The Guyana connection
ON September 27, the Fly Jamaica airline made its maiden voyage to Guyana.
The historic trip has been hailed as a shot in the arm for commerce in that country, but politicians and private sector interests were not the only Guyanese singing its praises.
Lennox 'Lukie' Lewis, who operates Conscious Minds Promotions in the Guyana capital Georgetown, says Fly Jamaica's twice-weekly flight from Kingston is a big thing for he and his colleagues who book reggae artistes for shows.
"Because they are going to be flying straight to Guyana, it's going to be much better for us. With Caribbean Airlines, artistes had to leave Jamaica two days before a show to reach here so this is going to save us a lot of money," Lewis told Splash.
The importance of Guyana as a vibrant dancehall/reggae market is not lost on the principals at Fly Jamaica. A number of Jamaican entertainers were on last week's stop in Georgetown, including Assassin, Wayne Marshall, Tifa and Denyque.
Following a press conference at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Assassin addressed the significance of the three-hour Kingston to Georgetown flight.
"What used to be several hours of traveling has now narrowed down to three hours which is even a lesser time to get to New York ," he said. "This route is very straightforward."
The new itinerary is a ease on pockets of promoters. Previously, they had to shell out extra funds on hotel accommodation for artistes who stopped overnight in Trinidad and Tobago or Barbados .
Years of political conflict between two of modern Guyana 's founding fathers -- Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham -- helped stymie economic growth in the country which is actually located in South America . While it remains one of CARICOM's socially-challenged members, Guyana has experienced gradual political progress in the last five years.
That transformation has helped improve the sports and entertainment sectors.
The 60-year-old Lewis is one of Guyana 's veteran show promoters. He staged his first major reggae event in 1983, headlined by Barrington Levy and Admiral Bailey.
Depending on the mood of the market, he puts on as much as three reggae shows annually. Last November, he promoted a concert at the National Stadium in Georgetown featuring Lady Saw, Tanya Stephens, Spice and Trinidadian soca singer Destra.
Lewis states that there is enough business for him and rival promoters. In August, there was a big show in Georgetown with I-Octane, Busy Signal, Konshens and Tommy Lee.
Guyana has produced its share of reggae artistes with singer Natural Blacks best known of the current crop. Singers Eddy Grant and Brinsley Forde (of Aswad) and producer Neal 'Mad Professor' Fraser, were also born in Guyana.
Georgetown is the country's largest reggae market. Lewis reckons a card with heavyweights like Beres Hammond, Buju Banton or Beenie Man can attract a capacity 26,000 to the National Stadium.
The city of Berbice and Linden , a town just outside the capital, also retain considerable pockets of reggae fans.
While the biggest names in Jamaican pop music have performed in Guyana in the last decade, Lewis says demand is great for young turks like Romaine Virgo and Chronixx who have yet to perform there.
On December 28, Lennox Lewis and his team are scheduled to stage their latest event in Georgetown with Freddie McGregor as headliner. He also plans to unveil his Ecclesiastics International sound system at that show.