The top news stories from the arts and entertainment sector in 2020 included Jamaican dancehall artists Beenie Man & Bounty Killer in a clash on Verzuz, the win by reggae star Koffee of the Grammy for the Best Reggae Album of the year, the win of “Lightning” by Mortimer of Song of the Year at the JaRIA Awards, and this history made by Skip Marley with his hit “Slow Down” that made him the first Jamaican-born artist to reach the top spot on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart. Also in the news were Brian Heap who was the regional winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Popcaan who made the former US President Obama’s playlist and was listed on the Billboard Top 200 hits chart, the selection of Koffee to be MasterCard’s brand ambassador to Jamaica, and the news that Reggae Sunsplash will be presented virtually in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also sad news with the death of pioneer reggae artist Delroy Washington from coronavirus and the passing of Toots Hibbert of Toots & The Maytals at the age of 77. Also the Institute of Jamaica decided not to present the Musgrave Awards in 2020.
KOFFEE EP WINS GRAMMY FOR BEST REGGAE ALBUM
Mikayla Simpson, 18, better known as Koffee, was awarded the Best Reggae Album Grammy for her EP entitled “Rapture” at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. With the award, the singer made history in being the youngest reggae act and the first female artist to win the Grammy in this category. The EP spent 32 weeks on the Billboard Reggae Chart following its debut release at Number 1.
BEENIE MAN VS. BOUNTY KILLER VERZUZ CLASH
Fans from around the world tuned in online as Jamaican dancehall artists Beenie Man and Bounty Killer faced off in-person in Jamaica in a clash in the Verzuz music battle series on May 23, 2020. The two deejays who have a famous rivalry were featured as part of the series created by American record producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland on the Instagram platform. The online clash lasted for more than an hour and was viewed by 500,000 people on Instagram and 1.7 million people on a variety of other platforms.
MORTIMER SONG “LIGHTNING” WINS SONG OF THE YEAR AT JaRIA AWARDS
“Lightning,” a song from Mortimer was named “Song of the Year” at the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) Awards ceremony. Mortimer also won the “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” title at the event. The song attained over four million views on YouTube. Mortimer stated that his wife provided the inspiration for the song, and he thanked her in his acceptance speech for being a “constant source of inspiration.”
COVID-19 CLAIMS LIFE OF REGGAE PIONEER DELROY WASHINGTON
Delroy Washington, a pioneer of reggae music, died from coronavirus. Washington died at St. Mary’s Hospital in London following a short illness after attending a large banquet gathering for a member of the reggae community. Washington was diabetic, which put him at greater risk of serious complications from the virus. His death shocked the worldwide reggae community.
HISTORY MADE BY SKIP MARLEY WITH HIT “SLOW DOWN”
Skip Marley’s “Slow Down” hit the top spot on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart, making Marley the first Jamaican-born artist to reach Number 1 on the chart. The recording features the Grammy Award-winning singer H.E.R. The song was also the quickest-streaming tune in Marley Family history, having over 162 million streams. Marley was also the first Jamaican-born lead on the Top 15 of Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in nearly 15 years.
JAMAICAN BRIAN HEAP WON REGIONAL COMMONWEALTH SHORT STORY PRIZE
Retired educator Brian Heap, who previously led the Philip Sherlock Center for the Creative Arts at the University of the West Indies Mona campus, became the Caribbean regional winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. He received the prize for his story entitled “Mafootoo,” which follows a Jamaican immigrant of Maroon heritage living in the United Kingdom. The story was selected from among more than 5,000 submissions and has been published in Granta magazine. Heap worked in education and theater sectors in Jamaica for more than 40 years, serving as director of studies at the Jamaica School of Drama at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts and artistic director for the University Players. His productions have been recognized with numerous awards, including the yearly International Theater Institute Actor Boy Awards.
POPCAAN LISTED ON BILLBOARD TOP 200 CHART, MADE OBAMA PLAYLIST
Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan achieved two significant global achievements in 2020 as he made the Billboard Top 200 hits chart and was listed by former United States President Barack Obama on his summer playlist for 2020. Both these goals were attained through the release of the “Fixtape” compilation, which debuted on the Billboard chart at Number 94. Popcaan’s song “Twist and Turn” was featured on the Obama playlist. The song also showcases Drake and PartyNextDoor.
TOOTS HIBBERT, JAMAICAN MUSIC LEGEND, DEAD AT 77
Toots Hibbert, the iconic Jamaican musician who was credited with coining the word “reggae,” and one of the founders of the genre, died in September of 2020 at the age of 77. As the frontman of the group Toots & The Maytals, Hibbert was a band leader, songwriter, and showman who play multiple instruments and encouraged attendees at his concerts to dance with him on stage. In the opinion of some, he was reggae’s greatest singer, a very spiritual musician who was less involved in politics than his friend and contemporary, Bob Marley. Hibbert’s career received a boost with the release of the landmark film “The Harder They Come” in 1972. The soundtrack of the film is frequently ranked as the greatest in movie history. Hibbert appeared in the film as himself. In the mid-1970s, rock stars like Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and John Lennon had become fans of reggae, and Hibbert recorded with some of them. In 2020, he released the album “Got To Be Tough,” which features Ziggy Marley and Ringo Starr, with Ringo’s son Zak Starkey as co-producer. He received Grammy nominations in 2012 and 2007 and was ranked at Number 71 on the 2008 Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest contemporary singers. He received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government in 2012 for outstanding contributions to the nation’s music.
MASTERCARD CHOSE KOFFEE TO BE BRAND AMBASSADOR TO JAMAICA
Mastercard announced an exclusive partnership with Koffee, the Jamaican reggae artist and Grammy winner, to make her the firm’s official brand ambassador in Jamaica. Koffee and Mastercard will use their partnership to develop awareness about digital payments and provide education to customers and merchants about the wide acceptance, convenience and security features associated with Mastercard’s electronic payment options. Marcus Carmo, the head of marketing and communications at Mastercard’s Caribbean division, noted that she is one of Jamaica’s youngest and most talented musicians and strives to give back to her community and that her creativity, philanthropic spirit, and authenticity are well in line with the company’s values. Koffee was the first official Mastercard brand ambassador to be named in the Caribbean.
INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA WILL NOT PRESENT MUSGRAVE AWARDS IN 2020
The Institute of Jamaica (IOJ), which organizes a yearly event honoring Jamaicans for their contributions to literature, science, and the arts, confirmed that it will not present the annual Musgrave Awards in 2020. The awards program is the oldest one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. According to Vivian Crawford, the executive director of the organization, the absence of a governing council at the IOJ is a major reason for not holding the event. The council was dissolved prior to the general election on September 3, 2020, like all other state-appointed boards. New governing boards will be appointed by the minister with the responsibility for the relevant agencies and organizations. Once a council is appointed, four sub-committees will be established to review the awards’ applications. The Musgrave Awards are traditionally presented in October in conjunction with National Heritage Week which ends with National Heroes Day. In 2020, National Heroes Day will be held on October 19, 2020.
POPULAR REGGAE SUNSPLASH FESTIVAL TO GO VIRTUAL IN 2020
In 2020, Jamaica’s popular Reggae Sunsplash event will be staged virtually on November 27 and 28. The staging will be managed by iCreate, a digital and creative institute. The virtual program will be offered in response to conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Virtual Reggae Sunsplash, sponsored chiefly by Visa and the Jamaica Tourist Board, will be streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, which will make the festival available to people around the world.