Inside Life

Andrea Davis with British reggae deejay Mixmaster J at !RD 2015 celebration.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

“Jamaica to UK, the Reggae Revolution” themes IRD’s 2018 Celebration of 50 Years of Reggae & Synergy With England.

A mention of the word reggae and folks may conjure images of red, gold and green, Rastafarians, Jamaica, music, dance and maybe even scents from puffs of aromatic weed wafting in the air.

The varied interpretation to a genre of music that originated in Jamaica 50 years ago is far more comprehensive, interpretative and definitive.

Perhaps that is why, midway in its existence, one woman decided to dedicate an entire day to showcasing some of the elements that comprise the music that also celebrates culture, family, heritage and a long list of proud achievements.

According to founder Andrea Davis, it was seeing and hearing Winnie Mandela in Kingston, Jamaica in 1992 that motivated her to herald the genre.

The South African matriarch and freedom fighter had accompanied her husband Nelson to the island for a ‘thank you’ visit after his release from 27 years of imprisonment in his homeland.

Davis was among the privileged audience invited to listen with other women in the capital city to the candid opinions Mandela lavished on the role reggae played in eradicating apartheid.

Davis explained that with that armor and the facts she had already laid claim to in Jamaica Arts Holdings (yes, JAH) she felt compelled to make a difference. She said she was convinced recording artists, scholars, music insiders and other like-minded individuals would share her vision of celebrating the revolutionary music.

Davis had also witnessed the impact of the music, working as an executive at JAMPRO, a governmental agency tasked with promoting the island.

Independent of government support or major sponsorship affiliations, (and with little cash) the lone, young, entrepreneur, mother and reggae purist embarked on a project she envisioned to be a 24-hour global celebration of Jamaican music and culture.

Of all the days and months already claimed for various commemorations, she chose JulyOne as the likeliest to flaunt the beat and rhythm that coined a new word to the global lexicon.

Two years later, her vision became a reality, with food, fashion, dance and artistry dominating the proceedings. After eliciting an alliance with the University of the West Indies and a number of radio stations on the island, she was able to broaden her reach which extended like tentacles throughout the world.

“In a year which marks UK’s role in the development of reggae in the last 50 years, the 2018 theme is ‘Jamaica to UK: The Reggae Revolution,” Davis said. “IRD is the first ever annual calendar event to be officially proclaimed and dedicated to celebrating the best of Jamaica’s lifestyle music and its impact on global culture.”

WBAI-99.5 FM will laud the annual during a broadcast on the Global Black Experience hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd on the eve of the anniversary.

For more detailed information log onto www.ireggaeday.com

Catch You On The Inside!

Through the years, she has managed to elicit support from Sandals, the largest operator of vacation resorts the Caribbean, with tourists fully engaged in an internet showcase brandishing the associated colors and sentiments of the day.

From their dining rooms, swimming pools to gateways to the many locations, guests of the chain touted IRD as the hallmark anniversary for boasting participation.

With that, the Jamaica Tourist Board tested the viability of their sponsorship, and key government officials acknowledged the potential of the industry, which has attracted movers and shakers in the music industry by showing solidarity with her brainchild.

On that date she has been able to execute a purposeful aim to ‘unite, inspire and uplift’ the global community by hosting concerts from Devon House, a national heritage site and the island’s first Black-owned mansion on the island, Emancipation Park, 56 Hope Road, where reggae king Bob Marley lived and recorded some of his most prolific freedom songs as well as here in New York City, two years ago, from a rooftop location.

“It was like being on top of the world…listening to the best music in it,” a patron stated.

With reggae music blasting loudly, fans of the genre looked down from a building that towered over the city to experience Toots Hibbert, of Toots & the Maytals, on JulyOne.

At each venue Davis has paid tribute to the contribution of luminaries of the genre dubbing them worthy of awards and commendations.

Among them: Island Records founder Chris Blackwell; Dennis Brown, the avowed Crown Prince of reggae; Winston “Merritone” Blake, sound-system operator of the Merritones; Toots Hibbert, often regaled as the individual who coined the word reggae (from streggay, a denigrating term that defined ‘loose’ women); Jimmy Cliff, internationally acclaimed actor, singer-songwriter; David Roddigan, UK-based radio personality and sound-system operator, as well as a long list of musical diplomats Davis refers to as reggae ambassadors.

That teaching lesson might have resonated when, in conjunction with the symposium, tours to Culture Yard in Trench Town; Tivoli Gardens Reggae Walk of Fame; Studio One and Tuff Gong Record labels, Alpha Boys School, tree planting ceremonies, culinary hotspots, poster contests, yoga demonstrations, photographic exhibitions and a myriad of associated reggae-related events spawned new endorsements of the day.

The global collaboration among music critics, authors, scholars, reggae purists, musicians and singers also imbued a slew of aficionados emanating from as far away as Dubai, New Zealand, South Africa, Hawaii and Japan.

“This year JAH has appointed BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress (BBM/BMC) as its sub-licensor for coordinating official IRD events in the UK,” Davis said.

“And in a year which marks UK’s role in the development of reggae in the last 50 years, the 2018 theme is ‘Jamaica To UK: The Reggae Revolution.”

“We are very pleased to be partnering with BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress (BBM/BMC) to further develop the brand experience in the UK, and to expand the impact and recognition of Jamaican music as a dynamic socio economic cultural force which has shaped the development of Jamaica, the UK and the world over the last 50 years.”

“IRD is the first ever annual calendar event to be officially proclaimed and dedicated to celebrating the best of Jamaica’s lifestyle music and its impact on global culture.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary “from the roots to the branches,” this year’s focus will also acknowledge immigrant workers from the island that sailed to the UK on the MV Empire Windbush in 1948. Now known as the Windrush Generation, their enterprising and uncertain voyage to Europe is being regaled as significant to both Jamaica and the UK.

“The annual initiative seeks to mobilize the music lovers in the global reggae community on JulyOne to build bridges and deepen the appreciation for Jamaica’s creative legacy.”

Launched to “showcase the influence of Jamaica’s creative entrepreneurs and their global offspring by using the power of music, media, visual arts and technology, the annual JulyOne celebration highlights noteworthy milestones and celebrates themes significant to the development and internationalization of Jamaican music.”

With the untimely passing of Winnie Mandela earlier this year, Davis plans to incorporate South African influencers on the music to include live concerts, film screening, sound system dances, industry panels, web broadcasts, radio salutes, television tributes, as well as product launches in strategic host cities in the UK, South Africa and here in the U.S.

WBAI-99.5 FM will laud the annual during a broadcast on the Global Black Experience hosted by Imhotep Gary Byrd on the eve of the anniversary.

For more detailed information log onto www.ireggaeday.com

Catch You On The Inside!

IRD founder Andrea Davis
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

More from Around NYC