Reggae-fyin'

Video producers spend big bucks to promote the Jamaican beat

Dayo stands with his hands on his hips, his white cotton Ralph Lauren T-shirt tucked into the band of his dressy black cargo pants. His feet, clad in a pair of red Adidas three-stripers, tap impatiently.

It's the second day of casting for the new Jamaican reggae video he's directing, and so far, the casting crew has not found him the perfect lead dancing girl. They've been through 45 candidates now at Picture Perfect Studios' production room on Biscayne Boulevard, and none of the girls has looked right. None of them had that certain je ne sais quoi.

To put it bluntly, says video consultant Gil Green, none of them can move her damn hips.

Ready when you are, Mr. B: Dancers wait to go on.
Colby Katz
Ready when you are, Mr. B: Dancers wait to go on.
Anthony B gets down with lead dancer Esther Baxter.
Colby Katz
Anthony B gets down with lead dancer Esther Baxter.

The problem, it seems, is that American women just do not know how to "wind." Not in the way Jamaicans do, anyway. "Americans," Green explains, "don't usetheir asses. They don't concentrate on each individual movement; they want everything done quickly. And it shows."

Dayo sighs. "If we were casting for a Ricky Martin video, we'd be good."

He turns back to the young woman in front of him. A thin dark-skinned model with straight black hair and skintight jeans, she is shaking her ass pretty good to the beat of Anthony B's hypnotic new single, "Someone Loves You." But her rotation's totally off.

"Slow it down, slow it down," Dayo yells for what seems like the 69th time. The girl nods, drops a few degrees on her rotation, but the overall effect is still more like an electric mixer spinning on all cylinders than the requisite wooden spoon moving seductively around a bowl.

When the song ends, the 19-year-old dancer lets her arms flop and walks over to Dayo. He thanks her for her time, watches her turn on her heels in her three-inch-high stilettos, then tosses her picture and résumé in the rapidly growing "maybe" pile.

"What time is it?" Dayo asks, yawning. Green, stretched out on a folding chair, his legs splayed, baseball hat turned to the rear, head back, shrugs.

Then Romina Buroz walks in. She's in tight white pants, cut at the ankles, and a seam-straining white bustier tank that reveals a ruby-red belly ring. Her hair, a collection of dyed-blond ringlets, 'fros out around her face. But most important -- Green sits up now -- this girl can wind. Big time.

"Watch her," Green whispers to nobody in particular. Buroz' hips move 'round and 'round, her stomach stiff, her arms looking like they are pushing a wagon uphill. The seeming clincher is the, well, eye-catching aesthetic dimension. She is hot. Really hot.

Dayo nods his head.

"Beautiful," he says. "Beautiful."

When Buroz finishes dancing, Dayo ambles over to her. "Do you object to having anything done with your hair? If we 'fro it out a bit more? Gelled it a little? Made it bigger?"

"No, no," the girl says.

"Excellent."

Dayo writes a few notes on her contact sheet.

Things are looking better for the casting crew.


Pardon Dayo and Green for being superfinicky here. Big doings are in the works. The backers of the video are engaged in a kind of rear-guard guerrilla action, whose aim is the subtle Jamaicafication of American music.

The star of this shoot is crossover artist and Jamaican superstar Anthony B. If things go according to plan, "Someone Loves You" will go mainstream in a big way. The producers want the video, which is scheduled to be released just before the new year, on BET and MTV, and they want to hear Anthony B's dancehall-inspired sounds bouncing off club walls and his tracks emanating from the headphones of teenaged boys everywhere. It's time for reggae to catch up with its more popular American brother, hip-hop, which dominates the club and radio scene here, reggae-oriented record execs keep saying. That's why Togetherness Records, the Miramar-based record label that carries Anthony B's records in the United States, is sinking so much money into this shoot. Nobody will come up with any exact figures, but, the producers say, this will be the biggest-budgeted reggae video ever.

Not that there aren't some potential stumbles right off the bat. Reggae isn't something to be tampered with lightly -- not in its hypnotic beat nor in its mellow Caribbean image.

Because the music is woven so tightly into Rastafarian culture, which generally shies away from flash and ostentation, certain cultural traditions need to be upheld. That's partly why Anthony B's Jamaican entourage has rooted itself on the set. Dressed in traditional knitted tams, draped in gold Rastafarian crosses, friends, managers, and retainers sit at the end of the production room -- Anthony's own Reggae Board of Standards -- watching the selection process with a critical eye.

Anthony B is not nearly as stressed as everyone around him. Video, no problem. The 20-something vocalist has shot tons of music videos in Jamaica. He can turn on any popular radio station in his home country and hear the sound of his own politically inspired lyrics, and his face is already recognizable in Europe. It's just this damned American market that he can't seem to penetrate. "There are still radio stations in America that won't play reggae music," he says, frowning, "still venues that won't let popular reggae musicians play."

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