THANKS to comedienne Elva for introducing the word 'mantourage' to the dancehall lexicon. What a wonderful word to describe an entire 'district of men' who walk aimlessly
behind homophobic artistes swearing loyalty and devotion and who have to be clothed and fed.
It's a regular thing to see artistes roll into a stage-show with a bus load of people and when we say a bus load, we mean a bus load. Just watching them bail out is an experience in itself. It's just people on top of people -- in some cases it looks like at least four persons share a seat made for two. And this is the norm for deejays like Vybz Kartel and the Alliance.
At the recent Follow Di Arrow stage show in St Mary, the horse and pony show with the 'mantourages' -- fortunately there were a few women to balance off things a bit -- was something else. As soon as Alliance/Gully artistes worked and made their exit with their district in tow, in came the Gaza mantourage with what looked like a never-ending stream of people.
The backstage area could hardly breathe.
While enterting the venue, we observed young act, Deejay Face -- remember her from Digicel Rising Stars? She arrived with her mantourage in tow, a whole coaster bus 'full a people' all duly accredited.
At events like these, the mantourage's presence is clearly the promoter's expense, as they usually have special armbands that sometimes give them even more access than working press. Repeatedly, artistes and promoters are at loggerheads because the artistes make what promoters consider unreasonable de-mands for up to 50 backstage passes. And, what is even more distressing is when all 50 persons think it's their right to follow the artiste on stage. We have witnessed some royal battles between mantourages and stage managers.
That aside, however, there is one fascinating thing about mantourages -- they have to be maintained. How on earth do these artistes manage to feed so many hungry mouths? Day in day out? There are stories of artistes who, on their way from stage shows with their mantourage spend up to $35,000 just buying food at the popular food stops.
Our survey has shown however, that 'Dada' gets it right.
"Every day Dada mek them put on one big pot and full it up with dumplin, yam, banana and is that them eat with some veggie stew. And him buy things in bulk -- like the 100 lb bag of rice, flour sugar," one source close to Judgement Yard explained.
And then, there is their obligations when they go to "foreign" to buy clothes for the mantourage and their families and to give them hard cash as well. And we won't even mention the unmentionable.
Considering all these expenses, perhaps the artistes could make a case for themselves when the tax collectors come a-calling. The money they spend supporting these men and their familes should qualify artistes for some kind of tax break.