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Artistes want to make Jamaica 50 grand

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

Celebrating 50 years of Independence is quite a milestone for Jamaica, and something which those involved in entertainment intend to highlight.

Fab 5's bassist and manager, Frankie Campbell, says the band has been on the road for 40 years. Doubtful about seeing the country's 100th Independence celebration "in my lifetime, I assume this will be the biggest celebration that I will be celebrating," he said.

For him, in these 50 years, Jamaica has achieved a lot and has much to be proud of.

"In my business, we have achieved quite a lot. Jamaica has done a lot musically. It means a lot to me, my group and JAVAA (Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates). I am a proud Jamaican," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Just weeks away from the main parts of the celebration, Campbell noted that the way in which Jamaica's Independence is celebrated has changed over the years.

"In the early years, the celebration was tremendous. It was exciting times. Everybody was excited about Independence," he said.

1969 festival entrants

Reaching for a flyer of the June 1969 Festival Song Competition finals that he had close by, Campbell said the event had entrants like The Heptones, Techniques, Dawn Penn, Alton Ellis, Derrick Harriott, Bob Marley and The Wailers, Stranger Cole and Desmond Dekker.

Those were exciting times for Fab 5, he said, as they were just getting started in the music business.

Unlike now, he said, festival and Christmas were the only two major events in the country at the time.

"The 25th anniversary was big but it has been waning over the years. This is the big one. I am hoping that things will pick up," he said.

Campbell also noted that Fab 5 has made its contribution to Jamaica 50 with an album called 1962 to 2012: 50 years of Jamaican Music - Fab 5 and Friends Live that was released in December. And, following the controversy surrounding songs like the Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell-produced On A Mission and Find A Flag that was written by Mikey Bennett, Campbell said Fab 5 did a song called 50 Not Out. While they have yet to be called on to perform, he says they have made themselves available for Jamaica 50.

Much younger and with fewer Independence
memories, No-Maddz's Sheldon Shepherd says his group will get involved
in the celebrations, as they will be performing at 'Respect Jamaica 50',
a 12-night live concert series that will be held in London's 02 Arena
between July 25 and August 6.

Describing himself as a
patriotic Jamaican, Shepherd said, "I think we are close to getting to
the point where we can make our decisions. We are independent but we
need to act as if we are independent."

He continued:
"I implore all Jamaicans to see what they can do in terms of nation
building. Don't ask what Jamaica can do for you but what you can do for
Jamaica as a whole. We as Jamaicans should be the chief merchants of
this Brand Jamaica."

For Kevin Blair from the
dancehall group Voicemail, Jamaica 50 is quite a significant time in
Jamaica's history, but there is more to be

"We have grown as an independent country,
even though we are not fully independent. For the most part, we are
better off than a lot of other so-called Third World countries," he told
The Sunday Gleaner.

"For a little
dot on the map, we are a big brand in the world. We have a lot of
improvements to make and grounds to make up, but for the little
resources that we have and a lot of mismanagement, we have come a long


Dancehall artiste Spice says she will also be
celebrating a birthday on August 6, so her celebration will be very

"I will be celebrating Jamaica 50 big because
it also falls on my birthday. I will be celebrating it big this year
with family and friends," she said, adding that 50 years of Independence
is a major achievement for the country.

Although he
has only been around for a small fraction of the 50 years, reggae
artiste Romain Virgo has already made a contribution, as he was one of
the artistes on On A

Planning to celebrate the
milestone, Virgo said, "I wasn't here 50 years ago, but based on what I
heard in school and from family, I know that there is so much that we
have to celebrate as a country. For me, I am trying to participate in
everything that surrounds the season and this