Rebel Salute roots reggae festival that takes place each January on the island. What began as a birthday celebration for legendary reggae vocalist Tony Rebel, near to January 15 of each year, has evolved into one of the prime festivals in Jamaica, now preparing to present the 26th year on January 18 and 19, 2019 at the Grizzly's Plantation Cove in Priory, St. Ann.
Far from the Pegasus ballroom, we participated in the media launch via live-stream (available via Facebook, Instagram, and online at RebelSaluteJamaica.com) here in Toronto, Canada, to take in the greetings and introductions from the various sponsors and participants who have helped to support and maintain this festival over the years. The 2019 iteration of Rebel Salute promises to be the best yet, with an outstanding lineup, and a range of products, services, and features for the reggae patrons.
"Every January, thousands of reggae music lovers make the pilgrimage to Rebel Salute for a world-class event that delivers a spectacular experience of authentic roots reggae, wholesome culture, and healthy living," according to the event website. This "family-friendly festival promotes the positive aspects of reggae music, and by extension the best of Jamaican culture."
Proclaimed to be "the greatest show on earth," the launch detailed the ticketing and highlights of Rebel Salute. Taking place over two days, tickets to the festival are currently on sale at a number of ticket outlets on the island ranging from Total gas stations to Fontana branches, as well as through online outlets FirstInLineJa.com (formerly YardTicket), and TicketPal.com.
The prices are as follows (listed in Jamaican Dollars):
General Pre-Sale: $5,500
General Gate Admission: $6,000
VIP Pre-Sale: $10,000
VIP Gate Admission: $11,000
Features also include the option to camp out at the venue under the stars, and Jamaican cuisine that adheres to a strict vegetarian menu (no meat at The Cove), a drug-free environment, violence-free surroundings, and no alcohol permitted. In addition to the ital eating, there will also be "an abundance of culture of the Jamaican people." The art and craft village, and the "Herb Curb" exposure is a unique feature of this family-friendly gathering of "healthy livity".
Rebel Salute will be a world-class event, profiling the wholesome culture, healthy living, and a spiritual renaissance. Like other high-profile festivals in Jamaica there has been a range of legends on the stage from Jimmy Cliff in 2005, Movado in 2011, plus Steve and Damian Marley in 2012 to name a few noted by the MC. A memorable performance from Koffee was noted, as she has had a steady career incline since.
The host Johnny "Live" Daley thanked many of the sponsors, accommodation partners, as well as introduced musical performances from the likes of Bushman, Turbulence, and Capleton. Turbulence, recently returning from a 4-year stay in Kenya, in a post-performance interview at the launch, says that "people can expect the unexpected" from his performance at Rebel Salute, as he continues to promote his new album entitled The Remedy.
On behalf of the Strictly Roots brand, Michael Dawson spoke of his support of Rebel Salute, as well as promoting his brand that strives to take the waters from Blue Mountain and use them as a symbol of a natural lifestyle, and bringing information to patrons about their roots.
Rebel Salute, he said that at EPICAN "we think it's our sacred duty to support reggae music."
Mark Pike, from Enterprise Jamaica said that in the two years that Enterprise has been present in Jamaica, they have supported the Rebel Salute for both years. "There's a rebel in all of us," he said, noting the importance of Jamaicans at home and abroad connecting, and the role that Enterprise plays in that process. In celebration of Rebel Salute, along with Reggae Month in February, the world's largest rental brand will be offering discounts to attendees.
Representatives from law enforcement ensured optimum safety and protection during the event, and also sent a reminder that participants and vendors should adhere to all guidelines, outlined in the best interest of all present.
"Tony Rebel succeeded in capturing the best in artistry and consciousness in an unabashed presentation of our Jamaica and African heritage," the Minister said. "Presenting the dignity our African ancestry has represented in Rastafari culture, with Africa at the centre of our cultural and creative consciousness."
Cordell Green, the Executive Director of the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission, introduced the evening's guest speaker just before 10:00 p.m. Queen's Counsel Paula Llewellyn, Jamaica's DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions). Speaking about her position as the first female DPP on the island, as well as referring to recent visits to the island from DJ Khaled and Drake. Her most important message: for the artists to be aware of their influence.
"I am all for artistic expression, but remember that no one is above the law...no one is below it, either," she said, reminding the artists and those in attendance that music is an important tool for messaging. A steady voice for justice, as Jamaica's only female director of prosecutions, she stressed that folks must always "know the rules of the game" and honour their talents.
"We own the authenticity of reggae: nobody can take that away from us," she said. "But I would like The Preservation of Reggae to also include an acknowledgement, that with this awesome gift, and with the awesome power, you must have a recognition that responsibility must be intermingled there. That responsibility means that you have to be careful--not careless--as a practitioner and an exemplar of what being a reggae ambassador is all about."
The DPP commended Rebel Salute for exemplifying positivity, and stressed that: "There is nothing wrong about Jamaica that what is right about Jamaica can not fix. Rebel Salute is one of the iconic things that is right about Jamaica."
Just after 10:30 p.m., the Fire Man himself Capleton was there to perform, electrifying the crowd with call-and-response, afterward telling reporters that he is "inspired through creation" and "has a passion for the music," putting his all into it to make sure it's great.
In conclusion, Tony Rebel said that Jamaicans must stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, and to share with each other. "Jamaica is still wonderful. Jamaica is still beautiful. Jamaican people are still some of the greatest people, and most talented people I know. Every country has their challenges, yes...but come! People here still will accommodate you, people here still will love you, and people will keep you safe too."
"It's a spiritual mandate to preserve the healthier aspects of our culture," said Rebel. "Let's listen to music that can motivate you, and music that can inspire. That is why everybody makes the trek in January, because they see it as a spiritual renaissance. The camaraderie of Rebel Salute, you don't see it no where else."
PERFORMING ARTISTS ANNOUNCED
"I've been doing this for 25 years: trust us. We are going to make sure that you get the best that you can get," said Tony Rebel before releasing the names of some of the festival's performers.
He also said they are giving Buju Banton space, that he is always invited, and all things are possible. Additional artists to be announced in the upcoming days via Instagram, Facebook, and the Rebel Salute website. Said Rebel: "When I say that I am going to give you more names: don't doubt me!"
The four-and-a-half-hour media launch concluded with a performance from Tony Rebel and some of his special guests, with vibes high and so much to anticipate with just a few weeks remaining until the big event. It was a pleasure to watch from Toronto, and connect with the passion of the culture that makes the island of Jamaica so influential.
Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales."
Thursday, December 27, 2018
Friday, December 14, 2018
Michelle Obama has become a face--and spirit--of strength, comfort, and progress for many of us watching her career, her movements, and her family over the past decade or more. She represents the grace that is fitting for a First Lady, as well as a relatability required in a trusted friend or mentor. Throughout her years in the White House, and even now her years beyond the intense political spotlight that the highest office in America holds, she is still someone worth emulating and praising.
It was great to now go back in time and learn the fine details of the life of Michelle Robinson Obama, to see her family upbringing, the nuances of her childhood, and how she always worked hard, believed in education, and had a spirit of steel as she navigated her way from the south side of Chicago, to a corporate legal position. I never knew the in's and out's of her life until now, and I truly feel that I am better of now that I am up to speed. Her parents and her brother Craig are a tight group of solid folks, and a great example for all.
When they go low, we go high! That's her catch phrase, and as many times as I've heard Michelle and even Hillary Clinton repeat it in unison with crowds, to see her LIVE it is a true marker of her seriousness. Michelle Obama is a thinking lady, and every action is a result of planning, calculation, and with the intention of influencing the greater good.
Even this current political climate. Yikes.
I appreciate how supportive she was of her husband, and how she often even put her own priorities on temporary pause to ensure that the equilibrium of her family and the greater goal were maintained. She wasn't bitter or miserable. She didn't complain or make a fuss. She expressed her concerns appropriately, and with power. Overall, she was a ride-or-die companion to Barack on his journey, and she realized the importance of the moment in history they were creating day-by-day. Michelle didn't pout and leave Barack to figure it out on his own: she lifted him up, and she formed her own team to ensure that her own voice and aspirations were not lost. Her was also her ride-or-die.
The book "Becoming" is a long read, at just over 400 pages, but a beautiful and captivating story of love, of romance (I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the courtship of Michelle and Barack), as well as a story of creating a strong family and maintaining balance by also giving back, and contributing to society with intention and good will.
book/tour website: https://becomingmichelleobama.com. She'll touch down in Toronto next May 4, and I'm sure the words of her book and the example of her spirit have already motivated 19,000 lucky supporters to secure their tickets to attend. Here's the link to order tickets to "Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama." (Word of the wise: log in at 10 a.m. on the dot, or kiss those tickets goodbye!)
Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
I can remember the Caribbean compositions of ska, lover's rock, and roots reggae as a late 70's baby; it was a natural soundtrack to outings and special events. The rhythms were soothing, and the lyrics even at times humourour to our young ears. For example, when Lovindeer released his tribute of disdain to Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, my siblings and I laughed at the patois-laden lyrics, singing along to the instant hit about the storm that ravished our island, devastating many.
Reggae music is special--albeit not always appreciated--to anyone of Jamaican ancestry. It is our music, exclusively. Now thanks to the recent UNESCO declaration, it is also a global treasure that the United Nations has committed to protecting and preserving for the social impact it has had on its listeners around the world. Reggae music is, at its core, a music for the people and by the people. A music of movement, rebellion, love, and progress.
It wasn't until 1992 that I took a deeply personal interest in reggae music, falling in love with not only the messaging but also the artistry, the performers, the instrumentation, and the culture. The artist that first caught my attention unlike any other reggae artist to date was Mark Myrie, aka Buju Banton.
Entering high school in 1992, I had already lived a brief-but-full life of piano lessons, choir practice, playing the clarinet in the school band, and obsessing over and studying music daily. It was a lifestyle for me even before reggae music became an addiction: music was a part of me. Up until then, I didn't own any reggae music of my own. My father had records, and I had to resort to borrowing the mix cassettes of my older sister. I didn't know the names of the new artists, but I knew the vibe very well. I would duplicate the mixes for myself and use them to DJ our elementary school birthday parties and dances. I was intrigued by the essence, but had yet to study the players.
Mr. Mention was the first reggae album I ever purchased, back at the Pickering Flea Market, and to this day remains one of the best reggae albums of all times, as far as I'm concerned. With tracks like "Love How the Gal Dem Flex," "Have to Get You Tonight," and "Who Say" instantly catching my attention, I would play the A side, and the B side, and back to the A side on indefinite repeat. It was "Bonafide Love" featuring Wayne Wonder that captivated me most of all. I had fallen in love with the voice of Buju Banton, with the fun and charismatic tone of his lyrics, and the rhythms have never left me to this day.
I had every track on the Mr. Mention album memorized, and as a writer, the young Jamaican swag and the loveable charm of Buju Banton also helped to inform my taste in events, individuals, and behaviour. After Mr. Mention came a series of singles from the Stamina Daddy album, released in Jamaica in 1992 containing songs like the title track "Stamina Daddy" and other favourites like "Gold Spoon." It was also around this time that I discovered the Toronto-based Friday Night Reggae Mania radio show with host Ron Nelson, and I would anticipate the weekly mixes including Buju Banton, which also led me to other artists of the era. Reggae music had captivated me, and the entire culture began to expand around me.
Voice of Jamaica was released that year, I was full-speed-ahead into songs like "Red Rose," and "Deportees," as well as the more conscious tracks like "Tribal War" and fun loving hits like "Make My Day."
If I had a mood, there was a Buju Banton song that would fit it. If I had a vibe, there was a track to match my energy. Now in my second year of high school, I also became an avid story writer, knocking out a few books a year was my regular speed, and I was inspired by the sounds of reggae music in particular. While the adolescent novelist was consumed with friendships, and childish thoughts, through the imaginative dialect of reggae music, I was able to begin to explore more mature concepts, and now also give my characters a distinct Jamaican edge that I wasn't particularly exposed to from my conservative-Christian family.
To no surprise, my characters were always Jamaican-centric. My male characters had a distinctly dancehall-inspired swag, and this was the culture and the environment of which many, many stories were birthed. It was a culture I longed to explore, and the older I got, and the more knowledgeable I became about the music, the more I learned, and the more I wrote. The more I experienced, and the more I enjoyed through this music.
Til Shiloh album was released, my dedication to reggae music was solidified. A close friend of mine with a never-ending list of connections in the music industry, invited me downtown with her one Saturday afternoon when Buju Banton was in town for a concert. Still only 17, this was my introduction to the cross-city travelling and entertainment that would consume my late teens and twenties. But at this particular moment, it was a true experience. We ended up at the Much Music studio on Queen Street, and had what would turn out to be one of the most memorable afternoons of my life. To this day.
He laughed at us, because we were young and timid, but he also said hello, obliged us with photographs, autographs, and a his drummer even handed me a signed copy of his 12" single "Sensimilia" for me to take home, along with "Til Shiloh" tour stickers. With our Buju Banton swag in hand, we also made acquaintance with Wayne Wonder, and stuck around Much Music to watch Buju's performance of his album. In an unfortunate turn of events for me, I was not allowed to accompany my friend (already 19 years old) to the concert that evening, but I was content to go home with my personalized memorabilia, which only further cemented my appreciation for the artist.
Favourites on the Shiloh album: most definitely "Champion" and "Murderer," as well as "Not an Easy Road" and "Wanna Be Loved." It's safe to say that next to Mr. Mention, this album definitely holds a special place in my reggae heart: it is permanently made significant in my memories.
Inna Heights was released in 1997, I was finishing high school and entering my first year of post-secondary in Windsor. Buju transition from groovy and upbeat dancehall tracks, into more conscious, spiritual, and message-driven lyrics that were a definite mirror to my own personal consciousness and internal growth as a Black woman, and as an independent thinker. Songs like "Hills and Valleys" and "Destiny" were chart-topping hits, as well as personal favourites, for the inspirational words as well as the soothing riddims.
Buju was evolving, and as a fan, I was evolving as well. He was one of few artists that I had consistently listened to over the years, and I appreciated the direction he was heading in as I was transitioning into a new reality of living on my own in another part of the province, as well as stepping into higher education and self-reflection. Tracks like "Circumstances" and "Give I Strength" were like fuel, while songs like "Love Sponge" and "My Woman Now" still provided the light-heartedness and loveable personality that was expected from Buju.
The next few albums from Buju Banton, while still powerful, seemed to be released in succession over the years without my knowledge of the entire body of work as a whole, but instead by a few memorable tracks. The Unchained Spirit album in 2000, and 2003's Friends for Life definitely made it to my Napster download list, but I was not as quick to purchase the albums as I had been in previous years.
Dancehall was changing, and while I went along with it for the most part, I also found that it no longer moved me the way it used to in the 90s. I transitioned into culture music, into other genres, and I didn't have the same daily pull to Buju Banton as I once did. I was getting familiar with other artists. I was starting to travel. I was distracted by life, and without deliberately seeking his music out, I found that I didn't encounter it as much.
Too Bad was released, which had a few big tracks like "Driver" and "Too Bad" that brought Buju Banton back up to a party vibe, in the forefront of reggae, and into my visibility again. It was around this time that I caught him live at a Redemption event in Toronto (in July of 2007), and had the pleasure of hearing the new songs live, as well as some of the oldies-but-goodies. Old enough to now attend his shows, and now living full time in Toronto again, this particular concert was definitely not going to pass me by.
At the Kool Haus venue on Queen Quay, Buju and his live band put on a great show, and I was happy to have had the opportunity to be in his presence again. He was different, however. Again, I felt it to be a bit of a transition period for Buju...or perhaps just for myself. There was a slight disconnect, but because he was Buju, and because he remained my favourite reggae artist, I enjoyed the show to the fullest, and to this day am happy that I was able to attend.
Rasta Got Soul was released, again, I didn't consume the album as a whole, but instead as individual tracks, where they made an impact. Overall, however, I was distracted from the genre of reggae music because I didn't appreciate the direction dancehall music was headed in, and I missed the light and danceable riddims from the 90s...drawing my spirit, and my social circumstances to the world of soca music. In time, the dancehalls were replaced with fetes, and my appreciation for Buju remained in the 90s and early 2000s where I believe he had the greatest musical impact on me.
Of course, there wasn't a time you would head out to a club event or festival without hearing a few Buju Banton songs. To this day. A party isn't a party without at least one or two Buju songs. It's an expectation to say the least. He is a legend, and always a part of my musical experience one way or another. To hear about his legal troubles was something we as fans weren't prepared for, because as much as he was a star and public figure...he was also the voice and face of righteousness. We had seen and heard him transition over the years and embrace his maturity through music. With the realization that we could no longer receive new music from him, I think many of us as fans were in a state of shock.
Before the Dawn were like, but right now I have committed myself to listening to the words he published just before his voice would be taken away. Now, with his release in just a few short days, I feel the timing couldn't be better. Reggae music has remained a constant part of my life, however, it has definitely transitioned and impacted me in different ways over the years. While roots reggae and lover's rock, culture songs/artists and singers will always be impactful, it was the genre of dancehall that had me questioning the future of reggae music at times.
Like many, I wonder what type of musical sound the newly released and Buju will share. I am curious to hear how his voice sounds, and the thoughts he has been compiling over the past years as his life has been filled with conflict and character judgements. As many of the artists of his time have faded away, and many new artists have emerged larger than life and extremely influential in reggae music and culture, I would like to see how the balance of power is distributed with the legendary Buju Banton back in the studio and ready to perform again and share messages with his listenership, eagerly awaiting his perspectives.
Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.
Hearing this song always brings me back to my introduction of Buju, and the joy his music brought to my young soul: