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Tribute to the Greats on Emancipation Day

Awards show celebrates British-Jamaican connection

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2015 | 3:51 AMRoy Black
Dennis Alcapone
Winston 'Merritone' Blake
Chris Blackwell
Pam Hall

The annual Tribute to the Greats awards show and dance will have its 18th staging on Saturday, August 1, at the Chinese Benevolent Association (CBA), 176 Old Hope Road, St Andrew, beginning at 8 p,m. With the focus this year being on the British-Jamaican connection, the original awards ceremony for veterans of Jamaican popular music will see a galaxy of stars participating, either as awardees or as performers.

Conceptualised by musicologist and philanthropist Kingsley 'King Omar' Goodison, Tribute to the Greats seeks to recognise and assist artistes of old who have contributed to the development of Jamaican popular music yet remain relatively unknown and, in some cases, destitute.

In an interview I did with Goodison for radio in 2009, he said: "Being among most of the unsung heroes in Jamaican music, I saw the distress on most of them. Recognition was nowhere around, even though they had several number-one hits. Nobody remembers them. So I, along with my brother Keith, decided to do something for them and I have seen where it has worked tremendously, lifting up a number of them."

Getting things started in 1998 at Curphey Place, Swallowfield, St Andrew, wasn't easy. According to Goodison, "The first year, we didn't know anything about sponsors. It was just a straight thing of me finding the guys, getting the musicians and paying them." However, by the 10th staging in 2007, Goodison was well on the way to realising his dream with some seven sponsors on board.

Curphey Place, which was the show's home for 16 consecutive years, gave way in 2014 to the CBA, where it will again be held this year.

The main honourees are drawn from 'The British Connection', in recognition of the influence that Jamaica's music has had on the British music industry, while saluting those whose contribution made Jamaican music a universal force. The theme follows similar awards in previous years to The Caribbean Connection, The Cuban Connection, The Australian Connection, The Chinese Connection and The American Connection, at which then American Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater received the award on behalf of the Americans.

The 2015 awardees will include sound-system men Vincent 'Duke Vin' Forbes and Wilbert 'Count Sukie' Campbell, who pioneered the sound-system business in the UK. Also being honoured are impresarios/producers Chris Blackwell, Lee Gophal and Sonny Roberts, who played critical roles with Island, Trojan and Planetone Records, respectively.

The other awardees are just as esteemed. They include singer/producer Dandy Livingstone, Winston Francis. B.B. Seaton, Jackie Edwards, Pam Hall, Barrington Biggs, DJ Dennis Alcapone and the Golding family of Swing Magazine fame.

Sponsored by Cuddy'z Sports Bar and Restaurant, Lewin's Hardware, Caribbean International News, Kool 97 FM and Nubian1 Construction Company, the show features live performances by vocalists Winston Francis, Bagga Case and Pam Hall, backed by Mikey Chung and The Rhythm Masters, along with recorded tracks by Merritone Music.

Former prime ministers P.J. Patterson and Edward Seaga were among the Tribute to the Greats awardees in 2005, bestowed with Lifetime Achievement awards.