Reggae music suffered another blow recently with the decision of veteran booking agent Peter Schwartz of the Agency Group, to cut back on the number of Jamaican artistes his company represents. Schwartz is a vice-president at the New York City entity which has offices in major music markets around the world. In an interview with Splash, Schwartz pointed out that he has not closed the door on reggae entirely, but said several factors forced him to stop booking some artists. “I still do represent a handful of them and I still love the music and genre, but unfortunately, many of the artists I represented in reggae have come into issues that have prevented me from continuing to build their touring careers,” Schwartz explained. “Many have lost their US visas or work permits and without those, I obviously cannot book them here,” he added. “Some have unfortunate legal issues and in the case of Gregory Isaacs, one of my hardest working reggae artists, he sadly passed away.” Schwartz did not name the delinquent acts. He said he will focus on the hip-hop acts at The Agency which include Big Boi, Method Man and Redman. During the past 15 years, Schwartz has booked tours and shows in North America, the Caribbean and Europe for Buju Banton, Beenie Man, Sizzla, Capleton, Tarrus Riley, Israel Vibration, Easy Star All-Stars and Luciano. He said the first reggae tour he booked was for former Black Uhuru singer Michael Rose. Journeyman roots group Israel Vibration — one of the best touring reggae acts — is one of the remaining Jamaican entertainers on The Agency’s roster. Dancehall’s top artists have racked up many negatives in the last decade. They have clashed with gay rights groups in Europe and North America over homophobic lyrics and had run-ins with the law at home. This led to some of them being barred from entering sections of both continents. Two years ago, the US Embassy in Kingston revoked the visas of several artists. Some have been reinstated. Schwartz does not rule out working with Jamaican performers in the future. For sure I would work with the artists again. Dancehall and reggae have been a huge part of my career,” he said.
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