First International Reggae Day in London

Kwaku (left) presentsan award to Lloyd Coxsone.

Following the successful launch of the very first celebration of International Reggae Day in London, an amalgam of Black music devotees claim they are fully committed to making July 1 a hallmark event on the annual, British cultural calendar.

Members of Music Congress (BBM/BMC), organizers of the inaugural event held at University Of Westminster’s Marylebone campus said because of the tremendous success of the event they plan to promote the Jamaica-originated annual which has been celebrated for 23 years on the island.

Founded by Kingston-based Andrea Davis who heads Jamaica Arts Holdings (JAH), IRD events have hoisted the reggae banner touting fashion, symposium, concerts, tree-plantings, poster contests, digital displays, award presentations, and even shone the spotlight on the genre’s Trench Town birthplace through media tours etc.

Throughout the years, internet connections enabled virtual connections, radio programming and live stream broadcasts devoted to the day with 24-hour reggae music and interviews. In addition, aficionados annually hail the day sporting red, gold and green in tribute to the banner that identifies the roots music many revere as “heartical” and spiritually defined dominantly by Rastafarians.

Last year, New York launched its IRD festivities with a Manhattan roof-top fete that featured a performance by Toots Hibbert, lead singer of the renowned Toots & The Maytals. A deejay blasted continuous reggae music – spanning the various forms of its evolution from mento to ska, rock-steady, lover’s rock, spoken word, dub and dancehall.

In London the day featured a film, discussions on Britain’s sound system history, a presentation on copyright and its role in the development of Jamaican music, a quiz, and highlights from a documentary that claims the London borough of Brent as the centre of Britain’s reggae history.

During the quiz portion the history of Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill carnival was examined.

Veteran sound system operator and record producer Lloyd Coxsone received an IRD2017 award for his long-standing work as the innovator of the Sir Coxsone Outernational sound system.

Fellow veteran record producer and manager Mikey Campbell and singer-songwriter Tony Washington — whose song ‘Something’s Gotta Be Done’ was the b-side to Millie Small’s 1964 crossover hit “My Boy Lollipop” made the official presentation.

BBM / BMC also acknowledged the late Daddy Vego.

Vego operated the Ladbroke Grove-based Peoples Sound record shop and sound system in London.

His son Far Adams accepted the accolades.

Also, three BBM / BMC awards in recognition of Carroll Thompson, Janet Kay and Paul Dawkins were announced.

Recognized for promoting the UK’s reggae sub-genre known as lover’s rock internationally and putting Brent on the musical map they will be presented at the Brent Black Music History Quiz event at Brent Civic Centre on July 28.

“Apart from the formal event, the conversations and networking continued for over two hours after the event officially ended, clearly demonstrating the need for such an event,” Kwaku, BBM / BMC founder said.

“For those that didn’t know, they must now know that we’ll continue International Reggae Day London on July 1 2018.”

Committing to a bigger and better event, Kwaku added “So if you’re interested, get involved now.”

Prior to the IRD date, Rebel Soul, promoters of the Positive Vibration Festival of Reggae, collaborated with the International Reggae Poster Contest (IRPC) to organize the 18th successful “Art of Reggae” exhibition in the city of Liverpool.

The Constellations Gallery and Arts Council England supported the staging of the distinctive exhibition which featured the top 100 posters in the 5th International Reggae Poster Contest.

Allegedly, there “was a huge gathering of art and reggae enthusiasts at the gallery who certainly appreciated the global range of the amazing posters.”

Mark Ross, the head of sound and build of Positive Vibration, opened the exhibition, followed by Dane Thompson, son of the late Michael “Freestylee” Thompson, co-organizer of the contest.

Greek national Maria Papaefstathiou, co-organizer, spoke about the contest and its impact on the world.

Seth Ramocan, Jamaica’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom attended the exhibition with his wife Dr. Lola Ramocan.

Dub poet Levi Tafari performed some of his music.

The opening also included a silent auction to benefit the Alpha Boys School in Kingston.

“We thank everyone who helped to make this an outstanding exhibition in the UK!”

“The Positive Vibration Festival has taken a big step up this year celebrating the visual art and powerful sounds of Jamaican culture in all its diversity. Congratulations to everyone!”

The flagship event in Kingston featured a street dance on a Kingston waterfront where reggae crooner Beres Hammond, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Osbourne ‘King Tubby’ Ruddock and Big Youth were honored.

Several dub poets along with the beloved Louise Bennett-Coverley AKA Miss Lou were also acknowledged.

Reportedly, IRD was inspired by the visit of Nelson and Winnie Mandela July 1991 soon after the freedom fighter was released from South African prisons after 27 years of confinement. Davis launched her brainchild July 1, 1994 and each year since she has added new and innovative aspects to the now-global annual celebration.

This year, one of the two major airports in Jamaica — Sangster International Airport – showcased an exhibition for the annual International Reggae Poster Contest which will culminate on Nov. 17.

The exhibition featured the top 100 posters from the fifth annual contest that were selected from among 1,270 entries submitted by 748 graphic designers representing 75 nations.

The winning submissions can be seen on the competition’s website

The first place winner, Russian national Julia Egorova won a trip to Jamaica.

Second place went to Cortney Benvenuto of the USA and third place to Simona Galizia of Italy. Posters created by two Jamaican graphic designers, Andre Hutchinson and Phillip Taylor were also selected for the exhibition.

Introduced as a feature of IRD in 2012, the contest is the brainchild of late Jamaican graphic designer Michael “Freestylee” Thompson.

Exhibitions have been mounted throughout the world at Jamaican embassies, reggae festivals, in galleries, museums and universities.

This is the first year an airport has hosted the exhibition.

As its primary objective, the contest engages reggae fans from across the globe by providing a platform for artistic expression that celebrates the universal appeal of and respect for Jamaican music. The outpouring of artistic talent, in turn, heightens Jamaica’s musical presence internationally, supporting the founders’ vision for a world class Reggae Hall of Fame to be headquartered in Kingston.

In addition, the contest also aims to raise awareness and funding through the sale of posters for the Alpha Boys’ School, a non-profit institution that provides vocational training and general education for 150 teens and young men from inner city communities.

The school has nurtured several notable icons of Jamaican music and continues to make an important social and cultural contribution.

Two jury panels comprised of 24 judges each, hailing from Jamaica, Canada, Greece, the USA, Mexico, Cuba, Ghana, China, Japan, Bolivia, Italy, Israel and the United Kingdom decide the winners

Catch You on the Inside!

International Reggae Day Poster contest in Liverpool, England.
Maria Papaefstathiou

More from Around NYC