Spirits lifted on day one of Jamaica Rum Festival
To the uninitiated, a spirits festival, especially one focused on rum, might seem like an excuse to partake in drinking alcoholic cocktails and fall into an inebriated state where all inhibitions are dismissed. As appealing as that may sound to some, that was not the case at the well-organised inaugural celebration of rum on day one of the Jamaica Rum Festival on Saturday.
J. Wray and Nephew Limited’s Appleton Estate brand, the main presenter of the festival, and supporting rum brands Monymusk Plantation Rums, Hampden Estate, Sangster’s Rum Cream and Charley’s JB Overproof Rum and Wray and Nephew White Overproof Rum, achieved the goal of educating consumers, industry players and all you came out from the venue entrance inside the Hope Botanical Gardens where there was a chronicle of rum production from start to finish and various educational seminars that provided in-depth information on rum-related topics and developments.
From walking through the entry tunnel, where the senses were opened with rum-infused mist, taking a few selfies ‘in the field’ and reading the history of rum in Jamaica while munching on pieces of sweet sugar cane, the festival grounds exploded into a marketplace filled with the aroma of rum and activities without the burden of a cliché set up.
And as it was a rum festival, for those who just wanted the traditional white rum and chaser from coconut water, fruit juices to carbonated beverage mixes, there were fully-stocked bars (strategically placed in between vendor booths) to do so.
Fun and games
Amidst consumers soothing their appetites, there were lots of fun and games. Festivalgoers could be seen playing ball games at one corner, and for those who craved a challenge, the Appleton Estate booth entertained with Jenga (a game best played with a large group of persons testing one’s skill in creating a tower with blocks) which had friends and strangers alike interacting.
And where there is rum there must be dominoes, and for those who were present from the moment the gates opened until the sunset, they got a chance to beat entertainers like Beenie Man and Bugle, giving them six love at the domino tables.
Of course, the experience would not be complete without a little music. The stage was alight with entertainers like Sevana, who started her performance early in the afternoon to a fairly undersized audience. However, she was able to kindlethe interests of reggae-fusion lovers with songs such as A Bit Too Shy, Justice, and Sometime Love. Next up to the microphone was the original Rum Song singer - Pluto Shervington, who got both young and more mature members of the audience to have a nice time with I’m in a Dancing Mood, Your Honour and Ram Goat Liver among his other 1970s hits.
One such patron was Charlie W Grant, who we saw demonstrating a mix of moves with his friends visiting from Scotland.
“A little rum and good people gets me in a dancing mood,” said Grant. He told The Gleaner, “If the next day is like the first, my spirits is up deh. I may even come out earlier.”
His friend Joe Brannan, agreed.
Dean Fraser and Friends also had the people rocking, and seasoned producer and creative director for the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum’s Heart of Jamaica album, Mikey Bennett, told The Gleaner, “It is a wonderful feeling, and today’s entertainment was as good as we imagined it,” as he observed the fruits of his labour coming together on stage.
“From Sevana touched the stage, to Pluto Shervington, that did what I promised the organisers he would.
Fraser, who never fails to deliver, he also invited on Jamila Falak (who played a significant part in the creation of the album) and to me that was the setting point,” he added.
The producer revealed that the conversations about next year’s execution have already begun, noting, “With word of mouth and the social-media response that day one of the festival received, it would be easier to pull off day two and other festivals in the future.”
Falak, who surprised the audience with her double standing bass, which she calls Lucy, bared her neo-soul vocals with Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass and an original song, LA AAA ADY. Speaking with The Gleaner after her artistic display, she said, “This is unlike any other event I have ever participated in. Rum is part of our culture, and it is a special occasion for me, knowing that Appleton Estate doesn’t exclude us from this experience as a continuation of the work we did for the album.”
The day closed with dancehall presentations from Dance Xpressions, who gave a half-hour dance lecture on movements from hand-rocking ska to knee-knocking dancehall, then Wayne Marshall and Aidonia, who both did as expected – keeping the spirits of festival-goers at a high until 10:30 p.m. , when most persons realised that it was time to exit the venue.