Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Rebel Salute holds visitor record - Organisers believe figures now higher than 2013 survey

Published:Sunday | January 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
A section of the crowd at Rebel Salute, held at Kaiser Sports Complex in St Elizabeth on Saturday May 15, 2005.
Marion Hall performing at Rebel Salute 2017
Tourists taking pictures of the popular 'Redemption Song' statue, by artist Laura Facey Cooper, which stands outside Emancipation Park in New Kingston.

At the December launch of Rebel Salute 2018, which takes place on January 12 and 13 at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, St Ann, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, put some figures to the festival which has grown out of deejay Tony Rebel's birthday celebration in 1994. In The Gleaner's report on December 21, among the statistics was the proportion of tourists among the audience - the highest of any music festival in Jamaica. And the Rebel Salute organisers, the Organic H.E.A.R.T., Group of Companies, believes it is now higher, as they believe the figures cited, came from data that was collected five years ago by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) in the festival's first year at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, after being relocated from Port Kaiser, St Elizabeth.

"In 2013 the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) did a survey at Rebel Salute, which came up with the result that over 38 per cent of the population was people who flew in for the festival. I guess Babsy was quoting the JTB findings of five years ago. I have no doubt right now that we have doubled that, or gone to one and a half times that," Tony Rebel told The Sunday Gleaner.

While the survey was done in Rebel Salute's initial north coast year, when it also expanded to two days from being held on Saturday only, Tony Rebel saw indications of the significant tourist input from before.

"I think we were seeing it from at Port Kaiser, because it is important to know that Rebel Salute is contributing to the country, and it would justify the JTB giving us any sort of support," Rebel said. The survey provides empirical evidence in seeking sponsorship for the festival. Data collection on visitor patronage is done by Rebel Salute's organisers at the gate, and online purchases this year indicate arrivals from countries including the USA, Canada, England, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis and St Maarten.

Rebel Salute celebrates 25 years this year. Friday's line-up includes Jah Vinci, Vershon, Chevaughn, Third World, Cocoa Tea, Ras Takura, Bushman, Jesse Royal, King Sounds, JC Lodge, Glacia Robinson, Bugle, Agent Sasco and Charly Black. On Saturday Barrington Levy, Freddie McGregor, Capleton, Sanchez, Oniel Bryan (Elephant Man), Duane Stephenson, Pinchers, Little Hero, Louie Culture, Ras Shiloh and Luciano are among the singers and deejays. The Herb Curb will be open both days, and the seminar on marijuana slated for Saturday.

The festival's organisers wanted to do two days when they were at Port Kaiser, but the shortage of accommodation was a prohibiting factor, even as there was a plan to go the community tourism route. Rebel says with the festival now in a venue with 10,000 hotel rooms at hand, along with the highway providing easy access, the festival's pull means "we are contributing to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product)."


Serendipitous switch


It was a serendipitous switch, as Grizzly's was a long time sound and stage Rebel Salute partner, and Robert Bryan was spearheading the Plantation Cove development at a time when Port Kaiser became unsuitable because of a large hole on the grounds. Filling it in was possible, but there was no guarantee the ground would not open up in another spot. Before that, Rebel Salute was first staged at Fayor's Entertainment Centre, Mandeville, on January 14, 1994, then moved to Brooks Park (also in the Manchester capital).


Strong pull


It had a strong pull for persons outside Manchester from the get-go, as Tony Rebel told The Sunday Gleaner, that at the first one, persons from Kingston were outnumbered only by those from Manchester, with St Elizabeth and St James patrons third and fourth respectively.

With Rebel Salute's growth and venue changes, Tony Rebel said that there is a core Jamaican audience which has remained loyal, with fluctuations resulting from particular circumstances.

"When I walk the venue I see people who have followed Rebel Salute from Manchester to St Elizabeth and now St Ann. In terms of a decline in that core audience, alienated by Rebel Salute's changes, Tony Rebel said, "some people want to perpetuate that. For some reason they find all kinds of things to say." While there are some social media postings, he said "we have not seen that on the ground."

Rebel Salute continues to hold to its 'nos' - no meat (except fish) and no alcohol requests of the patrons and vendors among them.

"The reason for trying to keep a holistic show, a positive contribution to the nation and our people, to maintain a legacy created by great people like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer I expect that kind of support," Rebel said of the festival's audience pulling power.

"I feel good to know that there is support for positivity in the world and in the genre of reggae and Jamaica."