Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange has announced that plans are well advanced for the staging of this year’s Jamaica Festival Song Competition.
She said that there have been several changes in the how the programme is being executed but things have been progressing smoothly towards the finals in July, early enough so that the country will know the winning song in time for the independence celebrations.
“During the period of restrictions due to the Covid-19 virus, we have used the time to work through the challenges presented to the normal staging of the competition. We were able to complete the last of three auditions across the island in the first week of March as well as receiving recordings as customary. The live auditions were a new element of the competition added this year.
“Since then, we convened a panel of industry experts to analyse the songs that made it through the auditions, which were recorded, and those entries that we received through recordings. The ten songs will be announced later this week,” Grange said.
She made the point that the event is being rebranded, as the aim is to grow the brand “The Jamaica Festival Song” and make it more attractive and to return it to its former glory.
Due to social distance requirements the event will take a TV and social media format, to give a wider audience a chance to participate.
Grange said there are high level discussions taking place with strategic partners to finalise the format and presentation.
“This will be a signature year for the Jamaica Festival Song Competition. I hosted a Think Tank in February with members of the music industry to look at the way forward and we got some very good inputs and recommendations. Among those who attended were Buju Banton, Donovan Germain, Cleveland “Clevie” Browne, Barry Ohare, Tommy Cowan, Clive Hunt, Not Nice and many others including music administrators, radio presenters and media personalities. I feel renewed energy from the music industry and this will serve well for the future of the competition. Our goal is to have the industry and the public see this as a professional song competition, one of the oldest of its kind in the world. We intend to deliver in a very big way this year,” she added.
The Festival Song Competition in Jamaica began in 1966 and was conceptualised to give Jamaicans a feel good vibe at independence time. The winning Jamaica Festival Song is meant to be a song that will be on the lips of every man, woman and child and a call to action at home and in the Diaspora. The winning song is meant to be the backdrop of the Jamaica Festival Independence Celebrations.
Among the big winners in the past have been Toots and the Maytals, Eric Donaldson, Hopeton Lewis Roy Rayon, Tinga Stewart and Nazzleman. It has had entries by Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Jacob Miller, Inner Circle and Desi Young. The current winner is St. Ann-based singer Loaded Eagle.
In regard to the other Independence Festival activities including Gospel Song Competition, Festival Queen Competition, World Reggae Dance, Culinary Arts, Creative Writing, Visual Arts, the National Festival of the Performing Arts and the Grand Gala, Minister Grange says discussions are taking place at the Executive level to make a final decision on these programmes and an announcement can be expected soon.