Celebrations and new films marked Jamaica’s presence in the entertainment sector. Trojan Records celebrated its 50th anniversary. In the animation format, the first bi-racial “Spiderman” was played by a Jamaican. Jamaican singer Dalton Harris won X Factor in the United Kingdom, and Damian Marley won his fourth Grammy Award. Two new presentation about Bob Marley were announced: one a Netflix series portraying the mystery of his attempted assassination, and the other a film that explores his life and music career. International Reggae Day marked the 50th anniversary of the gift of Jamaica’s reggae to the world. Jamaica’s Tourism Minister announced the development of the nation’s first entertainment center. A feature film based on the life of Jamaican pianist Don Shirley was released. Buju Banton decided to begin his post-incarceration tour in Jamaica.
TROJAN RECORDS CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY WITH NEW RELEASES
The reggae label Trojan Records, which introduced Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Lee “Scratch” Perry to the mainstream audience is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018 with numerous releases, a new documentary film, and several live events. Trojan was founded in 1968 by Lee Gopthal and Chris Blackwell, two Jamaicans who were living in London. The label’s catalog includes music by Perry, Desmond Dekker, the Pioneers, and the Maytals. The Upsetter imprint released much of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ music in the United Kingdom. The pending 50th anniversary release schedule includes a three-disc Ska and Reggae Classics collection, which will be out May 25th, the two-CD sets This is Trojan Roots
FIRST BI-RACIAL “SPIDER-MAN” IS OF JAMAICAN DESCENT
Shameik Moore, who is of Jamaican descent, has wanted to play the role of Spider-Man in the movies since he was a teenager. His dream is about to be realized in part as Moore will act as the voice of the character in a new animated film called “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” In the film, he will play biracial Brooklyn teen Miles Morales who gains superpowers after suffering a bite from a radioactive spider. The old Peter Parker outfits have been replaced by red-and-black costumes and some cool sneakers in the new animated version. While Moore would like to be playing the character in a live-action film, he is happy to serve as the voice of Morales. Moore noted that it is “a new time in Hollywood” and that he is honored to be the first black Spider-Man in film.
DALTON HARRIS, X FACTOR UK WINNER, CHOSEN GLOBAL AMBASSADOR FOR DIGICEL RISING STARS
The sponsors of the local Jamaican talent show “Rising Stars,” Digicel, has named Dalton Harris, the 2018 winner of the X Factor UK, as its global ambassador. Citing the singer’s ability to win the hearts and minds of the international television audience of the X Factor UK, the firm stated that Harris had proven himself to be a fine Jamaican musical talent and an example to others with the characteristics required to represent Rising Stars around the world.
INTERNATIONAL REGGAE DAY MARKS HALF-CENTURY OF THE POPULAR GENRE
On July 1, 2018, International Reggae Day (IRD) was celebrated around the world in recognition of its 50 years’ of contributions to Jamaica’s popular music scene. According to Andrea Davis of Jamaica Arts Holdings, the sponsor of IRD, the recordings of Toots and the Maytals and Larry Marshall in the year 1968 make that the years usually cited as the point of transition from rocksteady to reggae. IRD 2018 will also honor the Windrush generation of Caribbean migrants, including those from Jamaica, who moved to Britain after World War II. Davis cites the Windrush generation as being a catalyst in transplanting Jamaican culture and “planting the seed” for the global reach of the island’s music. “Those early travelers, those pioneers who left Jamaica took a piece of Jamaica with them in their suitcases,” she said. Events celebrating IRD will take place throughout the world in 2018.
JAMAICA’S FIRST ENTERTAINMENT CENTER IN DEVELOPMENT
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, announced that the nation’s first entertainment center will be established in 2020. The center is designed to promoted and enhance local entertainment and tourism industries and will receive $15 million from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF). Construction of the center will begin in Montego Bay later in 2018. According to Bartlett, $50 million will be placed toward the design and preparator work for the project, ensuring that construction can begin in this fiscal year. There are also plans to fund the development of two reggae products in hopes of generating local jobs and new and authentic cultural experiences for tourists.
DAMIAN MARLEY WINS FOURTH GRAMMY AWARD
Damian “Jr Gong” Marley, international reggae star, took home his fourth Grammy Award on January 28, 2018, winning the award in the Best Reggae Grammy category. Marley won for his album “Stony Hill,” which was released in 2017. The album has been selling well since its release, currently at Number Six on the Billboard Reggae Charts. It reached Number One several weeks previously and has been on the charts for 26 weeks. Marley also won Grammys for “Half-Way Tree” in 2002, and Best Reggae Album and Best Urban/Alternative Performance for “Welcome to Jamrock” in 2006.
STORY OF BOB MARLEY’S LIFE BECOMES HOLLYWOOD FILM
Paramount Pictures in Hollywood announced it will make a film on the life of Jamaican Bob Marley, the iconic reggae musician who introduced the genre to the world. Marley died in 1981 at the age of 36. No details were released about the film, but according to Deadline Hollywood, Ziggy Marley, Bob Marley’s son and a successful reggae artist in his own right, is heading its production plans. Concert films and documentaries have extensively covered the legendary musician, most notably the film “Marley” directed in 2012 by Kevin Macdonald. This film combined archival footage with interviews. As Marley has become beloved by audiences around the world, the production company acknowledges that any biographical film is like to receive considerable scrutiny both in Marley’s home of Jamaica and overseas.
NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY SERIES INVESTIGATES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON BOB MARLEY
Netflix announced a documentary series that will feature one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in music history – the attempted assassination of reggae legend Bob Marley – as part of its eight-episode series called ReMastered. The series will open with “Who Shot the Sheriff? and explore the role of Jamaican politicians and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the assassination attempt. The attempt on Marley occurred after the election of the People’s National Party (PNP) led by Michael Manley in 1972.
BUJU BANTON FREEDOM TOUR SET FOR 2019
Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton was released from prison on December 8, 2018, and plans for post-incarceration performances are on track, according to the team representing him. The Grammy-Award-winning artist’s representatives confirmed that a tour is in the works following his release. A social media campaign announced, “The Long Walk to Freedom Tour” is slated for the summer of 2019 and will start in Jamaica.
FILM BASED ON DON SHIRLEY, JAMAICAN PIANIST, OPENS
“Green Book,” a new film based on the life of Jamaican classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley, was released in the United States by Universal Pictures. The film, which stars Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley and Viggo Mortensen as Tony Lip, a New York bouncer who worked a his driver and security, tells the story of the friendship that develops between Lip and Shirley as they tour America’s Deep South during the 1960s and are confronted by the region’s intense racism. Directed by Peter Farrelly, who also worked on the script, which was written by Nick Vallelonga, Tony Lip’s son, and Brian Hayes.
REGGAE MUSIC MAKES UNESCO LIST OF GLOBAL CULTURAL TREASURES
UNESCO, the cultural agency of the United Nations, has recognized Jamaica’s reggae music as contributing to “international discourse” issues, including those of injustice and resistance. The reggae music tradition has been described as “uniquely Jamaica” and its inclusion on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list highlights the need to preserve its worldwide popularity and voice for all people around the world.