Wed | Feb 21, 2018

Numbers up for Rebel Salute

Published:Sunday | December 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Anthony Cruz
Bernard Collins of The Abyssinians.
Tony Rebel speaks at the launch of the 23rd staging of Rebel Salute, which celebrates his birthday, held at the Marriott Courtyard, New Kingston, on Thursday.
Outgoing South African High Commisioner to Jamaica, Mathu Joyini, speaks at Thursday's launch of Rebel Salute 2016.

Speaking at the launch of Rebel Salute 2016, slated for Grizzly's Plantation Cove, St Ann, on January 15 and 16, the event's founder noted the passing of the years.

"This evening, we gather because of the 23rd staging of Rebel Salute. Anything over 21, you know is some experience along the journey," Patrick 'Tony Rebel' Barrett said.

Rebel reminisced on songs, singing a line here and there and quizzing the audience as he outlined an extensive performance roster over two days, the first of which falls on his birthday, which Rebel Salute celebrates. The birthday night is titled Singers' Paradise and features Mykal Rose, Sanchez, Luciano, L.U.S.T., Richie Spice, The Congos, The Heptones, Christopher Martin, Tony Gregory, Bugle, Louie Culture, Tanto Metro and Devonte, Chezidek, Pluto Shervington and Ernie Smith (in tandem), Kelissa, Everton Blender, Jahmali, Gem Myers and Tony Rebel.

The following night, David Brooks (aka Mavado), Junior and Juju Reid, Half Pint, Queen Ifrica, The Abyssinians (featuring Bernard Collins), I-Octane, Turbulance, Ken Boothe, Andrew Tosh, Michigan, Pablo Moses, Ray Dawin, Macka B, Anthony Cruz, The Viceroys, Uprising Roots Band, Davianah, Paul Elliot, D Medz, Mackeehen,, Electric Princess and Rahfi and the Rock Top Dancers have made the bill.

There is one more name to be added, as Rebel emphasised that a special guest will be announced, giving the clue that it is the biggest 'B' in reggae.

The launch's guest speaker, Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding, gave some other, more detailed and analytic numbers on Rebel Salute. With the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) now an established Rebel Salute sponsor, a survey of patrons at last year's staging of the festival showed that 35 per cent of them were from overseas, most of them visiting the island specifically for Rebel Salute. A number of those foreign 'Saluters' were from markets outside of the United States, especially Europe.

Additionally, from the high number of repeat visitors 78 per cent of the persons surveyed said the Rebel Salute festival had improved. Of those, 98 per cent were foreigners and 97 per cent locals. In 2014, 75 per cent of the Rebel Salute audience members were 18 to 34 years old, Golding commenting that this indicates the future of the festival and reggae were bright.

Golding made another announcement which was enthusiastically welcomed by the launch event. He said that Rebel Salute 2016 had been declared an exempt event under the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015. It will be the second event held in Jamaica which has been granted the exemption. The first, Rastafari Rootzfest, was held in Negril, Westmoreland, from November 12-15 this year.

A Ministry of Justice fact sheet on the amended Act states: "Persons who are adherents of the Rastafarian faith, or Rastafarian organisations, may apply for an event promoted or sponsored by them to be declared an exempt event. In order to apply, the event must be primarily for the purpose of the celebration or observance of the Rastafarian faith.

"Where an event is declared exempt, persons who attend the event will not be liable to be arrested, detained or prosecuted for smoking ganja or possession of ganja at the event, or transporting ganja to the event, as long as they have complied with the amounts and conditions specified in the order declaring it an exempt event."

There was acknowledgement that a relaxed approach to marijuana use at Rebel Salute has long preceded the official clearance as Golding, who was the launch's guest speaker, handed the relevant letter to Tony Rebel.

"What has been going on informally can now go on legitimately," Golding said to Rebel, to laughter from the persons filling the room.

Rebel spoke extensively about the marijuana exemption and emphatically about the commercial uses of the plant. In terms of smoking marijuana at the event Tony Rebel (who is not a marijuana smoker) said "I always tell people who are there to use the Bob Marley philosophy - 'excuse me while I light my spliff'."

That discretion makes it easier for the smoker and non-smoker alike and, continuing that considerate approach Rebel said, "We are going to use the exemption well." So, Rebel said, "we will not be there directing the people to smoke." In addition, there will be a Herb Curb towards the sea, "separated from where most of our friends will be".

As there are over 25,000 uses for marijuana, Rebel said, "Those who have never seen weed yet we will have lots of it."

And the pre-exemption approach of telling the police that wherever there is a stage show, people will have marijuana still applies.

"Rules were made for fools and discretion for the wise," Rebel said, adding that they lawmen always heeded and all was well.

Queen Ifrica, one of a number of performers at the launch, did a marijuana song, as well as Lioness on the Rise. Bernard Collins did Satta Massagana and Jahmali delivered El Shaddai, Anthony Cruz, Tony Gregory (Gypsy Girl) and Davianah (a daughter of Tony Rebel) also performing. Tony Rebel closed the performance and the launch with a If Jah Is Standing by My Side, the voices of audience members joining in.

There was a goodbye from Rebel to outgoing South African High Commissioner to Jamaica Mathu Joyini, who said she had enjoyed attending for two years with her son.

A number of sponsors' representatives and organisations connected with the event also spoke glowingly of Rebel Salute. One of them was Robert Bryan of Grizzly's, who noted improvements to the venue.

"You will be quite pleased," Bryan promised those who will attend Rebel Salute 2016.