July 1 marks the 22nd anniversary year of a global celebration of Jamaica’s reggae music. Dubbed International Reggae Day by Andrea Davis — its founder and annual orchestrator — in conjunction with Jamaica Arts Holdings (JAH) the date also hails the Caribbean island’s early music forms — mento, ska and rock steady while fully focusing on the most popular and most exported genre.
In the beginning years of the celebration, a major concert in Kingston headlined a 24-hour media appreciation extensive program of education, and reclamation of the music which took the world by storm when Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Third World, Steel Pulse, Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru, Yellowman, Shabba Ranks, Shinehead and a myriad of recording artists released songs a world audience related to and embraced.
The concert in Kingston showcased established, burgeoning and future stars of the genre.
Since then each year, the date has not only celebrated the music form but with a focus on uniting the world through music has expanded its focus by including interactions with a global audience of like-minded reggae music lovers via the worldwide web.
Media broadened the range to incorporate print, radio, television and the internet and although fans throughout the world were unable to converge on the Caribbean capital for a single day’s concert, many participated at whatever geographical location they were, participating in a forum for discussions, hosting 24-hour music marathons, fashioning the red, gold and green colors, hosting tree planting ceremonies and in the name of IRD made award presentations to distinguished contributors of the popular hard-driving beat.
This year, 35 cities across the globe have signed on to commemorate IRD.
Beijing, China is the latest addition to last year’s roster of partners which totaled 25 participating cities.
In 2014 only three new additions to the IRD partnership marked the occasion.
Therefore from Beijing, China, to three cities in Brazil, celebrants in Sierra Leone, Singapore, Belize, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, Madagascar, Ibiza as well as numerous cities throughout the USA, the music of Jamaica will dominate radio and internet playlists.
“This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of rock steady,” Davis said.
Considered lover’s rock in some regions of the world due to its initial romantic focus, rock steady preceded reggae but was definitely birthed in Jamaica.
Along with ska, rock steady is considered Jamaica’s most modern dance music forms and the genres from which reggae evolved when it took over the use of the bass as a percussion instrument and changed the tempo to being slower than ska but faster than rock steady.
To many of media supporters IRD also presents an opportunity to hail the island.
Special playlists, programs and interviews will be conducted in territories across the globe and here in New York an acoustic set with Toots Hibbert of Toots & The Maytals, and a deejay session with Rice & Peas will highlight the day at Jimmy’s located at 15 Thompson St.
Reggae radio stations will program rock steady music featuring Alton Ellis, Hopeton Lewis, Desmond Dekker, Gregory Isaacs, Johnny Nash, Derrick Morgan, Freddy McGregor, Hortense Ellis, Prince Buster, Dawn Penn, Sugar Minott, Frankie Paul, Sanchez, Wayne Wonder, Leroy Sibbles, Bob Andy and a long list of reggae hit makers.
In addition reggae aficionados will boast their passion wearing red, gold and green, the colors associated with the beat.
In Jamaica, the day will be celebrated by IRIE-FM, reggae’s flagship radio station and the world’s only 24-hour reggae radio station.
Other local media will also acknowledge the date by programming interviews and music relevant to rock steady.
This year’s conference will focus on UNESCO’s recent designation of Kingston as a creative city.
“We are happy to have the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Jamaica Copyright Licensing Agency (Jamcopy) as sponsors of our annual conference which is divided into two parts,” Davis explained. “The morning session will focus on the digital content economy. This will focus on how to make money in this new dispensation — moving from downloads to streaming. It’s really a guide to navigating the new landscape. The afternoon session goes to the heart of the possibilities of Kingston as a creative city. We will be looking at the areas which can be developed and what that will mean for Kingston,” Davis added.
International media hosts this year are based in London, England, Bahia, Brazil and Beijing, China as well as Jamaica.