Held at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Kingston, yesterday's funeral for Jamaican popular music legend John Kenneth Holt was far from the sombre occasion many would have expected.
Although there was a low turnout, the occasion was more of a celebration of Holt's musical legacy than anything else. It was a send-off fit for the musical icon as numerous members of the music fraternity turned up to pay their final respects to a colleague and friend. Those in attendance included Fab 5's Frankie Campbell and singers Luciano, Jimmy Riley, Tinga Stewart, and Boris Gardiner.
A few government officials were also present, including Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton. Delano Franklyn and Opposition Spokesperson on Youth and Culture Olivia 'Babsy' Grange were also there. Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna was not in attendance but was represented by Delroy Gordon, executive director of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.
There were so many performance tributes that one might have mistaken the service for a concert. Although the acoustics in the cathedral made it difficult for guests to hear parts of the songs, that did not dampen spirits as they danced up a storm when some of Holt's most powerful hits were performed by both family and friends.
The stream of performers was backed by Lloyd Parkes and the We the People Band. Karen Smith was one of the first to pay musical homage, igniting a celebratory atmosphere with Memories. She led a sing-along that warmed the hearts of those at the gathering and put smiles on the mourning family's faces.
The Silvertones came next on the musical line-up and continued the celebration with Holt's hit On The Beach. By this time, many persons could not remain seated, some sauntering into the passages for more space to dance.
Just when one thought the tributes could not get any better, John Holt's son, Junior Holt, showed it could, delivering a strong performance of his father's hit Love I Can Feel. He was then joined by his brother, Bryan, and the two performed Stealing, Stealing.
Other tributes came from Hezron, George Nooks, Tinga Stewart, and U-Roy, among others.
As the curtains came down on the musical tributes for the morning's programme, several artistes were still waiting their turn. However, they were left disappointed due to time constraints.
The service continued with John Holt's daughter, Natalie, leading the spoken tributes. While many reflected on Holt the entertainer, Natalie remembered her father. She reminisced about the many lessons he taught her and her siblings, particularly the need for a good education.
"He was a great father who taught us many things and always had a message to deliver. We will hold on to the memories and reflect on his love," Natalie said.
Despite the air of celebration surrounding the occasion, there were moments when the audience was forced to remember that a life had been lost. At points, some members of the family, especially John Holt's children, were so overcome by grief that they had to be consoled by other relatives and friends.
Holt died last month at 69 years old. The cause of death has been confirmed as colon cancer.