Mon | Aug 26, 2019

One iconic event - Annual concert projected to pull in reggae pilgrims

Published:Sunday | February 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (centre) chats with Ibo Cooper (right), chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, at Monday’s launch of Reggae Month at Ribbiz Ultra Lounge in Kingston. Sharing the moment are (from left) Senator Matthew Samuda; reggae artiste Etana, and Kamal Bankay, member of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association.
Dennis Brown

The theme of last year's Reggae Month was 'Reggae Mek Yah', emphasising Jamaica as the point of origin for not only reggae, but of all the Jamaican music forms reggae has become a catch-all name for, among them ska, rocksteady, dancehall and dub.

The play on Mecca, the Saudi Arabian town where Islam's founder Muhammad was born, is obvious, and even as Reggae Month 2018 continues to be observed under the theme, 'Peace, Love, Reggae', there is a plan to have reggae pilgrims visit Jamaica for an annual event, the musical equivalent to the mass of Muslims who make a pilgrimage to Mecca each year during Hajj.

While Muslims, clad in white, circle the Kaaba (a black structure at Mecca) counterclockwise seven times, the Reggae Month organisers hope to have reggae pilgrims from all over the world focus on the stage at its Reggae Icons Concert, the first of which is being held today on Kingston's Waterfront. It celebrates the life and work of singer Dennis Brown, who was born on July 1, 1957, and features Tony Rebel, Luciano, Freddie McGregor, Richie Stephens, Carlene Davis, Iba Mahr, Alaine, George Nooks, Ken Boothe, Dean Fraser, Short Boss, The Mighty Diamonds, among others. The band which performed regularly with Dennis Brown, Lloyd Parkes and We The People, will be on the stand. It is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

Kamal Bankay, who co-chairs the Reggae Month steering committee with Howard McIntosh, told The Sunday Gleaner, "the idea is that we are going to present a major concert that is free to all the people - rich, poor, old, young, it does not matter. We are going to get the concert going this year and do content capture." Footage of the concert will then be marketed to attract visitors to Jamaica for the concert in particular and Reggae Month in general. "We decided to do one gigantic event that is free to everybody," Bankay said.

The objective of attracting visitors to Kingston through a cultural product stems from the collaboration between two Government ministries for Reggae Month, previously run by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA). Explaining the organisation of Reggae Month 2018, Bankay said that though the Ministry of Gender, Culture, Entertainment and Sport and the Ministry of Tourism, the government "took up the objective of raising the profile of Reggae Month through significant marketing." In addition, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) is integral to the planning.

He did not give a specific budget for the Reggae Icons Concert (at which all the performers will be participating without payment), as it falls within the $15 million allocated to Reggae Month by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). "There are a lot of things spread over the month. We get economies of scale and the concert benefits from that," Bankay said.

"Reggae Month is possible because many, many people believe in it," Bankay said, emphasising how many persons contribute voluntarily to the annual effort. "Jamaica is the Mecca for reggae and we have to treat it like the biggest gem we have. We have to put a major effort behind Reggae Month for 12 months, so people come here like a pilgrimage," he said.