Musical's excerpts close Grounation on Garvey
For the four Sundays in February, Marcus Garvey's connection to the arts was a consistent theme of the 2018 Grounation series at the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), East Street, Kingston. So it was fitting that on the series' last day, the final performance combined song, movement, and oratory, as excerpts from GARVEY: the Musical were presented to a nearly full house at the IOJ's Lecture Hall.
Songs from the theatrical production were met with resounding applause, the musical's creator, Michael Holgate, establishing the context before the high-quality presentation.
"You will be hearing some of the songs from the musical," Holgate said, adding the storyline of Jamaica's first national hero being called upon to address issues at the present time. He ends up operating in three time spans - a state of limbo, the past, and the present.
The GARVEY: The Musical songs followed an onstage conversation between book publisher Tanya Batson-Savage and founder of the Sistren Theatre Collective and York university professor, Honor Ford-Smith, on Garvey's legacy of performance in music, theatre, and elocution. Considering the content of the musical's excerpts, which included Garvey's operation in public spaces, it was serendipitous that the closing stages of their conversation examined the negotiation of public spaces, including the concrete dividing barrier along Marcus Garvey Drive. And Ford-Smith spoke about the strengths of Amy Jacques Garvey, as well as author Una Marson and Amy Bailey.
Women played a major role in the musical's song excerpts, in which the influence of the Morant Bay Rebellion (Morant Bay, a people stand up for them rights), dialogue from Garvey's trial in the USA, his ruminations after travelling through the USA (where is the black man's country?), and ideological confrontation with WEB Du Bois were presented with excellent diction, appropriate nuance, and outstanding motion. It ended on a high with the exhortation "Africa for the Africans now!", the afternoon's host Fae Ellington reaffirming the instruction to "educate yourself".
Earlier in Grounation 2018, on February 4, Professor Rupert Lewis discussed Garvey's influence on culture in Jamaica and the Diaspora, with Universal Negro Improvement Association president Steven Golding discussing Garvey's influence on youth, poetry, and contemporary popular culture the following week. On Sunday, February 18, it was the turn of Jamaica Music Museum director/curator Herbie Miller to discuss how Garvey's philosophy and aesthetic have influenced instrumental music.
As the Jamaica Music Museum organises Grounation, Miller said thanks all around and had the final word - almost - as IOJ head Vivian Crawford asked for and received three cheers for Miller from an audience that stood to acknowledge a well-executed series under the theme 'Ghost: Muse, Cultural Arts, Aesthetics, Freedom Sounds'.