Youth, Technology Brought Into Focus At Grand Galla 2016
The past week highlighted many activities organised and executed in the spirit of Jamaica's Independence Day.
As part of the celebration marking Jamaica's conditional liberation from colonial ties, the culmination of these activities climaxed with the Independence Day Grand Gala held at the National Stadium last Saturday.
This year's Grand Gala was a bellow to the youth. The event was less nostalgic than some are accustomed to, as it focused heavily on the promotion of youth.
One patron recalled attending the gala in past times and being audience to festival songs from days past.
This celebration notably took on a different tone as there was seemingly a desperate plea for the nation to pay more attention to the youth - specifically in tandem with technological advancement.
As usual, hundreds of children and young adults flooded the field, trying as they might, to form shapes and words to tell a choreographed story.
The frolicking was heightened for a time, synchronised by the introduction of a giant robotic spider. The reference to Anansi in a 'futuristic' form, paralleled with the insistence of the World Wide 'Web' being the 'training ground for youth', was blatant.
At every turn, the theme was reiterated, whether by the disembodied voices of the programme's emcees imparting the importance of the World Wide Web, or the comedic relief provided by Oliver Samuels' character, Dadz, and his supporting hosts, Boysie and Girlie.
A looping WhatsApp simulation was shown on the big screens inside the National Stadium during a skit involving Oliver Samuels and Ity and Fancy Cat.
In this segment called 'Generation Gap', Samuels took on the role of an older man trying his best to "go with the flow", as the young people would.
Dressed with his pants below his buttocks, the message may have been to embrace the emerging cultures of young people, curiously punctuated with the veteran comedian, Oliver Samuels', imitation of a 'rapper'.
"Yo bro, switching up the flow. Daddy-O, incognito," Samuels joked.
BRIDGING THE CAPS
With one gap addressed, in relation to the disconnect between youthful exuberance in adapting to technology and the assumed fear of technology from older generations, the organisers of the gala made efforts to bridge other contentious gaps.
During the segment called 'All Dat Glitters', the celebration invited special guests Tantan and Saga Boy from Trinidad, in the spirit of Mas'. Revelers came out bearing a Jamaican and a Trinidadian flag side-by-side in an effort to hold hands with the twin-island nation.
Boysie (played by Akeem Mignott) introduced the 'latest hits', as the hundreds of frolicking, circling youth on the field, performed routines to international chart-toppers like Formation by Beyonce, Work by Rihanna, and One Dance by Drake.
For good measure, the performances of All Dat Glitters wrapped up with Lucy by Destra and Love is the Anthem by Machel Montano.
In one beautifully costumed performance, young girls dressed in frilled white dresses were attacked by 'hawks', or, more fittingly, John Crows. In a clever switch, their dresses were flipped and red, bloodied by the attacks of the crowsthe figurative representation of transgressions against the young.
Oneil 'Nazzleman' Scott, the 2016 Festival Song winner, followed the performances of the mass band comprising the Jamaica Defence Force of the, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Combined Cadet Force and a combined choir including Nexus, the Carifolk Singers and the University Chorale, with his song, Nuh Weh Like Jamaica.
Gospel minister Kevin Downswell gave a rousing performance, one which demanded that the stadium lights to go dim and that the spotlight be turned on the minister. For most of his set, the audience was vertical, diligently following the artiste's instruction to jump.
Powerhouse vocalist Kamelia Isaacs delivered a sensational rendition of Many Rivers to Cross, followed by Nesbeth, who, of course, sang his hit song, My Dream.
Capleton and The Mystic Revelation Drummers handled the Rastafarian aspect of the programme. They performed amid fireworks and plumes of red, green and yellow smoke.
The Dragonaires, assisted by Morvin Brooks and Nazzleman, provided a throwback ska segment, performing classics like Jamaican Ska and Sammy Dead. The performance was moderately received until they played their final song, Land of My Birth.
G-Whiz and Gyptian closed the showin the absence of the promised Romain Virgo.
As if not to lose the point, as Gyptian made his exit from the venue, the disembodied emcees gave one last push, with the closer "youth and technology, a gift to our future, a gift to ourselves".