Sunday 31 May, 2020

A view from the outside: Reggae's pulling power



With Karyl Walker

Reggae's on Broadway - Bob Marley

Thousands descended on Kingston, Jamaica last week to witness the historic Long Walk to Freedom concert.

I was one of them.

Unofficial reports suggest that bed and breakfast rentals were at an optimum, rental cars were scarce to access and generally Kingston experienced a boom in business.

All because Buju Banton was hosting his first live performance since his release from incarceration in the 'Magic City'.

There were visitors from London, New Jersey, Virginia, South Florida, France, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Munich and many other cities across the globe. They all came to witness the historic event.

Indeed, the Ministry of Tourism has partly attributed a significant increase in visitors to the island this month to the concert.

According to the tourism ministry, preliminary figures indicate that 2,434 foreign nationals arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston last Friday, a 143 per cent increase over year-earlier levels. The data from the Jamaica Tourist Board also shows that 7,389 foreign nationals arrived into Montego Bay on Friday, which is a 58 per cent increase over the same day last year.  

Reggae was on Broadway and it was a pleasure to be part of it.

Big respect to the dancehall industry - one which produced the same Buju Banton who was responsible for this phenomena - but there would have had to have been a ton load of dancehall acts to draw that kind of crowd.

Some 40,000 patrons are reported to have descended on the National Stadium inside the Independence Park to witness the event.

No one can deny the pulling power of reggae music.

There were also the bigwigs from Corporate Jamaica who lounged inside the VVIP section in all their opulence; the politicians were there as well.

It is now time for Jamaica to decide and invest in this product that has marked us out as a great country.

The major investment needs to be an indoor, sound proof performing arts centre which will be able to accomodate major audience and be free from the constraints of the Night Noise Abatement Act.

Kingston is the entertainment capital of the world and we need to facilitate and enhance our product. The time for twiddling our thumbs is over.

Culture Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has intimated that such a move is on the cards. Hopefully it does not take as long as the road works are going on and causing a major inconvenience.

This must be done post haste.

What a joy to see the stadium filled with such a well behaved audience.

The event was mostly incident free; the performances from the opening bell to the end when Buju made his exit was worth travelling miles to see and even though ticket prices were a bit on the top end, it was worth the spend.

Reggae music has done it again.

To all the performers, organisers, security personnel and, most importantly, the audience, Jamaica says thank you.

We all were a part of history.

That is my view from the outside.

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.

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