THIS year, February marks the fifth celebration of Reggae Month.
In its first year, it was felt that the national committee organising reggae month was too narrow in its composition and did not fully represent different branches of the industry. Therefore, in 2009, especially Freddy McGregor and Beres Hammond, industry players were mobilized to attend a meeting at the Ministry of Culture to review the previous year's activities and develop a concept for the next celebration. Having had preliminary discussion with Junior Lincoln and Dimario McDowell, by the second meeting of this group, I mooted the formation of an organization to serve the interests of the entire industry on an ongoing basis; one which was to be mandated with a short list of outstanding issues on which we all had common ground and objectives. Out of this cauldron, JaRIA was subsequently formed as an umbrella, non-governmental organisation.
Among its advocacy and lobbying on issues such as the revision of the Noise Abatement Act, the implementation of an Entertainment Encouragement Act, urgent action to reduce payola. Over the last three years, JaRIA's raison de existence has been the execution of Reggae Month activities annually. For the first three years, most of our activities have been centred at the Edna Manley College because our budget has not allowed us to do city-wide activities. Were it not for the enlightened leadership of the faculty of the Edna Manley College, especially their past principal Mr. Burchell Duhaney, who allowed JaRIA to conduct its meetings and to stage activities free-of-cost, Reggae Month, as a national celebration, would certainly have perished. The country, therefore, owes the Edna Manley College a debt of gratitude for sustaining these celebrations in their insipient stages.
This year, to coincide with the celebration of our 50th year of independence, Reggae Month has sprouted national and international wings. This is due, in no small part, to the renewed commitment from the triad of the Minister of Culture Lisa Hanna, minister of state for entertainment Damian Crawford, and deputy director of tourism Jason Hall. Since then, along with JAMPRO, NHT and Edna Manley College, a number of private sector entities, including Rum Bar, Wisynco, Irie FM, Zip FM, Advantage General, RJR Group of Companies, Sun Island, Big Jo and The Observer has joined with JaRIA, providing sponsorship.
The Dennis Brown celebration at Orange Street on the 29th of January and the Trench Town Festival were tremendously successful. Moving the Reggae Wednesdays to Emancipation Park has proven to be the correct decision because it has broadened the audience's demographics and has given the events national stature and presence.