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UTech hosts stellar gala event to honour Jamaica's music industry

Published:Monday | December 10, 2012 | 12:00 AM

According to Piero Scaruffi in his book, A History of Popular Music, the first Jamaican recording studio opened in 1951 and recorded mento music, a fusion of European and African folk dance music.

Mento music then soon evolved into ska, Jamaica's first truly indigenous sound, which put the small island on the map in the pantheon of world music.

Jamaica became an independent country in 1962, but social problems had multiplied. During the mid-60s, ska music segued into rocksteady, named after Alton Ellis' hit.

The word 'reggae' was coined in the 1960s in Jamaica and marked the emergence of a fresh sound in the Jamaican music industry. Reggae then underwent a metamorphosis through dubbing and deejaying, which then gave rise to a new sound - dancehall, which dominated the '80s.

In the '90s, there was an international reggae fusion phenomenon, which is said to have been pioneered by Shaggy and the dynamic duo Chaka Demus and Pliers, and this became the popular sound of the '90s and early 2000s.

Dancehall then took the reins once again and is now today's music. Today's dancehall is different from the dancehall of yesteryear's, however, with faster and heavier beats and incorporating more electronic elements.

Needless to say, the Jamaican music industry has accomplished feats vastly disproportionate to its small size. This fact offers some insight as to why the University of Technology decided to bestow its highest honour - the Chancellor's Medal - to the Jamaican music industry on a whole.

The medal was officially handed over at a ceremony hosted at The Courtleigh Auditorium on Saturday night. The institution's chancellor, Edward Seaga, presented the medal to a representative group from the industry.

The award's final resting place will be at the Jamaica Music Museum, which also had a small exhibition set up at the ceremony. The exhibition - Visualising 50 Years of Jamaican Popular Music: Seeing the sound and hearing the images - contained various paraphernalia documenting the history of Jamaican music and its journey to where it is today.

Musical excursion

Guests were also taken on a musical excursion as various performers took to the stage to pay homage to the Jamaican music industry by performing their renditions of a carefully selected list of classics such as Millie Small's My Boy Lollipop, Peter Tosh's Equal Rights and Jimmy Cliff's Many Rivers to Cross, among others.

Mr Seaga revealed that the recently released Reggae Golden Jubilee album is now at No. 3 on the Billboard reggae charts, moving up from No. 10 the previous week. The album follows reggae luminary, Beres Hammond's One Love, One Life in the No. 2 position and American reggae and alternative rock musician, Matisyahu, with his fourth studio album, Spark Seeker, in the No. 1 position.

There was also mention that the reggae charts were still being dominated by veterans and non-Jamaican musicians, which speaks volumes to the dismal state of reggae music in Jamaica today.