Special Festival Song for Jamaica 50

The firsts Festival song winner, ‘What a Bam Bam’ by Toots Hibbert, captured the first prize 46 years ago.

KINGSTON, Jamaica – April 2012) – The winning song in this year’s Festival Song Competition should create feelings of joy and patriotism among Jamaicans.

The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), with help from the public, will be selecting such a song to celebrate the nation’s 50th Anniversary of Independence under the theme: ‘Jamaica 50: A Nation on a Mission’.

Formerly known as the Popular Song Competition, it is the longest running song competition in Jamaica and it has brought fame to many of the country’s singers since the first winning composition, ‘What a Bam Bam’, by Toots Hibbert, captured the first prize 46 years ago. Renamed the Jamaica Festival Song Competition in 2008, it is now a major event for Jamaica’s Emancipation/Independence celebrations.

“After the period of the Popular Song, we have been on a mission to improve the quality and I can say the quality has improved each year,” says Co-ordinator of the Festival Song Competition at the JCDC, David Reid.

Over the years, the contest has produced singers, such as Eric Donaldson, who has won seven times, and Roy Rayon, who has won five times. Only two female winners, Cheryl Clarke, known as ‘Chetenge’, and Heather Grant have managed to come first. Last year’s winner was Everton David Pessoa with ‘Oh if we’.

“This year we have two females in the final and we hope one will show her talent over the males and come out on top. But then, all ten are sounding good, so any game can play, male or female,” Mr. Reid tells JIS News.

He notes that preparations are well advanced for the final showdown, which is slated for Saturday, July 7, when the finalists will vie for the coveted prize. The new strategy, he says, is for the song to be selected one month before the Independence celebrations to give Jamaicans time to get familiar with the winning song.

The competition will be launched in early May, and the remainder of that month and June will be the promotional period, Mr. Reid adds.

“So, they will hit the radio, they will hit the television and we will have them on the road so persons can get to see and know them, know the ten songs, select their number one song and by the time we get to July 7, we would have decided which one is the winning song,” he says.

The titles of the songs are: Bess A Bess, Dis A Mi Island, Down in Jamaica, I Love JA, Jamaica Beat Dem Bad, Jamaica Jah Mek Ya, Jamaica Mi Love Unu, One for All Jamrock, Real Born Jamaican and Still Going Strong.

“They are really sounding good, and they cut across all the genres of Jamaican music, so by the time they are studio ready and ready for airplay, I’m sure Jamaicans are going to say, wow, we’ve really made a tribute to music in Jamaica,” Mr. Reid says, while admitting that the songs are still in their “raw state.”

“We go into production of the album and videos in April, because we want to have the launch in early May and give the album at least 10 weeks to be properly promoted leading up to July 7. By the first week of May, we should have the album ready for the public and the media. We have a name working on and we will not release it until the launch, so that will be a surprise” he adds.

The singers are: Demton Bedward, Nester Chung, Rudolph Tomlinson, Ryan Willis, Tashina McKenzie, Calvin Wisdom, Sheldon Howell, Abbygaye Dallas, Oniel Scott; and Dorel Lecky, Reginald Mills and Gregory Allison, the only group in the competition. They were selected at the semi-final held on March 15 at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, when 35 participants performed their entries. The JCDC received 160 entries from across the island.

Over the past months, the artistes participated in a series of developmental workshops, which were intended to provide them with the necessary grooming and training. “We looked at grooming, we looked at vocal delivery, we looked at stage craft, and we looked at media relations, because all this will help the finalists as they now move towards the finals and into their careers,” Mr. Reid tells JIS News.

He argues that although the artistes are talented, training was necessary, especially in media relations. Also, it was important for them to develop interviewing skills in order to represent themselves and the JCDC well, he adds.

Additionally, he says the new entrants need to learn the importance of image, stage craft and the music world. “We want them to work that stage and entertain the public and let the public walk away with something memorable for Jamaica 50 and Independence 2012,” he says.

To help enhance the production of the songs and the artistes’ stage presence, the JCDC has received help from well known Jamaican personalities, such as Artistic Director/Choreographer of L’Acadco, Dr. L’ Antoinette Stines; Musical Director with the University Singers, Djene Greaves; Broadcaster and Media Specialist, Dervan Malcolm and Donovan Marshall.

Regarding the titles chosen for the songs, Mr. Reid says the artistes were free to produce whatever they wanted. “What we tell them, come with your song, no matter what genre of music it is, but make it one that is filled with national pride, have a bit of patriotism in it and one that will enable and engage the public for them to dance and sing along,” he says.

Mr. Reid tells JIS News that the types of songs received were exactly what the JCDC had requested. “I’m sure when the public get a chance to listen to them, they will enjoy these songs as much as I’m enjoying them at the moment,” he says.

Jamaicans will also get an opportunity to hear the singers when they perform across the island at several road shows in May and June.

According to Mr. Reid, the winning song will be selected by a dual marking system, which includes votes from the public and the judges’ scores. The public will begin voting after the launch and up to the date of the finals. “This is not a JCDC event, this is a Jamaica thing, so we want all Jamaicans to be part of it and play a part in selecting the song,” he says.

Mr. Reid says the Marketing Department has been busy asking business entities to sponsor the competition, as well as other events of the JCDC. Last year the Festival Song winner walked away with a brand new Nissan Tida, given by Fidelity Motors Limited, while communications company, Claro, donated $1 million.

“We must place on record, that Fidelity is back with us. We must give thanks to Fidelity for being the sponsor of the Festival Song winner,” he says, adding that a list of supporters would be announced at the launching ceremony in May.

Mr. Reid says the JCDC has been pursuing its vision of unearthing, developing and showcasing the best of Jamaican culture.

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