Band leader

JBSB founder pleased with competition's growth

Observer writer

Monday, March 12, 2018

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AS many Jamaicans celebrated International Women's Day last Thursday, Rayven Amani participated in the launch of the Jamaica Best School Band (JBSB) competition at Belair High School in Mandeville, Manchester.

Amani, a singer, said she started the competition in 2014 to create opportunities she did not have when she was in school.

The past student of Herbert Morrison Technical, known for songs like Black Without Apology, told the Jamaica Observer that, “I started JBSB because I was becoming frustrated with the music business. Up to that point I was just writing and recording songs. I came up with the idea while in a rehearsal with Gumption Band and decided to create a platform I wish I had when I was in school.”

Today the Montego Bay-born Amani is celebrating the progress of her brainchild.

“It has grown tremendously. To date we have been in over 80 schools islandwide. Close to 600 student musicians have been on our stage. In 2015 we added a Junior category; this features primary and prep schools, and with the help of CHASE and Paul Miles Foundation, we have given thousands in cash prizes and over 20 musical instruments, including drum sets, saxophones, flutes, clarinets, trumpets, to our top bands,” she explained.

Amani is aware of Jamaica's storied music history and the impressive musicians who helped to shape it. Many of those musicians got their start as children at the Alpha Boys Home in Kingston. She believes it is critical for budding musicians to know this history and build on it.

“It is very important for youngsters to know their musical heritage, especially now when it seems we have so many people outside of our country benefiting from it far more than we do. So for the competition students must research the early era of our music, usually for our quarter-final round where they perform sets from the theme 'Foundation Rules','' she added.

With little support from the corporate sector the JBSB continues to grow.

She expressed gratitude to stakeholders without whom it would not have reached this far.

“It has been very challenging getting sponsorship and we are in need of more support. However, we are extremely grateful for the support of CHASE (Culture, Health, Arts, Sports, Education) Fund, Edna Manley College, Music Mart, Paul Miles Foundation, SunCity Radio, Jamaica Constabulary Force Band Division, who have all been with us for multiple seasons,” she related.

“We could not get to season five without the help of the music fraternity. Mr Lloyd Parks, who donated bass guitars to our first year champion Pembroke Hall High and last year's Junior Champion St Richard's Primary respectively; Mr Frankie Campbell (of Fab 5); Mr Mikey Bennett, who will be providing 20 hours of studio time for this year's winning band; Raging Fyah, who provided technical support in season four; and bass player Othniel “Taddy P” Campbell.”

This year's competition has Hector Lewis, percussionist/vocalist for the Zinc Fence Redemption Band, and saxophonist Dean Fraser as judges/mentors.

In the first of three preliminary rounds last Thursday, Belair High's band Intervals emerged on top after scoring 40 points, followed by Foga Road High's S.T.E.M.M and Belmont Academy's Rhythm Express both with 32 points. Claude McKay High's Blazing Flameheart were fourth with 24 points.

The second preliminary round will be tomorrow at Calabar High School and on Thursday at defending champion Bog Walk High School in St Catherine.

On April 8, the semi-final and quarter-final rounds take place at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, which will also host the grand final on April 15.

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