Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Varun Baker
Now in its 21st year, International Reggae Day is an annual celebration of reggae and Brand Jamaica that has spread worldwide. This year, IRD events were held in New York City, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Bombay, Barcelona, Geneva, Santiago, Madrid, and Dubai on July 1st. Of course, the main event took place right in the birthplace of reggae itself, in Kingston, Jamaica, and LargeUp was there to soak up all of the vibes.
International Reggae Day began in the morning with a conference at the Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, as panelists including Dubwise selector Yaadcore, producer Clevie Browne (Steely & Clevie) and music-industry-veteran turned politician Babsy Grange discussed topics including “Sound System Evolution,” “The Resurgence of Vinyl” and “Is Jamaica Still the Capital of Reggae Music?” In the evening, things moved over to the Countryside Club in Halfway Tree. The lush, outdoor venue was the setting for the “Salute to Jamaica’s Sound System Movement,” a combination dance, concert and awards show celebrating the pioneers and ambassadors of sound system culture— the foundation of reggae music.
Awards were presented to iconic Jamaican sounds such as King Jammy, Stone Love Movement, Merritone Music, Prince Buster’s Voice of the People, as well as to the late Louise Fraser Bennett, Japanese sound Mighty Crown and the Jamaica Sound System Federation. Performers who touched the stage for brief performances included Beenie Man, Ken Boothe, I-Wayne, Cherine Anderson, Bushman, Chuck Fender, Samory I, Denyque, Ras Malekot, Marla Brown and Natel.
The event was also an opportunity to witness some of the giants of Jamaica’s sound system fraternity mixing it up in one place. Merritone Music, the veteran disco sound founded some 50 years ago by Winston Blake, warmed things up with classic selections, while King Jammy himself delivered a live mix with the aid of his son, Jam2, including the debut of a new Jammy’s production featuring Bounty Killer, and a combination track from Beenie Man and Shaggy. In addition to performers and honorees, guests who took in the intimate event included Bounty Killer (who presented the lifetime achievement award to Jammy) Marcia Griffiths, Mr. Vegas, Junior Reid, Rory StoneLove and Jack Scorpio. In a rare public sight, Bounty and Beenie could be seen chatting, while Bounty, Junior Reid and Bushman, each of whom were part of Jammy’s stable of artists early in their careers, reconnected with their former mentor.
Scroll through the pics below for some of the visual highlights from the “Salute to Jamaica’s Sound System Movement.”
Stone Love meets I-Threes: Rory Gilligan and Marcia Griffiths.
Jammy and son: Lloyd “King Jammy’s” James and son Jammy “Jam2” James.
Paul “Chiney K” Lowe-Chin (accepting on behalf of Winston ‘Wee Pow’ Powell and StoneLove Movement) and Winston Blake of Merritone Disco display their awards.
Mixmaster J out of London brought the sounds for the live portion of the event… and also the best T-shirt.
Dub poet Ras Malekot, famed for his culture shop in Papine, stops for a pic following a stirring performance.
Samory I, a new singer under the wing of Rory StoneLove, collected ’nuff forwards during a brief set.
Mr. Vegas behind the stage and International Reggae Day founder/organizer Andrea Davis.
Marla Brown, an up-and-coming singer and the daughter of the late, great Dennis Brown, poses with bonafide Jamaican music legends Bounty Killer and Ken Boothe.
Beenie Man with legendary sound system operator and producer Jack Scorpio of Black Scorpio Sound. Beenie delivered the evening’s climactic performance, running through hits from “Memories” to “Rum and Red Bull,” and speaking on his love and appreciation for sound system and reggae culture.
Ken Boothe calls out for the mic.
Cherine Anderson poses for a pic in front of one of Countryside’s stylized shanties.
Killer and co: Bounty Killer and a friend.
I-Wayne nearly collapsed the stage with his fiery performance.