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“Reggae is today, perhaps the most pervasive music form that has found itself in almost every music activity,” according to Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett. He in collaboration with Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, and partners Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA), Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), and Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) jointly staged the Reggae Month 2020 Launch on December 3rd at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

Photos by: David Newland


Reggae Month 2020

The venue room titled ‘Talk of the Town’ lived up to its name as exciting announcements surfaced from the podium all evening. Impressive initiatives surrounding February’s month-long salute are on the horizon for Reggae Month 2020:

  1. The celebrations are expected to be more far-reaching in 2020. Previous Reggae Month events were rarely staged outside of Kingston, where the genre was birthed.
  2. The Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Entertainment plan to invest more financially in Reggae Month 2020 and beyond.
  3. J$10 million has been allocated to build out a major cultural ‘Tourism Reggae Product’ to enhance visitor experiences through streamlined reggae music.
  4. The product is intended to facilitate the development and hosting of multiple daily reggae events, focused in resort areas.
  5. A reggae series showcasing children of the icons and emerging artistes will be introduced during Reggae Month 2020. These reggae stars will tour the island as a step to prepare the future to continue great music
  6. Minister Grange says work has begun on a Corporate Area venue to host events beyond restriction of the Noise Abatement Act + identified 3 other locations
  7. An insurance fund for musicians that’ll cover life, health, maternity and pension is expected to be introduced next year. The programme will be a partnership with JARIA, Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates, and Jamaica Federation of Musicians.
  8. Minister Bartlett informed “we are going to provide a window at the EXIM Bank for on-lending to investors in the building out of the reggae product” through the Tourism Ministry’s Entertainment Network.

Reggae Month

Reggae Month was designated in 2008 to highlight Jamaica’s musical history and heritage. A decade later in 2018, Reggae was recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage deemed worthy of protection and promotion. Under the theme ‘Ketch de riddim’ (catch the rhythm), 29 days of reggae events are slated for 2020. The event calendar includes Live Music Showcases honouring reggae icons, Reggae University Sessions, Conferences, the Reggae Golden Award Show and more!

I attended the launch event with members of the Love Not Likes community, and it boasted distinguished guests, cultural garbs, and compliments of red, gold and green accents. It paid tribute to our music through art, panning digital displays of reggae shows, and melodic juggling by DJ Sparks and Richie Feelings. The vibe was turned up a notch by sample performances of local artistes. Emerging stars of reggae such as Azalineage, Shaienna and Ras Ajai shared the stage with the likes of Jesse Royal and Richie Spice. A surprise appearance by Sean Paul alongside dancehall artiste Chi Ching Ching sparked a dancing fever that lasted the rest of the evening, complemented by spirited moves of Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC)’s reggae dancers.

Jamaica Re-imagining our Music for Reggae Month 2020

According to Minister Bartlett, a double in visitor arrivals and hotel rooms are targeted for Jamaica over the next decade. This is expected to lead to a higher demand for the island’s good, services, and assets. During his address, he noted that visitors’ expenditure patterns here for music and entertainment are only second to food.

“We want to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that is in our entertainment industry… and create a private-sector arrangement that is going to make for sustainability,” Mr. Bartlett said. His solution to this is to reimagining the relationship between music and brand Jamaica. With annual earmarked local events such as Reggae Sumfest and Reggae Marathon, our indigenous music genre has become synonymous with ‘Jamaica’ to many persons. Similar to Tango in Argentina and Tropicana in Cuba, the tourism ministry holds a vision of daily event series in Jamaica to connect the sway of our pulsating beats with reggae lovers seeking ongoing entertainment.

Entertainment Zones

In a country popular for a buzzing party scene and great vibes, many of Jamaica’s night-time events are hampered by the Noise Abatement Act. “Reggae music pulsates daily across Kingston with the rhythm and spirit of people of Jamaica, and this is what we’ll celebrate in Reggae Month 2020”, stated Minister Grange. She addressed the cries of promoters and patrons, caused by the stipulation that outdoor entertainment events should conclude by midnight on weekdays and 2:00am on weekends, with a solution.

“We have started building out Fort Rocky as an entertainment zone. Work has actually started and we have identified other locations: a location in Negril, in Trelawny, and in Portmore, where we are going to build out facilities to host entertainment.” Entertainment zones are areas in which legal entertainment and sports activities can be staged at any time, once event organisers are mindful of the value of the venue sites. Fort Rocky is located in the historic city of Port Royal, and was built by the British during World War II to prevent German invasion on the island. In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Minister Grange assured that Fort Rocky will be available for February to host Reggae Month 2020 events.

With so many things to look forward for Reggae Month 2020 and beyond, how will you choose to pay homage to our music?

Stay tuned to the official Reggae Month website for updates!

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