To mark the 50th anniversary of reggae’s birth, the Jamaican government will stage a Reggae Gold Awards this year. The event, announced on January 20 by entertainment minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, will recognize persons who have contributed to the music’s development.
Honoring reggae icons
“We will be honoring 50 icons, or 50 individuals, groups, or whoever has contributed to the development of the music here and overseas, and have helped to take it to the world,” Grange said at a function to launch Reggae Month.
She did not disclose a date for the event, or the criteria for selection awardees, but said it is appropriate to acknowledge persons who have made their mark on Jamaican pop culture since 1969.
Musicologists usually point to ‘Nanny Goat’ by Larry and Alvin. or ‘Do the Reggae’ by Toots and the Maytals as the first reggae songs. Interestingly, both were released in 1968, 51 years ago.
Despite getting international acclaim, many reggae stalwarts have never been recognized by the Jamaican government during its annual national awards ceremony which takes place in October.
Some entertainers, including influential singer Dennis Brown, were awarded posthumously. Others, like singer Eric Donaldson, have never been cited even though he has won the annual Festival Song Contest six times.
Plans for international reggae museum
At the January 20 function, tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said the government plans to construct an international reggae museum in Kingston, the Jamaica capital.
According to Bartlett, his administration will provide J$25 million to start the project through the Tourism Enhancement Fund. This amount, he added, goes to the scoping, design and development of the facility.
“We need to collect all the artefacts from across the island and the world, and to bring them here, to repatriate that key part of our cultural patrimony that now resides in different places across the world and bring it to Jamaica,” Bartlett said.
Reggae Month highlights
Reggae Month is officially celebrated in February with concerts, seminars and awards ceremonies. This year’s highlights include Reggae in the Village in Ocho Rios, and Reggae In the Park in Linstead on February 1; and Reggae Celebrates at Bob Marley Museum on February 6, which commemorates the late singer’s 74th birthday.