Sunday | June 5, 2022 | 12:10 AMSade Gardner - Staff Reporter

Michael Dawson, chief executive officer of Whirlwind Entertainment.
Michael Dawson, chief executive officer of Whirlwind Entertainment.

Whirlwind Entertainment is set to launch the Jamaica International Podcast Network tomorrow night at the MECA in Kingston. The company established MECA’s Yaad TV Network, which will host the podcast platform for availability on ROKU, Apple TV, Amazon Firestick and android and iOS platforms.

Whirlwind Entertainment’s CEO, Michael Dawson, said the podcast network which was more than two years in the making, was initially inspired by the feedback and conversations surrounding The Voice of the Jamaican Ghetto 2012 book, which he co-authored with Vybz Kartel, as well as the range of discussions that arose from Dancehall Queen (DHQ) Carlene’s ‘Sex & Dancehall’ series held at his Kingston-based House of Dancehall.

“But the real inspiration actually came from seeing black podcasts in the United States, which is most dominant in the US, and we saw conversations that surrounded childhood trauma, domestic violence, sexual violence, investment, racism, and so forth so,” Dawson told The Gleaner. “I think in our Jamaican culture, for most of us, from what I’ve seen, certain things are best not spoken about, especially the tough things, and I’m seeing where in urban black America, these conversations are creating wonders.”

Under the tagline ‘Cause every Jamaican should have a voice’, the platform will allow Jamaicans in and outside of the island to not only talk about topics and issues affecting their culture, but also generate solutions. Current podcasts include Garvey Mindful Mondays with Dr Julius Garvey and Dr Linda James-Myers; The Zone with Maureen Mullings-Nelson and Marlene Lawrence-Grant; Sex & Dancehall with DHQ Carlene; MECA Lifestyle with Onz; and Sistahs Speak with Rosie Murray-Tingling. The event launch will feature snippets from current podcasts as well as presentations by podcasters and Dawson.

“Monday, we’ll formally launch to invite other persons to make them aware, but to also invite other persons who may have the thought but don’t have the infrastructure because we do have a podcast room, the editing software, mics, lights. We’ve invested heavily in the technology that can spit a podcast out very professionally to global standards. If I should say so myself, we’ve gotten a great response, so we’re booking them out, so it’s good thus far.”

He added that one of the best things about the network is its removal of “middlemen” evident with foreign platforms to instead pay creatives directly from sponsors. Dawson’s vision for the network is to transform the (local) perception of podcasts as mere entertainment or only reserved for those media trained.

“One we’re most proud about is [that] it is a podcast about learning loss, where we have two educators who are talking to principals every week about how we deal with the lost time that kids have in school, so, it (podcasts) can be used for many applications, and that is the vision: to bring podcasts mainstream across different topics.”

Coinciding with Whirlwind Entertainment’s new media innovations is the Yaad TV Network, which Dawson described as a localised edition of an accumulation of mainstream media platforms. Yaad Flix, for instance, represents a Jamaican version of Netflix; Yaad Fans, an alternative to OnlyFans; and Yaad Talk, the Jamaican edition of TED Talk.

“There are millions of YouTube content creators, and it’s very difficult for some local Jamaicans to get on a TED talk. People also look at OnlyFans as a sexual thing. What we’ve done is customise all these platforms to the Jamaican experience so Jamaicans have an opportunity. [For example,] if someone has a limited amount of fans, like we have some people here that do folk music, rap music, others that play alternative music, [we can help]. Let’s say you only have 500 fans, then through our Yaad Fans platform, you can use that to reach audiences here and in the diaspora. With Yaad Talk, we want to be like a TED Talk for Jamaica, where we discuss issues relevant to Jamaica, so I think we’re customising, modernising, and it’s very local but global.”

A Florida launch is slated for September.