Jamaican Music

What’s in a Song? – A List Jamaica Independence Festival Song Winners

Edward Seaga once stated that the main reason for the inception of the Jamaica Independence Festival was to have to, “…have something to mobilize the spirit of the people,” to celebrate after the long arduous process of achieving Independence in 1962. After helping to lay the groundwork for the first festival, Seaga remembers it was decided that festival would be held every year in commemoration of the first festival and thus it became an annual event.  Since its creation, no single portion of the event has served to galvanize the sense of nationality and the celebration of our culture than the selection of the “Festival Song.”  One of my earliest memories is standing on my veranda with my thumb in my mouth skanking to that years’ festival winner.  Somehow, year after year, the selection committee always managed to get it right. Choosing just the right anthem to set the tone and mark the mood of the Island. The song literally becomes an auditory time-stamp as to the economic, political, and social tempo of the Island.  Whenever you hear it, it becomes an automatic jovial nostalgic frame of reference as to what it means to be a Jamaican.  We’ve compiled a condensed list of past winners let us know which were some of your favorites.  Visit the Jamaican Cultural Development Commission official website for a list of this year’s contenders and for festival information.

1966 – The Maytals with “Bam Bam”

1967 – The Jamaicans with “Ba Ba Boom”
1968 – Desmond Dekker & The Aces with “Music Like Dirt”
1969 – The Maytals with “Sweet and Dandy”
1970 – Hopeton Lewis with “Boom Shaka Laka”
1971 – Eric Donaldson with “Cherry Oh Baby”
1972 – Toots & the Maytals with “Pomps and Pride”
1973 – Morvin Brooks with “Jump In The Line”
1974 – Tinga Stewart with “Play de Music”
1975 – Roman Stewart with “Hooray Festival”
1976 – Freddie McKay with “Dance This Ya Festival”
1977 – Eric Donaldson with “Sweet Jamaica”
1978 – Eric Donaldson with “Land of my Birth”
1979 – The Astronauts with “Born Jamaican”
1980 – Stanley & The Turbines with “Come Sing With Me”
1981 – Tinga Stewart with “Nuh Wey Nuh Betta Dan Yard”
1982 – The Astronauts with “Mek Wi Jam”
1983 – Ras Karbi with “Jamaica I’ll Never Leave You”
1984 – Eric Donaldson with “Proud to be Jamaican”
1985 – Roy Rayon with “Love Fever”
1986 – Stanley & The Turbines with “Dem a fe Squirm”
1987 – Roy Rayon with “Give Thanks and Praise”
1988 – Singer Jay with “Jamaica Land We Love”
1989 – Michael Forbes with “Stop and Go”
1990 – Robbie Forbes with “Island Festival”
1991 – Roy Rayon with “Come Rock”
1992 – Heather Grant with “Mek wi Put Things Right”
1993 – Eric Donaldson with “Big It Up”
1994 – Stanley & The Astronauts with “Dem a Pollute”
1995 – Eric Donaldson with “Join de Line”
1996 – Zac Henrry & Donald White with “Meck We Go Spree”
1997 – Eric Donaldson with “Peace and Love”
1998 – Neville Martin with “Jamaica Whoa”
1999 – Cheryl Clarke with “Born Inna JA”
2000 – Stanley Beckford with “Fi Wi Island A Boom”
2001 – Roy Richards with “Lift Up Jamaica”
2002 – Devon Black with “Progress”
2003 – Stefan Penincilin with “Jamaican Tour Guide”
2004 – Stefan Penincilin with “Ole Time Jamaica”
2005 – Khalil N Pure with “Poverty”
2006 – Omar Reid with “Remember the Days”
2007 – Neville ‘Gunty’ Winters with “Woman A Di Beauty”
2008 – Roy Rayon with “Rise and Shine”
2009 – Winston Hussey with “Take Back Jamaica”
2010 – Kharuso with “My Jamaica”
2011 – Pessoa with “O If We (Can Change The World)”
2012 – Abbygaye ‘Abby’ Dallas with “Real Born Jamaican

About the author

Karen Mitchell