Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert and Mighty Diamonds among honorees for Jamaica Music Experience Awards

Jimmy Cliff
File photo of Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff performing during the first weekend of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, April 13.
Associated Press/Chris Pizzello/File

Legendary vocalist James Chambers — popularly known as Jimmy Cliff, along with Lloyd “Judge Diamond” Ferguson of The Mighty Diamonds and the late Frederick “Toots” Hibbert are among the artists from the Jamaican music industry who will be honored at the Second Annual Jamaica Music Experience (J.A.M.E.) and True Tribute Awards on Saturday, Sept. 10 in New York.

The event will take place at the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center in Garden City and will be presented by the True Tribute Organization, founded and headed by popular musician and educator, LeRoy Graham Jr.

According to Graham, The J.A.M.E. and True Tribute Awards is a unique celebration of Jamaica’s culture, history and development within the music industry and beyond. It commemorates the achievements of Jamaicans past and present, highlighting their commitment and pioneering efforts to share Jamaica’s cultural heritage and musical legacy with the world. The event also raises funds and awareness for several education projects in Jamaica and the USA developed through the True Tribute Organization Foundation.

“Our inaugural presentation took place in 2018,” says Graham. “However, due to the covid pandemic we have been unable to host the event for the past few years. So we are titling this year’s event the Second Annual presentation even though in fact several years have passed since the first.”

This year’s list of honorees includes some of the most popular and recognizable names associated with the Jamaican music industry over many decades, and is divided into three categories – Entertainers, Radio Personalities and Posthumous Awards. A fourth category, the Organization Leadership Awards, will honor Jamaicans from the Diaspora who are actively working to document and promote Jamaica’s music and culture.

In addition to Cliff and Ferguson, honorees in the Entertainment category include Derrick Morgan and Johnny Osborne – all of whom will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards- as well as Beverly Kelso, the only female member of the original Wailers  and Doreen Schafer, a pioneer female vocalist with the Skatalites.

Among the Radio Personalities to be honored are Ken Williams and Conroy Allison, while the Posthumous Music Award honorees alongside Toots Hibbert include Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Cecil “Sonny” Bradshaw and veteran record producer Sonia Pottinger.

This year’s roll of honor for the Organization Leadership Awards includes Faye and Karl Rodney- founders and editors of Carib News, Lesleyann Samuel- President of the Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (UJAA) and Michael R Duncan – President of The Universal Negro Improvement Association and Africa Communities League (UNIA-ACL).  Graham believes that this year’s list of honorees is an excellent representation of the caliber of individuals and entities he sought to recognize when he first launched TTO in 2014.

“Our mandate is to acknowledge, preserve and continue the achievements of Jamaican foundational musicians and pioneers, who truly embody Jamaica’s rich music and cultural legacies. These individuals have exhibited an indomitable spirit and fortitude to overcome tremendous obstacles in pursuit of sustainable progress and have positively influenced society through their dedication, character and principles during their lives.”

He believes it is especially important that the organization tries to honor individuals during their lifetime, while they are still around to appreciate the accolades.

“Just in April we lost not one, but two members of the incredible Mighty Diamonds- Donald ‘Tabby’ Shaw and Fitzroy ‘Bunny’ Simpson. It is therefore most fitting that we honor the last surviving member Lloyd Ferguson in person at this year’s ceremony. Regarding Toots, he was slated to be honored   at our inaugural event in 2018, but couldn’t make it. We agreed that we would do it the following year but covid intervened, and then, sadly, we lost him. So we at TTO believe there is no better time than the present to acknowledge as many of these outstanding individuals as we possibly can in any given year.”

Graham is promising a glittering and exciting musical presentation on awards night in September, which is why the show is being launched so well in advance.

“We will be using the summer to promote the event, enhance public awareness and excitement, and of course acquire our event sponsors. We are pleased to announce that two have already confirmed their participation – VP Records, original sponsors from our inaugural event in 2018, and IMC Media. As for the evening itself, it will be one to remember as you might expect, especially in the 60th Anniversary year of Jamaica’s independence. We will be honoring our nation’s cultural history with music and movement in a very major way. More details will follow, so stay tuned.”

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