To The Root, Reggae Month
IN bygone days in Jamaica, January would bring with it a post-holiday lull in entertainment activities after the almost frenetic pace and frequency of events between December 15 and January 1, this is no longer so.
Rebel Salute -- which for the last 17 years has been held in mid-January -- and the JAMAICA Jazz and Blues Festival have transformed the first month of the year into one of the most important on our annual entertainment calendar. In addition, the various activities which now comprise the three-month build-up to Carnival in the Easter season is usually launched during this time.
Since the transition of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown, their birthday anniversaries in February have occasioned grand celebrations of their lives and works. In large measure, this motivated the Government to declare the entire month February, Reggae Month in 2008.
This year the theme for Reggae Month is "To The Root" and appropriately, Reggae Month 2010 kicked off January 31 at Big Yard on Orange Street. The Downtown community -- along with the Dennis Brown Foundation and in association with high-calibre artistes such as Beres Hammond, Ken Boothe, Freddie McGregor and Lloyd Parkes of We the People -- joined hearts, hands and resources, inspired by one of Dennis' famed producers, Leggo, to stage a massive street party and concert in Dennis' honour.
In keeping with this year's theme, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA) will stage four weekly concerts at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
Two of the most anticipated events for me personally are the Alpha Boys' School Open Day on February 8 and the Boys Town/Trench Town Bus Tour on February 15. For those who may not know, the Alpha Boys' School is renowned for its outstanding musical tuition and is revered as being instrumental in the development of Ska and Reggae. Among its long list of notable alumni are Lennie Hibbert, OD, who popularised the vibes; Leslie Thompson, who was the first coloured man to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra; trumpeter Oscar Clarke, who toured with Louis Armstrong's orchestra; Rico Rodriques (trombone) and trumpeters Dizzy Reece and Jo Jo Bennett. Four of the founding members of the Skatalites are also alumni.
Junior Lincoln has a famous line that says, "at the dawn of our modern music industry, the musicians came from the east and the singers came from the west". Trench Town has a unique history, as a significant number of our early artistes and songwriters lived and spent their formative years in this community. Bob Marley lived on First Street, Delroy Wilson and Joe Higgs on Second Street and on Fourth Street resided Cynthia Schloss and Dean Fraser. From back then, Fifth Street was very popular because that is where Rasta philosopher and elder Mortimo Planno, as well as Alton Ellis and Hortense Ellis called home.
Alpha and Trench Town are two latent commercial cash cows that given vision, the right impetus and wise investments would become in short span, major tourists attractions as living monuments and reservoirs of our rich musical legacy, helping to transform the surrounding communities.