A short month of landmarks - Several celebrations packed into February
Reggae Month 2016 is finally here, and people of various persuasions - from romantic lovers to music lovers, churchgoers and the culturally inclined - are preparing themselves in different ways for the many events and anniversaries that dominate the month of February.
Apart from Valentine's Day (14th) for lovers, and Ash Wednesday (10th), mainly for churchgoers, the month itself has been designated Black History Month, Heart Month, Lovers Month, and, of course, Reggae Month. And, let's not forget, the two most iconic figures in reggae music - Reggae King Bob Marley and The Crown Prince of Reggae Dennis Brown - celebrate birthdays in February, and inevitably, myriad events have been planned around these two birthdates which occur on the 6th and 1st, respectively. Now, with a general election precipitously poised to topple into an already overburdened month of events, one is left to ponder on the drama that will unfold in the next few weeks.
It will always remain one of the ironies and perhaps one of the mysteries of a Jamaican calendar year to accept that, of all the months, the shortest one, whether by chance or design, is burdened with a multitude of the most important events.
But with all the activities, festivities and anniversaries that February is burdened with, Reggae Month always seems to take centre stage, with Marley and Brown playing key roles, together with other reggae-related events. Reggae Month was in fact conceived in 2008 by the then ruling Jamaica Labour Party, through the executive arm of the ministry responsible for culture.
The month was chosen to highlight and celebrate the impact of the musical genre of reggae on the country's social, cultural and economic development. Another of its aim was to promote the music industry and culture in Jamaica, thereby significantly contributing to national development. A directive was also sent to the relevant bodies in the diaspora and the international community to follow suit, by organising similar events in honour of the month. But with all of this, reggae fans in Jamaica are sometimes short-changed, owing to a clashing of events, which is always a potential risk.
In 2009, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, was given the task of coordinating events and activities for Reggae Month. That year, 11 stalwarts of the Jamaica Music Industry were honoured for their contribution to the development and international penetration of reggae music. Drummer, Count Ossie, and singers Pam Hall and Dennis Brown were among the honourees that year. Succeeding years have seen schools and other organisations benefiting from fundraising activities, while others who have contributed to the genre were duly honoured.
Among the many events planned for 2016 is Reggae Wednesdays - a weekly free concert organised by JaRIA, to be staged at Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree. Running for four consecutive Wednesdays, starting today (February 3), the event will showcase: The genesis of the music, the spiritual side of Reggae, Progression, featuring young bands and artistes; and Reggae Run Weh, in that order. Other Reggae Month activities include a series of workshops and fora at The Edna Manley College each Tuesday and Thursday, and the JaRIA honour awards, which culminates the celebrations.
As usual, there will also be the Dennis Brown birthday celebration on the Kingston waterfront, the Bob Marley Birthday celebrations, and the Trench Town Music Festival.