January 10, 2008 – Kingston, Jamaica
February Officially Proclaimed REGGAE MONTH in Jamaica
Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced recently, during a press briefing at Office of the Prime Minister, that February will officially be Reggae Month in the country of Jamaica. Furthermore, he instructed Governor-General Professor Kenneth Hall to issue the proclamation declaring the long-awaited honor.
In an article in the Jamaica Gleaner, the prime minister is quoted saying that he lauded the briefing as one of the most pleasant tasks he has had to perform since taking office. He says Reggae has been a medium of economic advancement and Reggae Month can be used to draw world attention to our music. Golding added that Jamaica Trade and Invest will be promoting Brand Jamaica, and that Reggae music is central to this campaign.
The Gleaner article went on to quote Prime Minister Golding as saying “Reggae is so powerful; people across the world embrace it. It is the medium we have used to declare our position against oppression and suffering. It is a consistent declaration of love,” he continued to the delight of industry players in attendance, including Rita Marley, Dean Fraser, Lloyd Stanbury, Isaiah Laing, Clifton Dillon and Barbara Blake-Hanna.
As part of the celebrations, a Global Reggae Conference will be hosted at the University of the West Indies under the guidance of the Reggae Studies Unit head, Professor Carolyn Cooper. There will also be the annual Bob Marley lecture on his birthday, February 6. Cooper was quoted as saying that “through this effort the unit hopes to be able to start a fund so that students at the university can bridge the gap between academics and our music.”
Minister of Information, Culture, Youth, and Sports Olivia “Babsy” Grange has also made mention of a special event to be co-hosted by Chris Blackwell and Rita Marley at Strawberry Hill on February 6, the ‘earth’ day the Reggae legend Bob Marley. Grange also said that the Africa Unite film and concert will be presented by the Bob and Rita Marley Foundation on the eve of the Reggae Academy Awards at James Bond Beach in Oracabessa. In addition, Rita Marley will put on ‘Africa Unite-Smile Jamaica Youth Symposium’.
Other activities for the month include a Bob Marley Creative Expressions Day, a One Love football match, African Film Festival, and the 1st annual Reggae Academy Awards, which will be hosted by the Recording Industry Association of Jamaica (RIAJam), and held inside Kingston’s National Sports Arena. Chairman of the Reggae Academy, Lloyd Stanbury, says the awards will be determined by musical excellence and not record sales. (Ed. note: see separate article on Reggae Academy Awards)
Jamaica’s Reggae Film Festival will be held February 20-22 in Kingston, and will present films that feature Reggae as the subject, storyline, or content. Grange added that “this will focus on film as an aspect of Jamaica’s music culture.” Journalist/cultural activist Barbara Blake Hannah, who was responsible for co-coordinating Jamaica’s first film festival in the 1970s, will coordinate the festival, along with Peter Gittins of the UK’s Reggae Films. According to Minister Grange, the film festival is intended to be the foundation of Jamaica’s film academy, which will archive films for research, screening, and education.
Golding says he believes Reggae Month will be a formative month because it will help to make February 2009 a grand experience when the country will celebrate the 50th year since the birth of Reggae and the Reggae movement.
He says the music can be a means of advancement but it can also be a destructive force if not used properly. Nonetheless, he added, there should be no ambiguity about the roots of Jamaica’s beloved Reggae music.
Rita Marley, who stated that she believes that those who started Reggae and toiled for it to be accepted have partially achieved their mission, praised the Prime Minister’s effort.
“It is a privilege and an honor for the Government to recognize February as Reggae Month,” Rita said. “If Bob was here he would say, ‘One Love!’”