VETERAN reggae artiste Freddie McGregor is defending Entertainment and Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange over the cancellation of this year’s Jamaica Festival Song Competition.
McGregor, who was part of a five-member committee, hand-picked to select 10 finalists for the competition, told the Jamaica Observer’s Splash that the criticism being levelled at the minister is unwarranted.
According to McGregor, none of the entries submitted were worthy.
“I’m currently in London but when I read the comments that were being directed at Minister Grange I just had to speak out. It is really sad that our people are reaching this level on a matter such as the Festival Song Competition,” he said.
“Some time ago, the minister reached out to me and asked me to sit on the panel to select the 10 finalists. She told me there were just over 30 entries submitted from which the panel would choose the 10. It was painful to listen to these entries. I kept hoping that the next song would be better, but in some cases it just got worse. After we listened to all the entries, I looked down at my notes and I had only chosen one song to move forward. They were all poorly written... lyrically weak, the presentation was poor and in some cases the song sounded like they had been recorded on a cellphone. It was embarrassing,” McGregor shared.
This was the consensus of other members of the panel — singer and radio personality Alaine Laughton, and noted music producers Donovan Germain, Gussie Clarke, and Cleveland “Clevie” Browne.
McGregor said their dismay was shared with Grange and the recommendation that rather than go with sub-par entries, the alternative would be to abort the competition.
“Is Jamaica 60 wi talking about! Those songs that we listened to could not go out there and represent the music industry after 60 years of Independence...they just could not, it would be a shame and disgrace. That’s just my honest opinion. I can say the panellists had no ulterior motive in sharing our disappointment with the quality of the entries with the minister. The decision was taken based on what was put before us to listen to. So for the minister to face this bashing is unfair and uncalled for,” he noted.
McGregor is recommending that a commemorative album of the best Festival songs, since 1966 when the competition was first held, be produced for Jamaica 60.
He is no stranger to the Festival Song Competition. In 2020, along with other established acts such as Toots Hibbert, Michigan and eventual winner Buju Banton, he entered in a bid to boost the event’s standard and profile.
Grange announced the cancellation in Parliament on Wednesday. She noted that all entry fees will be reimbursed and efforts are being made to improve the Jamaica Festival Song Competition workshops over the next 12 months.