Freddie's duty to country

Music

Freddie's duty to country

BY BRIAN BONITTO
Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment
bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, June 25, 2020

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FREDDIE McGregor is one of 10 finalists in this year's Jamaica Festival Song Competition, scheduled for July 15. The reggae singer says it is a distinction that is yet to sink in.

“Every time I hear it, mi affi laugh. It just feel so strange to me and funny, but it's actually real,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

McGregor's entry is Tun Up Di Sound, co-written and co-produced with Dalton Brownie.

“It just about Jamaica being a paradise and the different things we do here in our paradise land, and how we get our vibes going on --- it's a celebration. I wanted to get away from the norm...I kinda create the song in a way that it can be an international seller and a song that might be able to last for generations,” he said.

This year's other finalists include: Buju Banton; three-time Jamaica Festival Song Competition winner Toots and the Maytals; dancehall quartet LUST; Papa Michigan (formerly of Michigan and Smiley); 2009 Digicel Rising Stars winner Shuga; actress Sakina Deer; two-time winner Nazzle Man; Xtra Bigg; and, Radix OD.

A $3-million prize purse is up for grabs. However, due to restrictions brought on by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the finals will be virtual.

The singer said he was invited to throw his hat in the ring by Entertainment and Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange, who was intent on lifting the quality of entries.

“It's just a situation where the minister expressed to us what was happening and we saw that she needed to lift the quality of the [Jamaica] Festival Song Competition. [She] asked if some of us would reach out --- either write for somebody or actually perform the song; she was more depending on us performing the song, as she said it was important that changes were made in terms of the lyrical content,” he said.

“I didn't know that Toots and Buju and anybody else accepted it [the minister's invitation] when I accepted. I guess it was a secret because it's later that I found out who were the persons actually involved with it; and then the final list came out and I realised... But the whole thing is that we're doing it for the country --- we don't have to do festival song competitions,” he continued.

In 2017 Minister Grange cancelled the Jamaica Festival Song Competition, citing the poor quality of entrants as the reason. Workshops were subsequently set up islandwide to guide prospective entrants. Prior to that, the contest --- which was first held in 1966 --- was not held in 2013.

McGregor addressed concerns raised in some quarters that the high-profile entrants have an unfair advantage, feeling rather that it gives the contest a boost.

“There are some who thought the process was unfair because we didn't do auditions and stuff. That would be like Rihanna asking Stevie Wonder to do an audition to perform on her album. That wouldn't be appropriate...Similarly, you wouldn't ask Buju to audition to be in [the Jamaica] Festival Song Competition, nor myself, nor LUST. So I guess people would get the real purpose behind it, that we're actually doing this for our country. There are times when duties call and yuh just have to answer to it. And I'm a Jamaican and I love my country, and anything to give the music a strength, I'm always ready for that,” he said.

The reggae singer said he was not focused on winning the song contest.

“I'm excited but I'm not in it for the win. But if I do win, I'll be just as excited the same. I haven't heard most of the songs in completeness, and whichever song ends up the best song should win the festival song competition,” he said. May the best song win. It will be fun and whichever one of us win, we'll all be there for each other and we'll all be glad that we did that and hope that next year and the years after, the competition will step up.”

McGregor, whose career began at seven, is a former member of The Clarendonians. He has been one of reggae's front-runners for decades, even earning a Grammy nomination for his 2016 set True To My Roots.

He is known for songs including Big Ship, Push Comes to Shove, Just Don't Wanna Be Lonely and I'm a Winner.


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