Tue | Nov 24, 2020

Past Festival Song winners unhappy with competition's cancellation - Say impact of decision can be far-reaching

Published:Friday | July 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew
Roy Rayon
Kharuso salutes the audience at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, after winning the festival song contest for his entry, 'My Jamaica' in 2010.
Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange

It is unfortunate that one of the longest running events for Jamaica's Independence celebrations, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) Festival Song Competition, has been cancelled for 2017.

For persons in and around the Jamaican Diaspora, the competition, though entertaining, is also seen as a meaningful commemoration to the country's culture and talent.

Entries for the competition were accepted as early as September last year, but word of its cancellation became known only two months before the start of this week's Independence activities.

Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, said the competition had become 'watered down' and 'diluted', stirring even more public speculation as to why the competition was cancelled.

Whatever the reasons, however, multiple-time Festival Song winner, Roy Rayon, expressed regret, saying "the actual Festival Song competition is the metronome that is the centre of all the festival activities and while JCDC or those in control are experiencing blame, there are many reasons it had to be cancelled."

As to how this year's cancellation will impact future stagings, Rayon says that is yet to be seen, as it may have a positive or negative impact.

For O'Neil 'Nazzleman' Scott, who won the 2016 staging of the competition with, No Weh Like Jamaica, he believes up and coming acts and potential entrants have lost a great opportunity this year.

"Persons who have sent in entries, or look forward to participating for exposure, lose a chance of being recognised in a national competition or even becoming a star," he said.h Like Jamaica.

But the issue runs deeper for 2010 Festival Song winner, Kharuso, as he extended dismay at JCDC's support of artistes after the festival season ends each year.

"When you win a competition like Festival Song, it means you are good or promising..., we are looked on as stars. But I have not received the support to source album deals or promote the track, it's like we have been forgotten," shared Kharuso.

He also went on to surmise that "with or without sponsors, the main organisations involved, must plan ahead, put down the necessary resources to make the criteria each year, (way ahead of time) for the following years."

JCDC is also expected to release a commemorative CD with a few productions of past winners. However, a track list was not available up until earlier this week when the JCDC offices were contacted. It was hoped that the project would have been completed in time, but with various tracks selected, came the legal aspect of commissioning and time to do so.

The competition has been in existence since 1966, with only one previous suspension of the event in 2013. It has exhibited the talent of today's influential public figures such as Nadine Sutherland, Toots and the Maytals as well as Astley 'Grub' Cooper, thus not only benefiting the performers but the individuals behind the scene who may not generally receive public recognition for productions.

Past festival song winners include, The Maytals with Bam Bam, which won in 1966, the first year of the contest; Desmond Dekker and The Aces with, Music Like Dirt (1968); Hopeton Lewis's Boom Shacka Lacka (1971); Eric Donaldson with Cherry Oh Baby (1972), Sweet Jamaica (1977) and Land of My Birth (1978); and Roy Rayon for Love Fever (1985) and Give Thanks And Praises (1987).