Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
After three years of title sponsorship by Pepsi, plus previous stints with Tru-Juice and D&G Malta, it has been a while since the name Rebel Salute stood on its own in an advertisement for the annual mid-January festival.
However, for Rebel Salute's 20th anniversary staging in its new home - the Richmond Estate in St Ann - this weekend the name stands alone - almost.
Officially, it is presented by the Organic Heart Group of Companies and Tony Rebel, whose birthday the festival celebrates, defines it as "the next generation and I am the elder statesman".
Even with a raft of smaller sponsors listed on its website, much of the financial responsibility for Rebel Salute 2013 rests with the organisers and Tony Rebel points out that many times previously, even when there was title sponsorship, they footed much of the bill.
"A lot of the time when we have had title sponsors it is not like they have been the 100 per cent title sponsor. But we have gone with them because we think it is a good look," Rebel said.
So the organiser's cash has always been in Rebel Salute "from the beginning. And don't keep tabs on it or you will mad!" Rebel said. "The objective is more than money. The objective is the preservation of reggae."
While that is presented as the long-term objective, 'The Preservation of Reggae' is also the official tagline of the two-day 20th anniversary Rebel Salute. It has a new home, the Richmond Estate in St Ann from Port Kaiser Sports Club in St Elizabeth. It has a new format of two days, Friday, January 18, and Saturday, January 19, instead of the accustomed Saturday night. But now it is not only nights - there is also a free-day event on Saturday, starting at noon and involving poetry and many other art forms.
The Friday line-up includes Beres Hammond (added officially late last week), Luciano, Aswad, Tarrus Riley, Etana, Marcia Griffiths, Shinehead, No-Maddz, Rootz Underground and Protoje. On Saturday Sizzla, Queen Ifrica, Busy Signal, The Jolly Boys, I-Octane, Richie Spice and I-Wayne are among those on the bill.
For the Saturday day event, actor and sometimes singer Malik Yoba is among those involved in a celebrity cook-off, for which Grace Kitchens will provide the ingredients.
Also new for Rebel Salute is a formal foundation, Maxsalia Salmon, who is part of the organising committee, said that "we want Marcus Garvey Technical High School to be our first project". This is after a mid-December meeting. She said that representatives of the school will also be a part of Saturday's daytime programme, presenting dance.
Salmon said one of the needs of the school is scholarships for students at the institution.
Plus, Salmon said, "we hope the foundation can support community-based music programmes".
Jahyudah, Tony Rebel's daughter, emphasises that the foundation is a long-term effort, while Rebel makes it clear that community contributions by the festival are not new.
"We have always done the work of a foundation, from Rebel Salute and Flames Productions. We never had it officially set up and that is what we are doing now," he said, Ryan Bailey pointing out that the donation of a combination photocopier/printer/scanner to an Alligator Pond school ended up benefitting the community at large.
If there is a perception that Rebel Salute did not contribute to the area of St Elizabeth it called home for about a decade, Rebel said "people who don't know will say things. I am of the old school. I believe in giving in secrecy and getting your reward openly. It don't have to be on radio, it don't have to be on TV. I give it because I see the need. The new generation is of a different opinion. They say we must set it up and expose it".
Salmon takes care of social media for Rebel Salute and says that among the people she is connecting with are some who do not speak English ("They speak reggae," Rebel says) and plan to be at Richmond Estate this weekend. Salmon said one person plans to do research on the headliners, so he can better relate to their stage performances.
While there are people coming from Brazil, Canada and many other countries, Salmon pointed out that via social media "we have more Jamaicans this year than last year. But most of the queries are coming from abroad".
Ultimate fan competition
Part of the cyberspace promotion is a Rebel Salute ultimate-fan competition, where entrants are required to post a response to a video that has been put up. They will say how they are going to contribute to the preservation of reggae. The prizes include a road trip to Rebel Salute and two premium tickets.
With the performers facing the sea and the audience looking towards the mountains, a lip of the stage will go into the VIP area and another into the general area. In addition there are premium lounges. On-site space for parking can accommodate 3,000 vehicles.
Kenya Barrett outlines a wide range of booth holders, including Asian cuisine, a large-scale fruit vendor and fashion jewellery, and notes "vendors from St Elizabeth are coming", Blackie from Little Ochie among them".
With a camping option offered on-site, complete with 24-hour security, Salmon noted that people are "not as responsive. It is expected, as it is new. We suspect that if we pull it off successfully it will grow".
And, as Rebel Salute grows organically into its new home, Tony Rebel is not ruling out the name not standing alone all the time.
"A sponsor would be fine. You would want one that fits well, but that is hard to find," he said.