Thursday, March 18, 2021

The U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper will honour the late Godfather of Dancehall, who helped to start the career of early toasters.

File The U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper will honour the late Godfather of Dancehall, who helped to start the career of early toasters. 1 2 The International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) will this year hand out the first-ever Toots Hibbert Award for the category Best Album/CD, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and the U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper. According to IRAWMA President Ephraim Martin, this is one way to honour the memory of these icons. Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, the frontman of the groundbreaking reggae and ska group Toots and the Maytals, and credited with naming the genre reggae, passed away on September 11, 2020. Legendary pioneer of the dancehall, Ewart Beckford, better known as U-Roy, took the art of toasting and transformed it into an international phenomenon. The Godfather of Dancehall helped to start the career of early toasters. U-Roy transitioned February 17. “Once they are alive, they are here with us, but we want to remember them,” Martin said. IRAWMA, now in its 39th consecutive year, has long gone the route of paying homage – upon their passing – to music industry players who have made a tremendous impact. “We used to have a General Echo award, and then we stopped doing that. We had a Vere Johns award for a very long time as well,” the founder explained. Other reggae heroes who have awards named after them are Bob Marley, Emperor of Reggae and World Music – Bob Marley Award for Entertainer of the Year; Peter Tosh Award for Recording Artiste of the Year; Jacob Miller Award for Best Male Vocalist; and Gregory Isaacs Awards for Best Song. There is also the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Awards, in honour of Jamaica’s first national hero and pan-Africanist. Award named for Mutabaruka Interestingly, dub poet and broadcaster, Mutabaruka, bucks the trend by being alive and having an award named after him. “Muta won the category for Best Poet/Spoken Word Entertainer so often, that he retired from it. After that, the award was named after him,” Martin explained. Acknowledging that this is the era of lockdown and new normal, which has seen in-person events and live concerts replaced by the virtual experience, IRAWMA has moved with the times and is this year asking industry persons to nominate the Virtual Entertainer of the Year and the Best Virtual Showcase. Nominations by artistes, producers, promoters, songwriters, record labels, entertainment media bloggers, managers, agents, engineers opened on February 1 and ends on March 10. Public voting runs from Monday, March 20, to April 20. ‘Reggae/World Music Rise’ is the theme for this year’s event, which honours musicians and industry professionals for their creativity and contributions during 2020. The virtual staging is scheduled for May 2, and Martin promises that it will be spectacular

Gem of a memory BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

A year ago, almost to the date, recording artiste Gem Myers was a guest at the JaRIA Honour Awards, organised by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. Sitting in the box, she could not resist the urge to rise to her feet once the tribute to honoree Bunny Wailer began. Filled with joy and pride, she danced to his classics such as Ballroom Floor, Cool Runnings, Boderation and Rock N' Groove as they were performed. On that night, she shared with the Jamaica Observer how hearing his music and seeing him being honoured had brought back a flood of memories from her days providing backing vocals for the reggae icon for stage and in studio.
Fast-forward to yesterday, and Myers was awash with mixed emotions as news of Bunny Wailer's death began to spread. She was saddened by his passing, but could not help but reflect on how fortunate she was to have worked with the legendary artiste. “I can't even recall how I first got to work with Jah B. I was very young, and as vocalists we were always in the studio working with other artistes. There was a little clique of us headed by Pam Hall, and so we would get work… so, Pam played an integral role in most of what I did and who I worked with back in those days. We did some great work with Bunny Wailer and I found him to be absolutely giving when it came to the work. Always approachable, always willing to share, always willing to teach. In the years after, whenever we saw each other on the road or events, he always acknowledged me and had very kind words and recollections of our years working together. I will always remember those days, they will stay with me for a lifetime,” she shared. On Boxing Day 1982, the National Stadium in St Andrew was filled with thousands of reggae fans for the concert Youth Consciousness. Bunny Wailer and Dennis Brown were among the top-billed acts, and Myers was among the backing vocalists. For her, that experience is one which forever sticks out in her mind. “Like I said, I was young and just being in the stadium and seeing all these people rocking to the music. It was my biggest show at that time and I couldn't believe I was on-stage with Bunny Wailer. It was such a great experience and it helped me with my confidence, just to perform for such a massive audience,” she said. Bunny Wailer's talents as vocalist, performer, arranger and songwriter are never overlooked by Myers, who noted that he always had a hand in crafting the harmony on his recordings, and his skills in pulling a performance together were worthy of emulation. “The man have some wicked tune… if yuh t'ink a lie check out his album Black Heart Man. His work with The Wailers is something we all know and must celebrate. Bunny Wailer is legacy-rich. He can rest knowing that he put in the work and generations to come will know him and his music. I can't point to a single tune that is my favourite… there are so many, Fire Burning, Ballroom Floor, Black Heart Man… too many,” noted Myers. “Jah B's passing is causing me to reflect on the number of legendary artistes that I have worked with as a backing vocalist. My first major job was with Peter Tosh on his Mama Africa album. I sang on about four of the tracks. So the only icon I haven't worked with is Bob [Marley]. I have since worked with Toots, Ras Karbi, Jimmy Cliff, Judy Mowatt, and the list goes on. I am truly grateful to have worked with these artistes including Bunny Wailer, as I know they have contributed to my career,” she added.

Toots Sweet And Dandy BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter

ANDREA Davis, local music industry insider and former manager of veteran reggae artiste Toots Hibbert, is echoing the sentiment of a number of Jamaicans that the late singer's latest Grammy win is bittersweet. Hibbert, who died in September last year, won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album on Sunday for his project Got To Be Tough. This was his second Grammy win; he took home the trophy in 2005 for True Love, and in 2013 he was nominated for Reggae Got Soul.
“I am very happy that the academy saw it fit to vote for him to win the Grammy, but, of course, it is bittersweet. We would have all wanted him to be with us in the flesh to accept his award. But this is a great achievement and a fitting addition to his legacy,” Davis told the Jamaica Observer. She also responded to the popular belief that Hibbert was a shoe-in to take the reggae category for sentimental reasons and that his death may have caused the members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the body which organises the Grammy, to vote in a particular way. “Sentiment may have very well played a role in the the way the members voted, let's just be honest. But the truth is the push that each nominee puts behind their nominated work also get a project noticed. Let's also be honest that there was a quite a bit of muscle that came with this great project and it paid off in getting it out in front. So even though I didn't work on this project with Toots, I am so pleased with this win,” Davis noted. Having worked with Toots for a number of years, Davis was privy to some great moments during his travels and performances both locally and overseas. For her, Toots was a special breed of artiste who was recognised along with the greats such as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff as being one of the architects, foundation and pillars of the Jamaican musical sound. “He's definitely part of that special collection that the artistes of today are benefiting from. It is his work and creativity, along with the others that we have lost in recent months such as Bob Andy, Bunny Wailer and Daddy U Roy that we in the industry has been built on. It is their legacy that we celebrate each time a young artiste steps on a stage here in Jamaic

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