In Jamaica Black History Month AKA Reggae Month

In Jamaica Black History Month AKA Reggae Month
Ibo Cooper, chairman JaRIA.
Photo by Steve James

Appreciation of Caribbean achievement is a shared cultural reason to mark Black History Month in February. In Jamaica, the shortest month of the year which is dedicated to celebrating distinctive individuals of African descent is also the one designated Reggae Month.

Officially declared on Jan. 24, 2008 by Sir Kenneth Hall, former governor general of Jamaica, the month features music appreciation, lectures, films, concerts, dance programs and a myriad of events to laud the genre.

This year’s activities include a fully-loaded calendar with 29 events scheduled during the 28-day period.

Lisa Hanna, minister of culture there along with Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) members announced an abundance of activities that seemingly will not only foster racial pride but also sing praises to a beat created, nourished and exported from the island.

During the kick-off in Kingston where music industry professionals, politicians and tourists gathered to hear the official program, JaRIA chairman Ibo Cooper unveiled a full calendar of activities which began Feb. 1 with an ecumenical service.

A Trench Town Festival promised a full line-up of vintage and current talents in the ghetto hamlet alleged to be the birthplace of the genre.

In that west Kingston community ordinary citizens honed their skills to create reggae royalty the world reveres as — a king of reggae, crown prince, queen, high priestess, a duke, duchess, emperor and the first Third World superstar.

Already, on the Feb. 6 birth-date of some of the island’s most legendary singers — Derrick Harriott, the acclaimed ‘crown prince of reggae’ Dennis Brown, former Third World lead singer, William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke and reggae icon Bob Marley — numerous concerts lauded the beat.

Recently, the genre scored another gain with David “Ziggy” Marley claiming his third solo Grammy win for his “Fly Rasta” CD.

Some had speculated that SOJA, an American band would make history this year by becoming the first non-Jamaican group to win the Best Reggae Album category. Instead the eldest son of the king of reggae added to the largest treasure trove of any recording family in the genre by winning a miniature gramophone for the year’s best reggae recording during a ceremony in Los Angeles, California.

Marley brothers — Kymani and Julian reportedly performed at their father’s 56 Hope Road residence and also at the Redemption Live Bob Marley 70th birthday concert on the Kingston Waterfront where Rohan and Damian joined the revelry.

The Marley recognition also adds sports to the lineup with an annual “One Love” charity soccer match scheduled for Feb. 18. Olympic sprinters Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell will test their ball skills in honor of the reggae legend.

While many of the free events will be held at Reggae Village, the Kingston venue formerly known as The Ranny Williams Entertainment Center, other venues will host a myriad of events.

‘Stone Love For Lovers’ on Valentines Night will be a paid and elegant affair offering a romantic night for lovers featuring classic reggae music from the enduring sound system operators.

A music symposium at the University of the West Indies slates panel discussions and topical issues during an enlightening program entitled ‘Open University.’

Among the topics to be discussed are ‘Women in Reggae,’ ‘Sexuality, Gender and dancehall in the 21st Century,’ ‘Legalize It – Reggae, Rasta, Ganja,’ and the ‘Impact of Sound System.’

Film producer Lennie Little-White has already committed to participate in the first-ever ‘Reggae in Film’ event. The new event adds to the calendar an all-day event beginning at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 11:00 p.m. It is scheduled to take place on Feb. 23. Documentaries, features and concert performance films will highlight the debut presentation.

The birthplace of reggae will celebrate the month with a signature event billed ‘Reggae Nights.’ Slated to be held at the spacious Emancipation Park, the outdoor venue is able to accommodate many more patrons than previously.

For gospel reggae music lovers ‘Reggae Praise’ delivered on Feb. 8 with performances by Kevin Downswell, Katalys Crew, Omari, Rondel Positive and Germain Edwards. Reportedly, a massive crown turned out for the Sunday series.

A series of weekly Wednesday events are planned to chronicle the movement of reggae through a series of five live concerts featuring drumming, folk, mento, jazz, classical, dancehall and alternative.

The first in the series of Wednesday Reggae Nights features reggae in all varieties including: classical, jazz, mento and ska and will showcase acts such as the Edna Manley College Orchestra, Pimento Players, Jamaica Symphony Orchestra, Gilzene and the Blue Light Mento Band. Other mid-week Reggae Wednesday presentation include an evening dubbed ‘Reggae Run Weh’ which has become a hit due to the combination of music with Jamaican fashion and culture.

Several top models, designers and artists are scheduled to perform on this night and include performances from Richie Stephens and Jah 9, two reputed reggae talents.

Other nightly offerings from JaRIA include ‘Live Tuesdays’ which offer a showcase of burgeoning artists.

There is also ‘Vinyl Thursdays,’ and ‘Friday Mixers.’

The month will come to a climax with the staging of the JaRIA Awards at the Courtleigh Auditorium Feb. 28. Twenty one of the music industry players will be rewarded for their outstanding contributions to music. Among some of the awardees are: Papa San who will be honored for his contribution to gospel-reggae, Pat Chin of VP Records, BB Seaton for songwriting, Winston “Niney” Holness, King Jammy’s for production, engineers Karl Pitterson and Overton ‘Scientist’ Brown as well as Youthman Promotion and Downbeat The Ruler will be celebrated for contribution to enhancing the sound systems industry.

Major Joe Williams will be presented an award for mentorship while posthumous awards will be given to reggae veterans John Holt and Hopeton Lewis, both of whom died last year.

British radio personality David Rodigan will be rewarded for his contribution to media. He is the only non-Jamaican among the 21 honorees.

For further details check JARIA‌JAMAI‌

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