Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Rebel Salute Media Launch Highlights Features of Roots Reggae Festival in January 2020

What better way to start off a new year than with the beautiful and spacious outdoor landscape of Grizzly's Plantation Cove in St. Ann's Jamaica, taking in an assortment of the finest reggae artists from past, present, and future, and committing January 17 and 18, 2020 to the celebration of music and the preservation of culture that is the annual Rebel Salute roots reggae festival? Last night at the AC Marriott hotel in Kingston--and simultaneous streamed online to hundreds of media personnel and supporters around the globe--Tony Rebel's festival launched its 27th edition with fervour and confidence.

All of the favourite elements of the traditional Rebel Salute festivities were presented, as expected: the Herb Curb will return, for example, for the education and enjoyment of sacramental marijuana use and awareness. Representatives from the Jamaican Constabulary Force (JCF), Courts furniture, Enterprise car rentals, and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport were in attendance to share well wishes, outline festival protocol, and share words of inspiration to attendees and virtual supporters watching online.

Musical performances for the media launch were carefully selected to pay homage to reggae's greats, to provide a platform to reggae's talented newcomers, and to give listeners a preview of the vibe and energy that is just a month away when the 2-day festival of everything roots reggae returns.

I had the pleasure of attending Rebel Salute earlier this year, and my physical presence in Jamaica and within arm's reach of the most powerful forces in reggae music made an extreme impact on my year's lens and my musical appetite. As a Jamaican descendant, it spoke to my soul and history on spiritual levels that are almost indescribable.

Now that another year has passed by and it's time for the festival again, I instantly felt that familiar sense of pride and anticipation knowing that this amazing event was just weeks away, and that reggae lovers and music lovers around the world would soon be in the midst of  that positive energy and beautiful composition of sounds.

The live media launch experience online is appreciated, because supporters like me all the way up in Toronto still get to feel a part of the production process. We get to hear the news, the guest speakers, and the lineup unveiled in real time. We get to witness the excitement on the faces of Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica, and invest in the festival as if it was our own.

Most importantly, it is the excellence with which the speakers present their passions and purpose in uplifting and communicating the special elements of Brand Jamaica that always motivates me.

Tony Rebel was a fitting, comfortable, and authentic host for the evening, controlling the night's pace and visibly excited at the sounds of the Riddim 2000 band and the accompanying vocalists for the night. His love for reggae music is evident and it makes the festival feel like a true presentation of passion. He is the perfect host, and the perfect ambassador for this movement, now entering its 27th year under his expert leadership. He proudly stated: "We participate in the preservation of this music."

It was awesome to hear performances from Queen Omega, from Imeru Tafari, Mortimer, Miss Chee, Heavyweight Rockaz, Stevie Pace, George Nooks, Mikey Spice and Singing Melody, and of course Tony and Ifrica blessed the microphone as well.

The Mayor of St. Ann's Bay, Michael Belnavis spoke to the economic benefits of Rebel Salute to the parish, businesses, and individuals. A proud host of of the festival, he expressed that the event was "indigenous" to St. Ann, and that many were blessed with the "direct and indirect employment opportunities" as a result of the annual staging. He also communicated a great statistic, stating that over 40% of festival attendees came to Rebel Salute from abroad which not only spoke to the consistent quality of production, but also the enjoyment of the vacation and travel opportunities surrounding the festival as well.

Michael Dawson of Strictly Roots water is always a pleasure to listen to, as he spoke to elements of his products and the digital link each bottle has to African news and facts (via QR code). He also marked the significance of the 2020 staging, as it marks 100 years since Marcus Garvey's gathering in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Mark Pike of Enterprise Car Rentals described Rebel Salute as a "resurrection of Jamaican consciousness," and also a "nexus between rebellion and righteousness." Describing the mission of Enterprise to simplify the mobility journey for Jamaicans, Rebel Salute attendees, and returning Jamaican residents and tourists, he announced the 20% discount that would be applied to car rentals leading up to Rebel Salute, and continuing through Reggae Month 2020.

The Minister of Tourism Donovan White quoted from a study of music festivals, and the impact they have on host destinations. In respect to Brand Jamaica, he noted the effect of Rebel Salute's presence on tourism, and contributing overall to generating a positive image of Jamaica as a destination, along with the loyalty to the festival itself.

Minister Olivia Grange and the JCF Superintendent Calvin Small also spoke to the importance of Rebel Salute in celebrating the image and enjoyment of Jamaican culture, and their dedication to doing so professionally and deliberately with an attention to detail and enjoyment for patrons and the reggae community-at-large.

At the festival, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport will be hosting a booth for Reparations (based on the upcoming docu-film that will celebrate the International Decade for People of African Descent) as well as to energize young people to action. She credited the festival as being "the world's most outstanding roots and culture festival" that specifically spoke to the music conscious folks, globally.

Keynote speaker Stephen L. Drummond, respected legal expert and partner in Drummond & Squillace law firm, was passionate in his address to musicians and supporters of Rebel Salute, expressing his gratitude for Jamaica and admiration of the billion dollar worldwide reggae music industry. He urged individuals to take careful heed to the performance, protection, and preservation of reggae music. Notably so, his firm has recently been involved in the defence of reggae artist Flourgon in his copyright infringement case against pop artist Miley Cyrus for use of his lyrics.

With words of advice for those in the music industry, Drummond urged artists to ensure that they were legally protected, and surrounded themselves with the right team including managers, accountant, business folk, public relations experts, and legal assistance. He counselled that artists should seek mentorship from leaders like Tony Rebel, and learn the backstory and from their experiences in addition to tradition guidance.

Significantly, he spoke with love about Jamaica, the teachings of his grandmother, the discipline of his community members, and the soul of the island that formed and nurtured and moulded his values from a young age before moving to the United States. He asked listeners and attendees to value Jamaica, Jamaican culture, and to harness the special power and influence contained in the island.

Also in support of Reggae Salute's mission and presentation, the highlighted sponsors were acknowledged, from Enterprise, the Jamaica Tourist Boat, Strictly Roots Water, the Marriott and Cardiff hotels, radio supporters Hits 92FM, Irie FM, and media outlet the Jamaica Star. Jamaica Tours Limited, TV Jamaica, the Knutsford Express, and the Ministry of Culture were also listed as some of the event's contributing sponsors.

The much anticipated lineup of artists announced included: Lady G, I-Wayne, Singing Melody, Beenie Man, Leroy Sibbles, Sugar Roy, a special hour of comedy from Johnny, Carl Malcolm, Lone Rangers, Michigan, a dance performance from Chi Ching Ching, Queen Ifrica, Flourgon, Sanchez, and returning Ugandan artist Bobi Wine. Many were anticipating the announcement of Buju Banton, but I imagine that will be a treat saved for later release, if it is going to be a feature of the show...and at this point, it only makes sense!

Now that the launch has passed, I patiently await the promotions, announcements, and other details yet to be released. I look forward to the increase in excitement as the countdown continues. And if by chance I don't find myself in Jamaica next month, grooving to the sounds of Sanchez and Sugar Roy, then I most definitely will be logged on to continue the support of the music and culture that ultimately and consistently drives my soul to the sweetest of highs.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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