Irie Jam Radio celebrates 25th anniversary
Irie Jam Radio is the loudest voice to the Jamaican diaspora in the New York tri-state region.
For 25 years, the company has been a credible source of information and entertainment for large clusters of Jamaicans in the area, many of whom must endure a deep hunger for home. To mark this important milestone, Irie Jam is celebrating for the entire year with a flurry of activities to highlight the range of their contribution to community development here in New York.
When Irie Jam Radio 93.5 FM was launched in 1993, the station was on air for just three hours per week (Saturdays from midnight to 3 a.m.) with hosts Milford Edwards and Pat McKay. Edwards had previously worked with JBC Radio in Jamaica as a broadcaster/programmer with experience in satellite communications, and Pat McKay had already become a widely admired voice on the New York airwaves. The team was complemented by founder and CEO Bobby Clarke, who developed sales and marketing initiatives to secure funding for the weekly show that was simulcast with a radio station back home in Jamaica.
Later, in 1995, Chris Dubmaster was added to the Irie Jam team, and collectively, they raised the bar for ethnic broadcasts in New York, expanding the radio offering that was already being provided by a handful of pioneers such as Gil Bailey, Ken Williams, Francine Chin and Clinton Lindsay. As more airtime was acquired, weekly features were added; Comedy Time with Oliver Samuels, Aubrey Campbell with a sports roundup, Dancehall Queen Carlene and Vinette Pryce doing entertainment reports, Douglas Fiddler reporting news and the legendary David Rodigan adorning the broadcasts with links from London, England.
Irie Jam quickly led the pack, becoming a trendsetter in the fiercely competitive Caribbean radio market in New York. Additional airtime was acquired on WNWK, a FM radio platform broadcasting from lower Manhattan.
This was a bold move that gave prime -time exposure to the profusion of reggae and dancehall music that major US labels were signing. The station also provided an important outlet for hit songs that were pouring in from Jamaica, and the station played a key role in the breakout of a number of important artists, among them - Richie Spice, Daville, Dexta Daps and Junior Gong.
As part of its long-term goal, Irie Jam has formed strategic partnerships with Caribbean based companies like the West Indian Labor Day Parade, Tempo Network, Star Auto Mall, MARLS (Merchant Associations of Rosedale Laurelton and Springfield) and Jamaican community activist and businessman Michael Duncan.
Clarke, Grant and chief financial officer Michael Williams, also co-produced for 10 years, Irie Jamboree, a major North American reggae festival in Queens, New York.
The inaugural event was staged with headliners Sean Paul and Wayne Wonder and attracted over 6,000 patrons , and five years later, attendance swelled considerably, and the event moved to the Barclay's Center. Irie Jam has also hosted events at the Resort World Casino in Queens. The radio leaders were entrusted with handling the New York promotion for the successful Sashi concert in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, with R&B stars Usher, Puff Daddy and Jimmy Cozier. Other accomplishments include securing the long-term contract to do a live remote broadcast from all Golden Krust store openings in the tri-state area.
The Irie Jam anniversary celebrations kicked off with a church service at St John's United Methodist Church in Valley Stream, NY, followed by a Bob Marley anniversary event at SOB's in Manhattan.
The celebrations will continue with a signature upcoming event, the Oracabessa Music Festival on Sunday, July 8, at the Pennysaver Amphitheatre in Brookhaven, Long Island.
For his work in media, Bobby Clarke, was honoured by the Government of Jamaica with the Order of Distinction, Officer Class. Clarke and Grant, were both recognised by the New York Mets and the Queens Economic Development Corporation as Caribbean leaders.