Rebel salute on Jamaica’s and Tony’s 50th birthday

Tony Rebel performing at his 19th Rebel Salute.
Photo credit: Fabian Burrell

Jamaican reggae artist Tony Rebel celebrated his 50th birthday at his annual Pepsi Rebel Salute 2012 which took place in Port Kaiser Sports Complex, St. Elizabeth on Saturday, Jan. 14 right through the morning of the 15th with a huge birthday cake, an impressive list of veteran and emerging reggae artists and a massive of die-hard roots-music lovers.

Veterans singing their big tunes; Eric Donaldson ‘Cherry Oh Baby,’ Edi Fitzroy ‘Princess Black,’ Admiral Bailey ‘Big Belly Man,’ Errol Dunkley ‘Ok Fred,’ Dancehall godfather Johnny Osbourne (returning to Jamaica for the first time since 1996) Buddy Bye,’ ‘Ice Cream Lover’ and ‘Truth and Rights’ had the crowd rocking. Tony Rebel’s son Abatau, a very pregnant Queen Ifrica, Bunny Wailer’s daughter Cen’C Love and son Asadenaki, the late reggae icon Bob Marley’s two sons Stephen and Damian Jr Gong Marley wowed the audience with favorites and new songs. Maxi Priest, Dominica’s Nelly Stharre (born in the year of The Dread Act, 1974; a law banning the growing of locks!!), Yami Bolo, Cali P of Guadeloupe, Gramps Morgan and Capleton rounded out the exhaustive list of performers too numerous to mention.

Producers Donovan Germaine, George Golden, reggae crooner Beres Hammond, and by Rebel’s estimation “over 10,000 plus people passed through the gates of the first show celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the independence of Jamaica.” He said in a phone interview, “the tone of the show highlights the strong family values and holistic energy of our people and we want to encourage more sponsors with that focus.”

Rebel, a true rastaman, is also a social commentator and a champion for the youth of Jamaica. “I am called a Rebel because I rebel against things that are not right. Sometimes we predict things, “Rebel reminded the audience as he sing-jayed one of his remarkable hit tunes, “Careful what you teach the little children, make sure a no something to hurt them, mind what you say to mi sister, she could be the next Prime Minister.” When he belted my favorite song, ‘If Jah is standing by my side, then why should I be afraid of the pestilence that crawleth by night,’ it was only topped when he sang Al Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together” pointing at me, his cousin!

To his credit, Rebel (born Patrick George Anthony Barrett) has consistently, for 19 years, provided top-notch musicians and singers; midst a strict policy of no re-entry, no drugs, no weapons, no meat and no alcohol. With Pepsi being the largest corporate sponsor and no alcoholic beverage sponsors on board it is a great feat to provide the kind of mastery in music without the familiar violence which plagues some large open air events.

The sponsors are an important component to any event and should be recognized for meeting the objectives of this Flames Production; to showcase authentic Jamaican culture through music, art, fashion and food; promote cultural exchange between Jamaica and the African Diaspora; promote community tourism and encourage social and environmental responsibility; partner with cultural groups/organizations, corporations and government, forge lasting alliances that will preserve and promote authentic Jamaican culture both locally and internationally; provide a platform for artists to champion their causes; expose “Saluters” to an event experience where profanity is prohibited, healthy eating is supported and a family vibe is encouraged and highlighted.

They are, in no particular order; Grace Soups, Grizzly’s Entertainment, Jamaica Tourist Board, The Star, IRIE FM, Courts, Grace Earth Chef, Go-Jamaica, The Gleaner Company Limited, JAMPRO, CVM TV, Little Ochie Seafood, Visual Vibe, Fountain Pimento Oil, Reggae Entertainment TV, Ward’s Power Tools,, Security Innovations Limited, Impulse Energy Drink and Wyndham Hotel.

While in Jamaica for Rebel Salute I stayed at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston and got the royal treatment each day. Since their June 2009 grand opening which I attended and reported in this newspaper they continue to provide concierge service from the bellman to the executive staff. General Manager Lee-Ann Godfrey reminds us that the hotel welcomes “not only business persons but at any given time you may catch a glimpse of celebrity entertainers or prominent business persons dining in the Gallery Café which serves up scrumptious Jamaican delicacies like ackee and salt-fish with dumplings, cabbage and corned beef, green bananas and bammies, right alongside continental breakfast fare; bacon and eggs and made-to-order omelettes.”

Trinidadian singer/songwriter Jah Melody signed to VP Records in NYC stayed at SCH while working on his latest cd with local music producers. Astronomer Cleveland Gustard of the Astronomical Association of Jamaica along with fellow astronomers Robert Rodriquez and Erroll Rickman, President AAJ pointed out Sirius the brightest star, planets Venus and Jupiter and the constellations Orion and Taurus while standing next to the infinity pool on the Sky Terrace.

I visited Deputy Director of Tourism Jason K. Hall in his office at the Jamaica Tourist Board to get an idea of the relevance and impact of a one-day event like ‘Rebel Salute.’ “Events on a whole are a critical part of our marketing. Rebel Salute is a remarkable concept…it is the largest single night event without alcohol and drugs. That is very hard to find as a lot of the main sponsors tend to be liquor distributors. And Rebel Salute has been successful without them. We salute Tony Rebel! This could definitely be a two-day show,” he opined.

Wyndham Hotel was the host hotel for Rebel Salute and I enjoyed a one-night stay there prior to returning to the U.S. Their poolside dinner buffet with its offering of a different culinary theme every night, with accompanying live music is of mass appeal and on Tuesdays (my lucky night) I caught the Jamaican flavor with curry goat, jerk chicken and jerk pork, rice and peas, provisions; that is yam, banana, boiled dumpling and escovitch fish. No meal is complete without dessert; bread pudding, cheesecakes and other sweet fares.

Plan to visit Jamaica during their 50th year of independence and definitely book ahead for Rebel Salute 2013, its 20th year.

Tony Rebel performing at his Rebel Salute in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica.
Photo credit: Fabian Burrell
Photo by Fabian Burrell

More from Around NYC