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In The Spotlight, December 2007

In The Spotlight, December 2007

In The Spotlight, December 2007

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United Reggae publishes Barbara Blake Hannah's second bimonthly editorial. Barbara is a Jamaican author, music journalist, film-maker and public speaker.

The season of Christmas in Jamaica means the opportunity to see the best Jamaica reggae artists of the year. The stars that come out at Jamaican Christmas are all on stage doing and giving their best, and there’s hardly a chance for a ‘farriner’ to touch a mike. Starting with Cindy Breakespeare and Rupert Bent’s “Welcome to Jamrock” for ‘uptown’, followed by Sharon Burke’s “Ice Cream” for the North Coast, the season has begun with a bang which this weekend will blaze some fiyah with the much-hyped “STING”. This year ‘STING” assembles a line-up that thankfully has more new than old faces. It’s going to be an interesting night out for lovers of all genres, especially dance hall, but from information on DiMario McDowell’s beautiful STING poster, this year will showcase young artists in “Starlight”, the “Beautiful ladies” divas, the “Pioneers” as well as “Dance Hall’s Finest” headlined by Jah Cure, Bounty and Beenie.

East Fest brings the Morgan Heritage family to the east again, promising a night of roots and culture that should bring out the crowds. December 30 promises the most interesting of all events – the Beres Hammond “A Moment In Time concert presented ‘in-the’round’ with seating around a central, circular stage. It’s going to be an extravaganza of a production, to be filmed for broadcast and DVD sales, and the ticket prices ensure that it will certainly be the red carpet event of the season.

The entire season of shows make a Jamaican Christmas unique, offering all forms of entertainment including theatre, dance and worship music. This is good. Despite the rapid slide towards a Christmas that seems livicated to the god of materialism, rather than the Holy Babe, our music industry is something Jamaica can be proud of and enjoy as our very special Christmas present. See you at the shows!

BIG UPs to all associated with the fund-raising drive to save the Ward Theatre. Ruby Martin must be praised for her steadfast single-mindedness that no matter the decay of Kingston’s capital, the preservation of the landmark building is essential to maintaining the theatrical history encapsulated therein, as well as the city’s prestige.

I remember the theatre at its glory, performing onstage in several Pantomimes, enjoying the world of theatre, working with such greats as Greta Fowler, Ranny Williams, Louise Bennett, Lois Kelly Barrow, Charlie Hyatt, Reggie Carter, Barbara Lewars, Neville Willoughby, the NDTC …. the list is endless of a place that was always in the spotlight.

I see Kingston’s Mayor McKenzie promising an upgrade of Parade with a re-designed park and new bus depot. I hope this happens quickly, as it is now an emergency situation to preserve what remains – not only of the Ward, but the entire historic square.

BigUps also to Fae Ellington for her energetic TV fundraising marathon that netted One Million for the Restoration Fund. May the contributions continue to flow.

Being among the team assisting the Minister responsible for entertainment, ‘Babsy’ Grange, gives me a good opportunity to hear what she’s thinking and doing on the subject. I was therefore interested to hear her speak on the Audiomaxxx piracy at the East Fest launch recently. For those who may not know, Audiomaxxx is a Canadian-based website that sells Jamaican music – especially dancehall – with permission of or payment of royalties to the owners and creators. That’s called piracy.

When asked about it by the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica (RIAJam) the owner of Audiomaxxx responded with an ‘n-word’ expletive that “Jamaicans are too dumb to manage themselves.” Appeals to the Canadian Recording Industry have received little response from locals including Vybz Kartel, who I understand has taken legal action. The fact that the Jamaican Government has entered the picture, gives a new level on which this important issue of electronic piracy can be tackled.

I also heard the Minister speak at the launch of ‘Campfire' on the issue of Payola, which she says is stifling the ambitions of new artists with good music who can’t enter the media without this under-the-table feature of the industry. I certainly don’t envy her task in trying to eradicate it, but she’s asked the Broadcasting Commission to contemplate ways to deal with the problem, when she met with them at a recent retreat.

Next February will be Reggae Month, spearheaded by the first staging of the Reggae Academy Awards, when RIAJam – in the capable hands of ‘Clevie’ Brownie and Lloyd Stanbury – will present a Jamaican version of the Grammys to members of the Jamaican music industry. Reggae Month will include special Bob Marley events, including the premiere of “Africa Unite” the film of the 60th anniversary concert in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that will enable us all to share the experience.

My project to organize a Reggae Film Festival has been accepted by the Minister as an event to be presented with the held of her Ministry as part of Reggae Month, and I am busy putting this in place – planning production, receiving film entries, confirming sponsors, VIP guests and all that stuff.

A moving experience for me recently was to be present as tribute was paid by libations and flowers at the Sam Sharpe Square Monument to the heroic fallen of the Sam Sharpe Uprising that ultimately led to the end of slavery. The tribute was part of the activities of a recent Bicentenary Conference held at Half Moon Hotel by JNHT Chair Verene Shepherd, who led the campaign for the Monument to be erected, complete with the names of all sentenced to death or punishment, except those who died in the pre-trial massacres. It was an important moment, blessed by a sprinkling of rain that seemed like tears being shed in memory of the lives sacrificed for our freedom.

Rising skywards as it does, the Monument is a giant spike into the grave of slavery, and the tribute ceremony a fitting commemoration for me of the end of the slave trade. In the glorious history of Africa, that began with the oldest bones of humanity found in Ethiopia (the million-year-old woman Dinkinesh), through the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Kings of Meroe, Timbuktu, Songhai, the Chiefs of the Zulus and the Mandingos, the centuries-old history of Ethiopia’s Priests, Emperors and Empresses, to Nkrumah, Mandela, Garvey and Marley, the 300 years of slavery are a mere blip on the time-line of the great African peoples. We have been great before slavery and have become even greater since its end. Today, compared to that time 200 years ago, the progress of the nation of Jamaica is a totally different world and people.

Many of us take for granted the freedom we enjoy today, or wallow in self-pity for the ancient past. We should ponder daily that it’s a new time and a new world, with all the freedom we need to create a shining, bright future.

Remember, Jamaica – we gave the world ONE LOVE.
Blessings to all.

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