The latest book chronicling an important era of Jamaican music will be launched on Saturday at the Ashanti Restaurant, Hope Gardens in Kingston. What is especially heartening about the book Reggae Sunsplash 1978-1998, is that it is written by a Jamaican author Java Immanuel-I who documented two decades of the significant event that bears the title of the book.
Reggae Sunsplash is the mother of Jamaican international music festivals. This book is a monument of sort to the late Tony Johnson who 32 years ago created a company called Synergy Productions for which he, Ronnie Burke, Don Green and the late radio broadcaster John Wakeling were its four founding directors responsible for promoting Reggae Sunsplash.
Started at Jarrett Park in Montego Bay, Reggae Sunsplash was the first major festival of reggae culture in the summer locally that attracted a global audience by showcasing all the legendary acts of the golden period of the music for an entire week.
Performers included seminal Jamaican reggae icons such as the king himself, Bob Marley, I-Three, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Third World, Culture, Toots & the Maytals, Freddie McGregor, Half Pint, Steel Pulse, UB40, Buju Banton, Beres Hammond, Diana King, Maxi Priest, Morgan Heritage, and the list endless.
In the 1980s and 1990s it became a touring festival which played at venues throughout the United States. It was the first dusk til dawn music event in Jamaica. Owing to the fact that it was a very popular festival, at times it was very difficult to find hotel rooms, so a tradition developed of camping out on beaches. Sunsplash folded after the 1999 festival after a series of challenges which saw the festival moving at different times from Montego Bay to Jamworld and the Ranny Williams Centre in Kingston and venues across the island.
Prior to the staging of Reggae Sunsplash, the hotels in Jamaica were traditionally closed during the summer period. The four founding partners staged the festival each year for a number of years and successfully created an annual summer tourist season in Jamaica. The success of Reggae Sunsplash led to a wave of annual music festivals in Jamaica and the Caribbean islands.
In 1984 the Reggae Sunsplash festival was staged at the Crystal Palace football grounds in London, UK. In 1985 the Reggae Sunsplash World tour was launched in the USA and Japan and subsequent years saw the Reggae Sunsplash festival touring extensively throughout North America, Europe, South America and the Far East.
Java Immanuel-I, the author of the book edited by veteran journalist Leslie Miles with foreword by Mutabaruka, started in 1979, the first reggae Caribbean radio programme in Philadelphia on 90.1 FM, owned and operated by Temple University. His radio programme was aired for 15 years.
As it now turns out, that was the beginning of an endless trail of promoting his roots and culture. Out of his radio show came his non-profit organisation Caribbe Inc. Next it was Caribbe newspaper, then the popular Reggae Calendar and now the book, Reggae Sunsplash 1978-1998.
Immanuel-I also hosted an interview show titled Information Exchange. He has interviewed the likes of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Judy Mowatt, the late Cedella Booker (mother of Bob Marley), Sly and Robbie, Jackie Mittoo and readers would be encouraged to get a copy of the book to see who else is on that list.