Reggae Month hails 76th birthday of king of the genre

Jamaicans walk in front of a mural of reggae singers Denis Brown (L) and Bob Marley in Kingston, Jamaica.
Associated Press/Jorge Silva, file

The high point of Jamaica’s cultural calendar coincides with Black History Month and was declared Reggae Month in 2008.

Proclaimed by the island’s Ministry of Culture, February showcased the most diverse platforms with spotlight on the genre in films, foods, spoken word, theater, fashion, music, theater, health and wellness, tourism and symposia.

From Feb. 1, the birthday of Dennis Brown, the Crown Prince of Reggae has been annually regaled with leap year presentations culminating the shortest of the year.

Brown died in 1999 at age 42.

His fans lamented his untimely passing on that July 1, a day the fraternity regard as International Reggae Day.

This year, following a year-long celebration of Bob Marley’s 75th birthday anniversary, Reggae Month goes into high gear with a plethora of tributes inclusive of the Feb. 6 birthday commemoration of the King of Reggae.

The events include a virtual global birthday celebration hosted by the Bob Marley Museum, a Bob Marley tribute live-stream by Stephen Marley and a limited six-LP and a three-CD set release of “Songs of Freedom: The Island Years.”

SiriusXM’s new Bob Marley Tuff Gong Radio channel will also run specialty programming on the day, tagged ‘All Bob, All Day.’

Marley’s 76th will be celebrated under the theme ‘Survival’, the name of his 1979 album.

The Bob Marley Foundation’s virtual event will be held in lieu of the live annual birthday celebration that usually occurs at the 56 Hope Rd., Kingston-located Bob Marley Museum.

A pre-taped 12-hour celebration will deliver the usual fervor fans are accustomed to feature messages from the family. A performance from Miami will highlight the Marley brothers as well as third-generation Marley off-springs.

Not to be missed is a “Survival” tribute collaboration with performances from: Skip Marley, Jo Mersa, Tifa, Kabaka Pyramid, Agent Sasco, and Tanya Stephens.

More Family Time with Ziggy Marley; memorial tributes for Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert and Betty Wright who died last year and performances from Papa Michigan, Richie Spice, and Beenie Man.

The day will begin with a morning ceremony which includes the blowing of the abeng and Nyabinghi drumming.

The culinary aspects will be satiated with ‘In the Marley Kitchen’ a presentation featuring prominent chefs from Jamaica.

Story-telling, meditation and yoga, children’s sing-a-long, tree-planting ceremony and reggae jam sessions will incorporate the rest of the day.

Although COVID-19 restricts crowd gatherings, ZJ Sparks and Ity Ellis will host a virtual jam session to provide a mix of old and newly-recorded performances, by Marcia Griffiths, Capleton, Jesse Royal, and Koffee.

The virtual celebration will be available on Tuff Gong Television and its YouTube channel, as well as all Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport social media platforms.

Cicely Tyson with freelancer Vinette K. Pryce at the United Nations. Source: Vinette K. Pryce

DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH ALL HAIL THE QUEEN

New Yorkers are particularly aggrieved by the passing of actress Cicely Tyson on Jan. 28.

Beloved in her birthplace of the Village of Harlem the Bronx and all the boroughs for her deliberate choice portrayals of Black characters, the 96-year-old thespian kwas revered royalty of stage and screen – New York’s drama queen.

The sad news of her death followed similar announcements of celebrities — broadcaster Larry King and actress Cloris Leachman.

Revered for stellar onscreen performances she delivered in “Roots,” “Sounder,” “The Diary of Miss Jean Pittman,” and so many outstanding works, those of us who reside in New York City may have reflections of seeing the Harlem resident on Broadway.

Yours truly has been fortunate to see her on the Great White Way on numerous occasions. Nostalgia recalls her in 2013 when at age 88 she wowed sold out patrons in “The Trip to Bountiful.”

My mother was exalted by her abounding energy and grace.

Tyson won a Tony Award for her portrayal of the role.

In 2015 I saw her again co-starring with James Earl Jones in August Wilson’s “Gin Games” in 2010.

(It was a two-fer attraction for me as Wilson wins in the category of best playwrights).

It’s still a mystery how at age 90 she was able to maneuver the intricacies associated with the production much less recall those long speeches she nightly recited with two added matinees each week — without once missing a curtain call.

That she was married to jazz musician Miles Davis always seemed alluring.

But most pleasing to me though was watching from a distance, her routine visits to the Union Square farmer’s market on a Saturday.

It is one of my weekend rituals, and each time I saw her it was added pleasure watching the star not only inspecting her organic purchases but like any ordinary keen purchaser admired how she blended in with shoppers looking for quality bargains.

After recognizing her on a first occasion, I realized she preferred anonymity and unpretentiously desired the ambiguity New York provides. Since then I always respected the privacy she sought.

It’s ironic her memoir “Just As I Am” was due for release in hours of her exit.

Memories of the dignity she exemplified will be indelible.

Also notable is her comments to 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman on her reading at the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden.

“Your words remind us that we will rise, rebuild, reconcile and recover.

Thank you for your words and light.”

Back at you, Ms. Tyson, you are the Caribbean queen a shining star from Nevis.

You brightened the stage and sphere and ruled with majesty.

 Catch You On The Inside!

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