Arts & Culture

Festival Song contest gets big boost

Monday, December 04, 2017

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NEXT year's Jamaica Festival Song Competition will receive a whopping $10 million in cash and prizes as well as a makeover, according to Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange.

She made the announcement at the competition's launch at the @twentythree bar in St Andrew last Thursday. The occasion saw performances from former winners Roy Rayon (1985, 1987, 1991 and 208), Abby Dallas (2012), and Nazzleman (2016).

“Not so long ago, the festival song competition was a much-anticipated feature of the Jamaican cultural landscape. We can and must get the excitement back,” said Grange.

“This competition has launched the careers of several outstanding singers and performers. It must do so again and fulfil the mandate of the JCDC — to unearth and develop talent,” she continued.

She said the “new-look” programme started with the launch, eight months before the festival period. The winner is usually announced in July.

Grange said the activities leading up to the finals include a series of islandwide developmental workshops to address writing, performance and publishing rights, intellectual property rights, as well as imaging and branding. Road-shows and special appearances will give the performers necessary exposure and give members of the public the opportunity to get to know the songs and performers.

Orville Hill, interim executive director of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, said the agency was committed to executing a first class competition, which would boost national pride and spread euphoria across the nation during the Independence period.

“Jamaica needs the festival song competition and I am encouraging all the talent across the island and in the Diaspora to get their entries in, because this can be a life-changer for many people,” he said.

Earlier this year, Grange cancelled the festival song competition, citing the poor quality of entries. This year marks Jamaica's 55th anniversary of Independence.

This was the second time the plug was pulled on the contest. In 2013, then Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna announced that the contest would be suspended. She faced the wrath of Grange who labelled the move a “backward step and a disgrace”.

The Jamaica Festival Song Competition, which has also been known as the Popular Song Contest, first began in 1966 as one of the highlights of Independence celebrations, along with other activities such as the performing arts finals, the festival queen contest, and the gospel song competition.

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