Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
At its official launch, held at Countryside, Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, a theme and a raft of sponsors - including a striking new one in telecommunications company Digicel - were announced for Rebel Salute 2014.
That theme is 'The Preservation of Reggae' and Tony Rebel of Flames Productions, around whose birthday the festival is organised, announced an appropriate line-up for the Friday, January 17, and Saturday, January 18, staging of the event at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, Priory, St Ann.
The first name was that of original Wailer, Bunny Wailer, followed by offspring of deceased members of the famed troika in Andrew Tosh and Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley. Bob Andy; the Tamlins (who performed Baltimore at the launch); Rodney Pryce (the name almost as well known as his stake moniker Bounty Killer); Capleton (who joined I-Wayne briefly in performance on Thursday night); Jah Cure; Johnny Osbourne; Jesse Royal; Anthony Cruz; Johnny Osbourne; the Penthouse Crew; Max Romeo (another of the launch performers); Kabaka Pyramid; Luciano; Spanner Banner; Big Youth; Bushman; Dubtonic; Edi Fitzroy; I-Wayne; Jah Bouks; Leroy Sibbles; Little Hero; Ginjah (who Rebel introduced to the audience); and Pinchers.
Tony Rebel also makes the cut, with Flames' Queen Ifrica among a number of women performing on Rebel Salute 2014.
Among the women are Empress Sativa, Ikaya, and Empress Itilafeya (another of the launch performers). The Christian gospel is being included through Stitchie and Omari.
With the names and logos of the sponsors running on a large screen close to the stage, the level of corporate support for Rebel Salute 2014 was evident.
That the festival is big business was underscored by the launch's guest speaker, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) president Christopher Zacca, as well as remarks by St Ann Chamber of Commerce president, Oral Heaven, and the Jamaica Tourist Board's (JTB) Jason Hall.
"It is a great time to speak at an event like this. The entertainment industry plays such an important role in our development and potential for the future," Zacca said, reinforcing that "we are a powerhouse globally".
Describing Rebel Salute as "a pioneering roots festival", Zacca clarified that "Rebel Salute is not just a music festival. It is also, and perhaps even more importantly, a stimulus for the economy".
There are three parts to that economic impact: the generation of jobs, attracting tourists; and generation of taxes.
Noting that the JTB's assessment of the 2013 staging, also held in St Ann, showed that a third of the patrons were tourists, Zacca said that despite its problems, Jamaica had a good image abroad.
"That image does not come from big corporations, the PSOJ. It comes from the people on the ground, the people who serve in the tourist industry, our artistes," Zacca said.
"Our brand comes from the ground, and that is what we cannot forget in this country," Zacca said.
Noting the importance of standards, which have been consistently maintained by Rebel Salute, Zacca wished for more collaboration between the traditional private sector and the music industry.
If Heaven has his way, it seems that the main supporters of Rebel Salute, the Organic Heart group, will be an official part of the parish's highest level business set-up.
"We look forward to Organic Heart conducting more events in the parish and becoming a part of the chamber," the St Ann Chamber of Commerce president said.
This is in the context of Ocho Rios being heavily dependent on cruise shipping, Heaven saying that Rebel Salute, a "clean" event, is welcome as an additional source of income.
Managing director of Mystic Mountain, Michael Drakulich, gave personal testimony to Rebel Salute's economic impact.
"You filled up my park last year and you filled up the hotel," he said, referring to Mystic Mountain and Mystic Ridge Resort, respectively.
Asking "what took you so long?", Drakulich welcomed Digicel on board a "classy, classy show".
Part of that class is being safe, Assistant Commissioner of Police Elan Powell noting that there has been "not one incident" last year. With a decline in murders in St Ann, Powell said, "It is a safe parish to have a wonderful show."
Although not giving details, Digicel's sponsorship manager, Tahnida Nunes, hinted at strong support.
Outlining connections between the telecommunications company and the festival, Nunes said that Digicel's sponsorship model "is built on so many things that Rebel Salute represents".
So while Digicel focuses on music, culture, community, and sports, Rebel Salute already deals with three of those sponsorship pillars.
And Kevin O'Brien Chang, managing director of Fontana Pharmacy, author of Jamaica Fi Real and co-author of Reggae Routes with Wayne Chen, noted Tony Rebel's business acumen.
For "while there is a view that some create and others do business, Tony Rebel is showing that you can do both". So Chang described Rebel Salute as "a good business idea, helping to bring tourists and preserving Jamaican culture".
Hall summed up Rebel Salute as "this all-important event on the Jamaican calendar".
Preservation was on Tony Rebel's mind as he gave an overview of Rebel Salute 2014. For while Jamaican music is renown, Rebel said "it is under serious threat. When our music is under threat, we have to put on the armour".
While change is inevitable, Tony Rebel said, "People must remember you change to something, but you are changing from something." Noting that Tessanne Chin performed at Rebel Salute 2005, doing harmony for Jimmy Cliff, Rebel asked, "When are we going to stop waiting on others to recognise great Jamaicans?"
The part of the culture that Rebel Salute is fighting to preserve, Tony Rebel said, is that which saw Jamaica speaking out against apartheid in song. So he described Rebel Salute as "that indigenous product (which) can shape the minds of the people at the beginning of the year".
Addressing the business support, Tony Rebel said, "We 'apprecilove' when we get sponsorship from anywhere and everyone - and you know we don't take sponsorship from anywhere and everyone."
Inviting all to Rebel Salute 2014, Tony Rebel promised, "It a go sweet".