Celebrating the Crown Prince of Reggae - Virtual Sunsplash pays tribute to Dennis Brown
A tribute to the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown, took centre stage on Night 1 of Reggae Sunsplash.
It was a fitting opening for the concert which was first held by promoters Synergy at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay, St James, June 23-30, 1978, and has become a blueprint for reggae festivals worldwide.
"This year we pause to recognise and celebrate the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, CD. A staple on the Reggae Sunsplash stage, Dennis Brown's music advocated for a new way of love and unity," said Tyrone Wilson, executive producer of Reggae Sunsplash, in the video tribute.
Wilson highlighted Brown's long history with the festival, beginning with its very first staging.
"He was unquestionably a favourite for the Reggae Sunsplash fans, having performed in the '70s – 1978 – the first Reggae Sunsplash music festival [and] performed in the '80s and the '90s," he said.
"Dennis Brown helped to shape Reggae Sunsplash, becoming one of the first performers of the festival in June 1978, joining headliners Jimmy Cliff, Third World, Inner Circle, Toots and the Maytals," said producer Debbie Bisson in a narration.
The video tribute featured a clip of Brown performing Revolution on the Sunsplash stage.
"I'd like to ask you all a question here this morning," said Brown in the clip.
"For those of you who think it's time they got rid of apartheid, let me hear you say 'yeah'. And for those of you who is now happy that Nelson Mandela is now free and is hoping that one day all our people will be free from the regime of apartheid, let me hear you say 'yeah'," said Brown to an enthusiastic audience.
Yvonne Brown, Brown's widow, appeared in the live-stream, along with children Dennis, Daniel and Dinah.
"It was a highlight of Dennis' career to perform at Reggae Sunsplash, and if he was here today he would send his blessings," she said, as she thanked the organisers for honouring and remembering her late husband.
Dennis Brown Jr said it was regrettable that the family was unable to enjoy the tribute in person.
"Unfortunately, we are not able to be together at this show to celebrate the legacy of my father, but this too shall pass, and there will come again another time when we can all be together," said Brown Jr.
Night 1 featured performances by four artistes – Tanya Stephens, Richie Spice, Ras-I, and Capleton – who also paid tribute to Brown.
Capleton, who closed the show with a fiery set, spoke of his opportunity to tour with Brown, while Tanya Stephens and Richie Spice said they grew up on a steady diet of Dennis Brown music.
"We grew up on Reggae Sunsplash. That was the original when our great artiste dem from the Dennis Brown coming right up," said Richie Spice, following his performance, noting that though he was too young to go to stage shows at the time, he would watch and listen on cassettes.
Stephens said she used to listen to Brown's Silhouettes on repeat.
"It is a really big honour for me to be on this stage that's honouring Dennis. So I can be a part of this. I'm a part of history, and that makes me happy," she said.
A reggae icon, Brown died on July 1, 1999 in Kingston. He was only 42 years old, having been born on February 1, 1957.