Entertainment

Making it Wright at Rae Town

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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When Norma Wright and her husband Bunny started the Rae Town 'session' in December 1982, their hometown was known as a community of seafarers, where many residents made a living as fisherfolk. What became a weekly dance drew thousands of people to the area every Sunday.

Though the Rae Town dance moved to Sabina Park in 2015, it remains synonymous with an event that helped keep the music of the 1960s and 1970s alive. For her vision, Wright is one of the honorees for Saturday's Tribute To The Greats awards which took place at Curphey Place in St Andrew.

“I speak for the entire community when I say it brings us unspeakable joy to be recognised for creating an atmosphere of organic peace and love, with the main ingredient being meticulously selected nostalgic music, simply known as Rae Town Old Hits worldwide. What a joy....God is good,” said Wright in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Due to restrictions of government's Noise Abatement Act, which prohibits live events from going beyond 2:00 am, the Wrights reluctantly relocated the event from Rae Town four years ago. Their new home is Sabina Park, one mile away.

“We still have countless supporters, because folks know that our commitment to provide an atmosphere that is peaceful and uplifting to the soul will always remain authentic and our quality will never be compromised,” Wright said.

At the peak of its popularity in the 1990s, Rae Town dances drew a mainly mature audience of middle and working-class patrons who reveled in the classic ska, rocksteady and soul sounds of their youth. Foreigners, many of them students of Jamaican sound system culture, also attended.

The Clarendon-born Wright moved to Rae Town as a child. Bordering some of east Kingston's gritty neighourhoods, the community had a vibrant sports programme in the 1970s, but was also prone to the political violence of that period.

Wright operated a popular bar at the time she started the Rae Town dance which helped bring a steady stream of commerce there. That, she believes, is one of the event's biggest accomplishments.

“I am pleased that over the decades we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide a weekly space where the community at large can unwind, relax and de-stress with our unique music. We have provided jobs for many individuals, and the legacy that has been created is one our community will always be proud of,” she said.

The Wailing Wailers, guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith, The Mighty Diamonds, Gem Myers, music industry executive Anthony “Chips” Richards, singers Charmaine Lemonius and Owen Gray, and sound system man Michael “Louis” Owens, are the other 2019 Tribute To The Greats awardees.


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