A vital element of Jamaica’s culture—including its status as the cultural mecca of the Caribbean and part of its international appeal—is its entertainment, particularly reggae music.
It is no wonder the government has, over the years, acknowledged and honored its entertainment pioneers and ambassadors.
This year is no different, with recipients such as Cedella Marley, daughter of reggae legend Bob Marley and veteran comedian Oliver Samuels, both of who have awarded the Order of Distinction (Commander class) in Jamaica’s annual National Honors and Awards.
The OD is Jamaica’s sixth highest honor. The Commander class is a notch higher than its Officer class, which is being awarded to nine persons this year.
The National Honors and Awards are scheduled for October 19 at King’s House in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.
Recipients of the OD (Officer class) are veteran singers Eric Donaldson and Keith Lyn, deejay Big Youth, former Third World Drummer Willie Stewart, Deiwght Peters, head of modeling agency Saint International; noted dancer and choreographer Clive Thompson, British broadcaster/sound system selector David Rodigan and music producers Jon Baker and Robert Bobby Digital” Dixon (posthumously).
Interestingly, Marley was cited for her mentorship role with the Jamaican women’s soccer team, which qualified for the World Cup in France last year, and not music. Now in her early 50s, she is the eldest child for Marley and his wife Rita; she won three Grammy Awards with the Melody Makers, which included her sister Sharon and brothers Ziggy and Stephen.
Samuels is one of Jamaican theater’s enduring stage personalities. He has appeared in numerous hit plays and television shows such as Oliver and Pinocchio and Oliver At Large.
Donaldson’s nod is long overdue. Dubbed ‘Mr. Festival,’ due to seven victories in the annual Festival Song Competition, his songs include the 1971 winner “Cherry Oh Baby” and “Land of my Birth,” which won seven years later.
Big Youth (real name Manley Buchanan) is one of the forerunners of modern dancehall. He began recording in the early 1970s and has several hits such as “Screaming,” “Target,” “I Pray Thee” and “Hit The Road Jack.”
Stewart made his name with the Third World band, recording and touring with them for 21 years. A longtime South Florida resident, he is best known in the region for organizing the successful Rhythms of Africa show.