Entertainment

End of the road?

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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DESPITE not participating in the road march on April 8 due to financial constraints, principals of Jamaica Carnival remain optimistic that the brand is alive and well.

“We are still committed to do it. It's part of Byron Lee's legacy,” Julianne Lee, a director of Jamaica Carnival, told the Jamaica Observer.

Lee is the daughter of bandleader and Jamaica Carnival Founder Byron Lee.

According to her, Jamaica Carnival has a shortfall of $16 1/2 million to do the road march, which usually boasts several live acts.

“When we came back in 2016 we filled a massive void, as all the other entities are for a particular niche market. But carnival is a representation of the people of the country, just like jerk and reggae. Byron Lee never did it for the money, he did it for the love for his country — and we've sacrificed millions of dollars,” she said.

For last year's staging, the director said the Byron Lee Foundation shelled out $14 million.

The occasion featured acts including soca couple Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyon, Iwer George, Beenie Man, Alison Hinds, and Serani.

“We had the better entertainment; we're about the musical presentation and the inclusiveness,” she said.

Jamaica Carnival's costumes ranged from US$75 to US$285 compared to US$300 and US$1,200 offered by the other entities. The other players are Bacchanal Jamaica as well as newcomers Xodus and Xaymaca.

“The mission of Jamaica Carnival has always been to be the people's carnival, and that means creating a carnival experience that is within reach of the working class, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. As in every other country staging an all-accessible, national carnival experience and not a niche-exclusive package product, has sponsors and local officials and agencies who come on board equally to ensure that the package represents the majority and not minority and is heavily subsidised,” she said.

Byron Lee launched Jamaica Carnival in 1990. He died from cancer in 2008 at the University Hospital of the West Indies at age 73. The event returned in 2016 after a seven-year hiatus.

Lee and his Dragonaires band rubbed shoulders with major acts from the eastern Caribbean as the event, held during Easter, attracted massive crowds.

To expand Jamaica Carnival's base, Lee also collaborated on hit songs with dancehall acts such as Admiral Bailey and Beenie Man.

“Even though we are unable to participate in road march for the 2018 season, Jamaica Carnival is still part of carnival in Jamaica,” his daughter said.

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