The entertainment news in 2021 was dominated by music and musical artists, some first-time hits and the passing of music legends. Jamaican authors won acclaim and honor with awards, sprint champion Usain Bolt started another career as a recording artist, and Khalia Hall became the new Miss World Jamaica. Jamaican artists were inducted into the New York-based Young, Gifted & Black (YGB) Caribbean Music Entertainment ICON Hall of Fame during Black History Month. “Lockdown” by Grammy award-winner Koffee was named “Song of the Year” by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA. The Marley family gave its approval to the remix of Bob Marley’s iconic “Get Up, Stand Up” by American singer and songwriter Nakkia Gold. Bunny Wailer, the pioneer reggae artist and last surviving founding member of The Wailers group, died in Jamaica at the age of 73. The legendary reggae singer and record producer “Lee Scratch” Perry died at Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea at the age of 85. Jean Breeze, Jamaican dub poet known for the passion of her performances, the honesty of her stories, and her use of Jamaica’s vernacular language, died at the age 65 in Kingston. Olive Senior has officially been named as the next Poet Laureate of Jamaica, while Roland Watson-Grant won the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story competition for the Caribbean region.
JAMAICAN MUSICIANS TO BE INDUCTED TO YGB ICON HALL OF FAME
Several Jamaican artists, including Freddie McGregor and Marcia Griffiths, will be inducted into the New York-based Young, Gifted & Black (YGB) Caribbean Music Entertainment ICON Hall of Fame during Black History Month on February 24, 2021. Other Jamaican inductees will include Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, and Machel Montano. According to Carl Gray, the ICON Hall of Fame represents an important platform for memorializing such trailblazers as “historical members of society and their culture.” The YGB Entrepreneurial Awards, founded by Gray in 2006, are designed to allow peers to acknowledge talent, ambition, and achievements in the continuing pursuit of success. Previous winners of the awards include Tony Rebel (2017), Richie Stephens (2018), Bounty Killer (2019) and Tanya Stephens (2020). The organization’s Nina Simone Artistic Excellence Awards will honor Michael Rainey, Jr, American-Jamaican actor on Starz’s “Power Book II – Ghost;” Nigel Birch, Jr., Canadian spoken word poet and author, and Sheila Sheldon Charles, Kenyan painter, model, and designer.
MARLEY FAMILY SUPPORTS REMIX OF “GET UP, STAND UP” BY AMERICAN SINGER NAKKIA GOLD
The American singer and songwriter Nakkia Gold has issued a remix of Bob Marley’s iconic song “Get Up, Stand Up,” and the new version has received the blessing of the Marley family. The track by Gold is entitled “Justice (Get Up, Stand Up).” It was released in May 2021 and has been called “a rebirth of the militant anthem that played an integral role in the fight for equality and human rights”. The Gold track has received over 3.2 million views on YouTube since its release. Cedella Marley, daughter of Bob Marley, called Gold’s vocals “beautiful” and said she supported the song’s message, which was in sync with the views of her father. In an interview on “Good Morning America,” Marley said, “When you hear her (Nakkia), what’s not to love. Nakkia has a beautiful voice, and she has a very strong message, so it was easy” to support the recording. Marley said Gold updated the song to reflect the current social environment and the social injustice experienced by Black people in the United States. Bob Marley and The Wailers released the original version of the song on the 1973 album, “Burnin’.”
“LOCKDOWN” BY KOFFEE NAMED SONG OF THE YEAR BY JAMAICA REGGAE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
“Lockdown,” the toast by Grammy award-winner Koffee has been called the “anthem” of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been named “Song of the Year” by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), edging out rival nominees, which included “Loco Remix” by Agent Sasco featuring Bounty Killer, “Lighter” by Tarrus Riley featuring Shenseea, “Like Royalty” by Protoje featuring Popayan, and “Cool as the Breeze” by Chronixx. “Song of the Year” is the top prize awarded at JaRIA’s Honor Awards, which was held virtually and streamed on July 4, 2021. Koffee recorded an acceptance speech in which she thanked her fellow nominees and noted that the purpose of music is to inspire. The awards program has traditionally been held as a finale to Reggae Month in February, but it was rescheduled in 2021 as organizers addressed the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 global health crisis.
REGGAE LEGEND BUNNY WAILER DIES AT AGE 73
Bunny Wailer, the legendary reggae artist and last surviving founding member of The Wailers group, died in Jamaica at the age of 73 on March 2, 2021. The Wailers formed in 1963 with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. The group gained international attention with its album “Catch a Fire.” It also helped to popularize Rastafarian culture among Jamaicans in the 1970s. Wailer died at Andrews Memorial Hospital in St. Andrew of complications from a stroke he suffered in July 2020. His death was mourned by people around the world.
JEAN BREEZE, FIRST WOMAN OF DUB POETRY, DIES IN KINGSTON
Jean Breeze, the Jamaican dub poet who died at the age 65 in Kingston on August 4, 2021, was known for the passion of her performances, the honesty of her stories, and her use of Jamaica’s vernacular language. Her passing was announced via social media by Renaissance One Writers and Events, her British agency. No cause of death was provided, but the poet had suffered from chronic lung disease for some time. Breeze was known as “Binta” and was considered the first woman to become popular in the male-dominated genre of dub poetry that originated in Kingston in the 1970s and was expanded in London and Toronto. Breeze was asked by the American poet Maya Angelou to perform at her 70th birthday party in the late 1990s. Describing her poetic vision, Breeze said she wanted to “make words music, move beyond language into sound.” She is credited with combining Jamaican patois with standard English to create her innovative rhythms and forms. Diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early 20s, Breeze’s themes included the exploitation of women, political oppression, and mental illness. In addition to being a poet, Breeze was a theater director, choreographer, actor, and teacher, and wrote for television and film.
REGGAE LEGEND “LEE SCRATCH” PERRY DIES AT AGE 85
The legendary reggae singer and record producer “Lee Scratch” Perry died at Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea at the age of 85. Widely regarded as one of the founders of reggae, he pioneered dub music and produced over 1,000 recordings during his 60-year career. Born Rainford Hugh Perry, he was also known as “Upsetter” and “Mad Scientist.” In 2010, musician Keith Richards described him as “the Salvador Dali of Music.” Among Perry’s reggae hits are “Dreadlocks in Moonlight,” “City Too Hot,” and “Curly Locks.” He continued to produce music until shortly before his death, winning a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2003 for “Jamaican E.T.” In a podcast recorded in 2020, Perry said, “Without the music, people get miserable.” Prior to his death, Perry had been preparing for a tour of Europe later in 2021. His widow, Mireille Perry, has suggested that individuals who she did not name were responsible for his death and that they will “not get away with his passing.” She expressed her thanks to fans for their condolences, saying Perry’s death was completely unexpected, that he “was not sick,” and that he was looking forward to creating his £$P Paradise community after returning from his Euro-pean tour. She plans to honor his memory by going ahead with the planned community initiative.
OLIVE SENIOR CHOSEN POET LAUREATE OF JAMAICA
The Jamaica author Olive Senior has officially been named as the next Poet Laureate of Jamaica. She took the post at an investiture ceremony via the auspices of the National Library of Jamaica. Senior will replace Lorna Goodison, who has served for the past four years. Senior’s writing career has combined practical and creative elements. She has been the publications editor of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of the West Indies and has written two non-fiction books. She was also the managing director of Institute of Jamaica Publications and the editor of Jamaica Journal. Senior has also published “Talking of Trees,” a poetry collection that features an exploration of an inner life and looks for origins in distant history. “Summer Lightning,” a 1987 anthology of short stories, included prize-winning tales from Festival Literacy Competitions. She has won a number of awards for her poetry and short stories, including the Institute of Jamaica Centenary Medal for Creative Writing in 1979 and received international recognition in 1987 when she received the Commonwealth Prize for Literature. Senior was also awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal in 1988.
JAMAICAN AUTHOR WINS 2021 COMMONWEALTH SHORT STORY PRIZE
Roland Watson-Grant, 48, is the winner of the Commonwealth Short Story competition for the Caribbean region in 2021. He won for his story entitled “The Disappearance of Mumma Dell,” which tells the story of how a matriarch’s funeral goes awry before her body goes missing and causes panic in a district of rural Jamaica that is in danger of disappearing from the map. According to Judge Diana McCaulay, a regional Jamaican environmental activist and award-winning writer who took the regional Caribbean prize in 2012, said Watson-Grant’s story “teems with lightly but perfectly sketched and familiar characters” in a tale that is “rich, funny and deeply rooted in the Jamaican countryside.” Watson-Grant defeated his competitors Sharma Taylor of Jamaica, Health Barker of Barbados, and Andre Bagoo and Rashad Hosein from Trinidad and Tobago to win the Caribbean prize. Watson-Grant said he entered the competition because he writes “in the spaces where cultures have conversations.” His story was selected from a shortlist of 25 entries.
USAIN BOLT RACES TO THE TOP OF REGGAE MUSIC CHART WITH DEBUT ALBUM
Eight-time Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt followed his dream of transitioning to a career in music after his retirement from competitive track and field athletics. His musical endeavors, long inspired by Barrington Levy and Bob Marley, began when he co-produced three dancehall mixtapes in 2019: Olympe Rose Rid-dim, Immortal Riddim, and Clockwork Riddim. During the pandemic lockdown, Bolt and Nugent “NJ” Walker, his manager and friend, recorded a complete reggae/dancehall album in Kingston entitled “Country Yutes,” which has become a major success.
KHALIA HALL NAMED MISS JAMAICA WORLD 2021
Khalia Hall, 25, was crowned the new Miss Jamaica World 2021, taking over for the previous titleholder Toni-Ann Singh who rose to the position in 2019 and served for two years due to delays imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hall was praised by Dahlia Harris, the co-owner of the Miss World franchise, as “an excellent example” for Jamaican women, describing her as very accomplished yet humble.