#KINGSTON, March 5 (JIS): Earlier this week, the lawns of Jamaica House came alive with the pulsating sounds of authentic reggae music, with the staging of the Prime Minister’s Reggae Month Reception.
The venue was transformed into the centerpiece for a live stage show, which culminated Reggae Month celebrations in February. The setting was replete with the customary trappings of a popular stage show, including professional lighting and the rhythmic instrumentals of renowned live band – Lloyd Parkes and We the People Band.
The celebratory atmosphere was punctuated by swaying bodies, bobbing heads and tapping feet. So infectious was the music, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness; and members of the Diplomatic Corps could not resist ‘dropping legs’ to the sounds of reggae acts such as Luciano, Shuga, Julian Marley, Gee Wiz, Rohan Morris, and Michigan, who gave electrifying performances.
Prime Minister Holness, who spoke to JIS News following the event, said it signified a celebration and appreciation of Jamaican music.
“This is the event which marks the end of the Reggae Month celebrations. It was truly a great event, a great display of talent and celebration of what is good about reggae. It is also a demonstration, in a real way, of the Government’s commitment to standing by the development of what is probably the greatest music form to have been created in the 21st Century,” he said.
Mr. Holness noted that through the staging, the Government is ensuring that the organisers of the music, the singers, the managers and all the people who are involved in the industry are brought together to reflect on the music, to discuss the issues and also to have a fraternity.
“As we socialised, we managed to get in a few conversations about what is important for the Government to develop music. Infrastructure came up. The music fraternity is saying they need a place or several places where they can truly develop the art form without having to contend with permits and lockdowns and all the other issues that plagued the music industry last year,” he said.
“We are committed to that. Minister Grange has started one of the entertainment zones, which we have committed to, and I know that this year there might be one or two more developed,” the Prime Minister added.
For her part, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, said the reception marked the end of the “biggest and the best” staging of Reggae Month.
“We have been able to cover all the genres, all the age groups, and the different aspects and elements that have gone into making Jamaican music the best in the world,” she added.
Ms. Grange said the celebrations also involved the diaspora for the first time, noting that Reggae Month celebrations were held in Miramar, Florida, in the United States (US) this year, and that there are plans to extend the celebration further across the US to Los Angeles, New York and Toronto next year.
Vice-Mayor, City of Miramar, Florida, Alexandria Davis, who was also in attendance, shared with JIS News that when she visited Jamaica for the launch of Reggae Month in December last year, she decided at that point that she wanted to be a part of “spreading this love of reggae music outside of the island of Jamaica and celebrating Reggae Month”
“I had not heard of such a month… so I wanted to add that [to our other celebrations] and it was very fitting that it fell in the month of February as we celebrate black history, and so we dubbed it ‘Black History Meets Reggae’.”
Ms. Davis further mused that a “sound clash” could be a “nice addition” to the activities for Reggae Month next year.
In the meantime, Chairman, Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), Ewan Simpson, said he was heartened by Reggae Month activities, which he said “brought extra life, extra energy, and extra visibility to brand Jamaica through reggae music.”
Public Relations and Marketing Director, Reggae Month 2020 Secretariat, Jacqueline Knight Campbell, told JIS News that she was extremely excited and pleased about the exposure that the brand, Reggae, has achieved for 2020.
She noted that reggae was exposed globally through multiple marketing streams and activities, including live streams, through the Reggae Month mobile app, which was installed on thousands of cellphones in six different languages across the world.
“We have had over 3,000 [persons] log on to the app [and] over 30 countries being exposed [to Reggae Month activities],” she said.
The reception also featured the work of two local artists – Christopher McKenzie and Patrick Kitson – who have done paintings and illustrations of many of Jamaica’s musical greats.
The Prime Minister was quite impressed with the work of Mr. McKenzie, who was recently diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Mr. Holness bought a painting of artiste Koffee, made of coffee. The Prime Minister was also given a painting Mr. McKenzie did of the late former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga, as a gift.
Reggae Month activities were celebrated under the theme ‘Come Ketch di Riddim’ and included an exhibition titled, ‘Jamaica Jamaica,’ at the National Gallery, which showcased the evolution of Jamaican music; the ‘Children of the Icons’ concert, that featured the offspring of some of the industry’s most influential artistes; and the Echoes of Sound Systems event at the National Indoor Sports Complex.
Reggae Month involved collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, JaRIA, public and private-sector entities and other major stakeholders.
JIS News by ALECIA SMITH