Reggae Month goes virtual for 2021
From the spectacular launch event hosted at the Talk of the Town, Jamaica Pegasus, in December 2019, it was apparent that the stage was set for Reggae Month 2020 to be memorable. It was packaged as 29 days of live roots rocking reggae day and night activities in Jamaica, which were spread across the globe under the theme ‘Come Ketch di Riddim’. An overwhelming number of persons did indeed ‘ketch di riddim’, and anticipation was high for Reggae Month 2021.
Little did the organisers, know, however, that Reggae Month last February would have been one of the handful of events to be properly executed in a live format for 2020. By mid-March, the coronavirus made its way to Jamaica, and the entertainment industry has since been in limbo.
As the month of February stands waiting in the shadows, the word from the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) is that Reggae Month 2021 is definitely on. But like many events in the pandemic era, it will be virtual.“We will be going virtual this year and will be announcing the launch date and the theme very soon,” Andrew Clunis from the culture ministry told The Gleaner.
JaRIA president Ewan Simpson explained that his organisation has been planning the 2021 event since last year. “We have embraced the virtual space ever since the onset of the pandemic and have engaged the industry in two virtual town-hall/ROU sessions. We were never in any doubt that we would host Reggae Month 2021. The only question was how,” he stated.
Simpson is determined to stage a virtual that is comparable to the live event, but he is only too aware of the associated costs. “Virtual, if it is to be done properly, will require more production elements and, therefore, could be more costly. We are, however, working to ensure that the partnerships already established assist in keeping the costs within previous limits,” he said.
In previous years, there were reggae concerts in Kingston and Montego Bay, signature events such as Reggae Wednesdays, Dennis Brown Floral Tribute, Bob Marley 75th Birthday celebrations, Reggae Gospel, and the Children of the Icons and Emerging Artistes concerts. Jamaica Music Museum’s Grounation Series, held at the Institute of Jamaica; the Jamaica Jamaica! exhibition, hosted by the National Gallery of Jamaica; and the Prime Minister’s Reggae Month Reception on the lawns of Jamaica House were among the highlights of Reggae Month 2020.
Some events are under the purview of the ministry while JaRIA has control over the staging of others.
“We will be presenting our signature events, including Reggae Wednesday’s, Reggae Open University, and our JaRIA Honour Awards this year, all virtually. We hope to use this opportunity to reach even more persons than last year with the efficient engagement of virtual platforms and global partnerships,” Simpson elaborated.
Last year, the Vice Mayor of Miramar, Florida, Alexandra P. Davis, a Jamaican, kept good on her promise that the city would host events and activities highlighting and celebrating the impact Jamaica has made on the world through entertainment during a month-long salute.
Reggae Month was officially declared by the Government in February in 2008. This was done to highlight and celebrate the impact of the musical genre on the country’s social, cultural, and economic development. Additionally, the birthdays of two of Jamaica’s and reggae music’s late icons are commemorated during the month of February. Dennis Brown, also known as the ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’, is celebrated on February 1 while Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley, the renowned ‘King of Reggae’, is celebrated on February 6.
In 2018, Reggae was recognised by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage deemed worthy of protection and promotion.