One of the welcome announcements at the recent launch of Reggae Month was the decision to present Reggae Gold Awards to 50 individuals or groups in acknowledgement of their contribution to and the mark they have made on Jamaican pop culture since 1969.
Ever since Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange made the disclosure at the function, industry persons have been asking about the criteria for awards and about who the recipients will be.
In an interview with the Gleaner, Minister Grange gave some details. She explained that a national Reggae Gold Award Committee has been charged with the responsibility for preparing a list of awardees and the various categories of awards.
“This committee, which has been meeting since November 2018, comprises local and international musicologists, researchers, academics, copyright experts, musicians, and recording artistes. That committee also consults a resource panel, which comprises industry experts, entertainment lawyers, and researchers,” she said.
The Reggae Gold Award ceremony will be held on Wednesday, February 27, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, and this one-time event will honour those who have contributed to the development of the sounds of Jamaican music and its genres – ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music and dancehall.
Declining to list specific names, the minister said the awardees will include artistes, organisations (such as studios and record labels), instrumentalists, producers, singers, songwriters, musicians and even dancers.
“The names of the awardees will remain secret until the announcement on the night of the awards,” she stated.
Turning her attention to the question of what she considers among the greatest accomplishments musically for Jamaica over the last 50 years, without hesitation, Minister Grange said, “The melting pot of people, beliefs and sounds that created reggae in west Kingston around 1968 is one of our greatest achievements as a people and shows the world our creative genius. The music came out of social experiences and is now a vehicle for all forms of worldwide concerns, from protest, to praise and worship, to dance, to love and universal brotherhood. This nation of three million produced a genre at a time when we were not yet a decade from Independence.”
She noted that arising from that, Kingston is now synonymous with reggae music, and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the space a Creative City of Music in 2015.
“Prior to this, I had spearheaded the drive to declare the month of February as Reggae Month in 2008, and so, our annual month-long celebration is a major achievement for my ministry and serves to pay homage to our music and its creators,” she stated.
Of course, ranking high on the list is the UNESCO inscription of reggae music to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. She also mentioned the creation of the Jamaica Music Museum, located within the Institute of Jamaica complex in downtown Kingston, as a huge moment. It came into operation in 2009.
Minister Grange also had a history lesson for those who are seemingly unaware of the cradle of the music.
“I would also want to remind us that reggae music started in the western end of Kingston, specifically in and around the community of Trench Town. Reggae pioneers such as Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and even the Wailing Souls, among many others, saw Trench Town as a sanctuary where they could practise and develop their artistry,” she stated.
Minister Grange added, “Reggae’s birthplace still serves as a space of inspiration for our musicians, and my ministry will ensure that the space is supported, protected and developed so that it can continue inspiring our artistes for many generations to come.”