IRD 21: Celebrates Global Reggae Culture

Andrea Davis of Jamaica Arts Holdings.

Big plans are now in motion to mark the 21st anniversary celebration of International Reggae Day.

It is the first calendar event in the world to be officially proclaimed and dedicated to celebrating reggae music.

The global fete for a genre birth in Jamaica is annually held on July 1 and by its definition describes the music of reggae as — “the infectious syncopated sound from the little rock that has turned pirate into governors, quietly shaping western civilization while giving rise to a major social revelation and lifestyle movement.”

This year, IRD will salute the Jamaican sound system movement and recognize the fundamental and pioneering role the operators played in advancing the growth of Jamaica’s music and lifestyle culture.

Reggae lovers on virtually every continent are already committed to the July 1 date. Their worldwide participation via, radio, the internet and other medium will add to the annual internationalization of the festive celebration.

Local events at varying destinations have focused on concerts, conferences, film screenings, photo and literary exhibitions relevant to the genre. This year’s program already has committed cities and on radio stations in New York, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Honolulu, Hawaii, London, England and Mumbai, India.

Although countries in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia and throughout the Caribbean have annually participated in the festivities, Jamaica has been the focal point of major activities helming fashion shows, concerts, international reggae poster contests, digital art displays, tree planting ceremonies, symposia, and a myriad of reggae-related activities geared to include generations, nationalities and genders.

Andrea Davis, whose Jamaica Arts Holdings (JAH) created and sustained the unifying calendar date through two decades said her principal motive was to mobilize “celebration of the best of Jamaica’s creativity and unite, inspire and uplift the reggae community through special programming complimenting a network of official lifestyle party events.”

According to the Kingston-based trailblazer, this year a conference will engage audiences for a discussion on how to create bridges between capital and culture in Jamaica. It will be presented in two sessions: “Securing Jamaica’s Competitive Advantage in the Global Market,” and “Jamaica’s Sound System Movement and Creative Economy.”

Its aim will be to focus on how Jamaica can benefit from the vast international reggae market which seems to be the biggest benefactors of profits from the genre.

According to Davis, although major accomplishments have been recorded throughout the years, “reggae is still not being given a priority in terms of investment and promotion here.”

“How do we secure a share of what’s out there?” Davis asked. “That’s what we will be focusing on.”

“As the home of reggae, when you look out there, there are so many versions of ourselves. For example, right now there are more sound systems outside of Jamaica. There are secure brand deals and making inroads into the market which Jamaicans are not doing or not in a position to see. We need to become more proactive in maintaining our competitive advantage or we won’t be in that position for long,” Davis added.

She attributes some of the impediments to a greater share of the harvest to bureaucracy on the island. She also said apathy could be a reason for the lackluster attitude she observes. The Rastafarian advocate said it is her belief that far more enthusiasm for the music exists outside of Jamaica.

“There is an under-appreciation of the value of reggae and what it means and can mean to our economy based on the impact it continues to have in the marketplace,” Davis added.

It is a recurring argument she has advanced for decades and consistent through her executive position during her tenure at JAMPRO, the government’s agency tasked with promoting the island.

As to the purpose of the now adult IRD she said, “this is also an opportunity for the local music industry to pull together, as Jamaica is the culturally authentic home to reggae.”

Past conferences have focused on copyright extension, creative industries, IP brands, social design, and media.

Other events on the official itinerary include a countdown dance at the Rose Town Community Centre, an after-party at the Countryside Club, concert in Emancipation Park, and a digital art exhibit at one of the city’s prominent hotels.

Fans will be able to access participating media, special playlists, new releases, and live-stream feeds from IRD parties online at www.ireggaeday.com.

IRD also promotes Jamaica’s creative industries and reggae’s lifestyle brands through the 24-hour media festival with increased airplay, media exposure, and online promotion of premium brands and quality content.

The day’s events will culminate with a live concert at a club in Half-Way-Tree, a section in the capital which is said to be the mid-point between uptown and downtown Kingston.

Hosted annually by Kingston which claims to be the birthplace of Jamaica’s music — a strategic brand-marketing initiative integrates a creative platform designed to showcase Jamaica’s capital as a cultural city. To that effort numerous vendors and participants will highlight the impact of Jamaica, reggae, and Rastafari on global pop culture.

The all-day program also endorses the support of music education in Jamaica through the Alpha Boys School Project.

Most of all each year organizers attempt to highlight “important individuals, institutions, and milestones that have shaped Jamaica’s creative legacy and added to its brand value.”

A latter-day addition to the social media campaign mobilizes fans using #ThisIsMyReggae campaign.

Supported by reggae ambassadors, among those already confirmed to register their hash-tags are: musicians Sly & Robbie, Toots & the Maytals, Inner Circle, Third World, Steel Pulse, Freddie McGregor, Marcia Griffiths, Luciano, Tarrus Riley, Protoje, I-Wayne, Kymani Marley, Cherine Anderson, Junior Kelly, Jah9, Maxi Priest, Alborosie, and Indian reggae artistes Delhi Sultante and Begum X, who will host the final 2015 IRD Festival event in Bombay on July 4.

Please join in this July 1 celebration so that Jamaica and the world may reverberate for a day with the power of the best of reggae’s global culture.

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