Sunday, August 9, 2015

Thank You - 'Grand Gala' dancehall throwback selections

Jamaicans celebrated 53 years of independence August 6th in a grand showcase at the annual Grand Gala held at the National Stadium in Kingston.  A spectacular affair to say the least, the authorities pulled all the stops despite tight budget constrains to the theme, "Proud and Free! Jamaica 53."

For me, there has never been a dull moment at Grand Gala over the years. It's always a pleasure witnessing thousands of Jamaicans gathered together to celebrate Independence. The highlight of the night in my opinion was a performance by some children singing a medley of songs that ended with a classic rendition of Mr. Vegas's "Sweet Jamaica" single, lead by 12 year old Reggae/Dancehall artiste Wayne J who is best known for his "Chikungunya Song." The children sang their hearts out during a very well choreographed set and the event ended with performances by Etana, Agent Sasco, Judy Mowatt, Gospel singer Kevin Downswell, Cecile, Beenie Man, I-Octane and Fab Five band who brought the curtains down.  
Musical icons, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor and the Skatalites were honoured during the final segment of the show for 50 years of contribution to Jamaican music. But what caught my attention was the inclusion of a Dancehall throwback segment during an interval of the evenings presentation and just before the entertainment presentations.

Although organisers of Grand Gala over the years have always incorporated elements of the music in the presentations, the subtle gesture of a somewhat 'from then to now' Dancehall selection was significant and the effort commendable when one consider the grave disconnect between early reggae/dancehall music and young Jamaicans. Recently, I took the initiative to use this space (read that Dancehall 'Appeal' is real) to add my voice to the call for prominence of Reggae/Dancehall music in Jamaica just for this purpose, joining the many other voices who have made similar calls over the years. It might have been someone's idea to include the segment or, that the calls have been heard, but whatever it was I want to say to the organisers of Grand Gala 2015, thank you.  

Now observing the audience during the throw back/old school selection solidifies the call for more focus to be placed on creating a major platform to celebrate the music (past and present) as well as generate awareness among young Jamaicans. Selections that would normally ignite excitement in a play-off where only popular punchlines or choruses were delivered did not generate the type of reaction one expects at such an event. As a matter of fact, the audience was clearly, receptive to current music obviously because it is what they know.  The reaction was sparse to Red Dragon's 1990s hit song "Fresh" even after his late passing which also seems to fly under the radar.  R.I.P. Red Dragon 

This is a situation, but it can be corrected. Maybe this Grand Gala presentation was a step in that direction. Who knows? Maybe next year the authorities might include a road-march across Kingston during the Independence season leading up to Grand Gala. Imagine this creating a momentum going into the big day and even contribute significantly to the overall funding of the national showcase! Imagine a road march that capture various elements of the music from then until now! Dance songs celebrating dance moves from the days of ska until now or, the rastafarian culture and its influence on the music. Imagine a dancehall/reggae fashion showcase where people are dressed in diamond socks and wally b shoes or revellers in costumes paying homage to the greats and so much more! Sound crazy? Well I'm a dreamer and what goes around comes right back around. There's always room for improvement, let's see what will happen next year.


By: Sophia McKay
Click to read more: Grand Gala 2015