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Top 10 Jamaican Arts and Entertainment News Stories of 2019

The 2019 entertainment and arts news was marked by the celebration of birthdays, awards, and reunions. Sean Paul received the Order of Distinction, the I-Threes reunited to receive an award, and Buju Banton celebrated his first birthday after being released from prison and made his triumphant “Long Walk to Freedom” tour. Folklorist and author “Miss Lou” was celebrated, and a film about Jamaican Mary Seacole went into production. Bob Marley’s house in London received a plaque to mark its historic nature, and Kanye West brought his pop-up church service to Kingston.

SEAN PAUL AWARDED JAMAICA’S ORDER OF DISTINCTION Sean Paul, Jamaican dancehall superstar. received the country’s Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander on National Heroes Day. The honor was given in recognition of Paul’s contributions to the international promotion and popularity of Jamaican reggae music. Paul, who was born Sean Paul Francis Henriques, joined 142 other Jamaicans to be honored on National Heroes Day at Kings House on October 21, 2019.


In an emotional moment at the award ceremony of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), the all-female reggae group the I-Threes accepted the Iconic Award before an enthusiastic crowd of fans. The group, which includes Judy Mowatt, Bob Marley’s widow Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths, was honored for its outstanding contributions to reggae music. The appearance of Mowatt and Griffiths was marked with thunderous applause, and when Rita Marley appeared on the center of the stage, the crowd gave her a standing ovation and it brought some fans to tears.

BUJU BANTON’S “LONG WALK TO FREEDOM” CONCERT ONE OF BIGGEST IN JAMAICAN HISTORY Buju Banton’s “Long Walk to Freedom” concert was one of the largest concerts in the history of Jamaica. On March 16, 2019, the tour began in Kingston at National Stadium, a stadium with a 35,000-seat capacity. The crowd included fans from around the world. The concert tour celebrated Banton’s completion of a prison sentence and his return to performing. The concert included performances by Chronixx. Delly Ranx. Cocoa Tea. Agent Sasco, Etana, Romain Virgo, and Banton’s son Jahazeil Myrie.

BUNNY WAILER CELEBRATED HIS BIRTHDAY IN KINGSTON Reggae icon Bunny Wailer celebrated his 72nd birthday in Kingston at Rebel T International HQ on April 13, 2019, although he was actually born on April 10, with family and friends surrounding him. Wailer is the sole surviving member of the three most famous Wailer musicians. The celebration was headed by Abijah Asadenaki’ Livingston, his only son. The birthday celebration was themed “Rootsman Skankin’,” which referred to the name of Bunny Wailer’s first dancehall-style album of 1987.

SKATALITES CELEBRATED 55TH ANNIVERSARY WITH CONCERT TOUR From its beginnings in 1964, the vocal group The Skatalites have been Jamaica’s top ska band that had considerable influence on other musicians. Their mix of blues and jazz made the group popular around the world and contributed to the impact of Jamaica on the world’s music. While the original group inline-up lasted just 14 months, it recorded thousands of songs, some still being discovered. The group broke up in 1985, but its members remained active in the development of Jamaican popular music. The celebration tour began in Colombia and continued on to the United States, France and the United Kingdom.

FILM ABOUT LIFE OF MARY SEACOLE STARTED PRODUCTION A film about the life of Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole went into production. “Seacole” is being produced by Racing Green Pictures, a new American firm. Its stars include Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Worthington and is expected to be released in 2020. Mbatha-Raw has previously appeared in the films Beyond The Lights, A Wrinkle in Time, and Concussion starring Will Smith. Worthington starred in Avatar and Clash of The Titans. According to producer/director Bill Peterson, Seacole’s life shows her to be an extraordinary woman who was born in Kingston and became a hero through her work in Jamaica, often with the British, during fever and cholera epidemics. She also worked with the British during the Crimean War and later opened her own hospital.

BUJU BANTON CELEBRATED HIS 45TH BIRTHDAY Star performer Buju Banton began the celebration of his 45th birthday by chanting a prayer asking for guidance. This was his first birthday as a free man after spending his previous nine birthdays serving time in prison. The celebration was held at the AC Hotel by the Marriott in New Kingston on July 15, 2019. Banton gave a short speech in which he attempted to describe what he was feeling at the moment and he remembered the days he would long for freedom and to be with his family and friends. Guests included Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, former Minister of Culture Lisa Hanna, Grammy award-winner Sean Paul, reggae singer Romain Virgo, Rory Stone Love and Jabba from Best of the Best.

JAMAICA CELEBRATED LIFE AND WORK OF MISS LOU OVER 100 DAYS The centenary of Louise Bennett-Coverly, better known as “Miss Lou,” was marked by 100 days of celebration to honor the life and work of the iconic island folklorist, poet, and educator. The activities were organized by numerous agencies, including the National Library of Jamaica, Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and Bureau of Gender Affairs. The celebration began on September 7, 2019.

HOUSE IN LONDON WHERE BOB MARLEY, WAILERS LIVED MARKED WITH PLAQUE In 1977, reggae icons Bob Marley and The Wailers lived in a house in West London. Now the United Kingdom has recognized the historic value of the house with a plaque identifying its location and its connection to the pioneer Jamaican musicians. With the UK’s recognition, Marley joined John Lennon, Mozart, and Freddie Mercury, among other musicians and composers whose living spaces have received the coveted blue plaque.

KANYE WEST BROUGHT HIS POP-UP PRAISE SERVICE TO EMANCIPATION PARK American superstar songwriter, rapper, and entrepreneur Kanye West brought his pop-up Sunday Service, complete with a 120-voice choir, to Emancipation Park in St. Andrew on October 20, 2019. Jamaica’s Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment Olivia Grange received a call from West’s advance people requesting the opportunity for him to stage his praise and worship service on the island. West had held these services in various locations around the world and had Jamaicans working with him to facilitate the event.

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