Since its inception 30 years ago, Reggae Sumfest has always been a grandiose annual event in Jamaica. In its three decades as a mega Jamaican brand, the festival has been untiring in its bid to provide a platform for artists, and to showcase the finest in the Reggae music industry.
This year was another great accomplishment for Jamaican culture overall. The two concert nights showed a well-oiled engine running as smoothly as any other international music festival in the world.
Here are eight takeaways from Reggae Sumfest 2023:
1. Jamaican music has global ambassadors
The inclusion of rulers of the far East, Mighty Crown, fresh off their Far East boat cruise, as a means to pay tribute for their contribution to Jamaican music, coupled with their usage of the Jamaican vernacular, and the reception to their mastery at spinning dubplates and Dancehall and Reggae tracks, was a great indication of how influential Jamaican culture is globally.
The Japanese selectors were able to fully entertain the audience on concert night one and endear themselves to the Jamaicans who were seeing them in action for the first time, through their usage of Jamaican slangs, their elocution and by expressing their love and respect for the culture and the people of Jamaica.
2. Reggae Sumfest gives the feel of hanging with your extended family
Smiles everywhere. Along with the awesome music, pleasantry was what characterized the environment at Reggae Sumfest 2023. As it should be, as Jamaican people are known to be friendly and charming. Coupled with the copious amounts of healing music in the form of Sunshine Reggae emanating across the venue, with its upbeat rhythms, positive lyrics, there was a general feeling of joy and happiness in the Catherine Hall space. This was very evident as people from across the island and other parts of the world, in attendance with friends and family and all were enjoying
themselves, all harmoniously, no fuss no fight.
3. Security and Access to Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre was “no problem” for patrons
One main concern generally when attending events, whether large or small, is that of security. Attendees can now say ‘hats off’ to Reggae Sumfest staff, especially the police officers and security personnel who did a fine job of responding to questions, coordinating traffic and enabling patrons to easily find parking, exit, their vehicles, and walk to the entertainment area easily and feel safe. Only one minor incident occurred in the VIP section, on concert night one, and it diffused within seconds, as quickly as it had begun.
4. Message to the Youths “Believe in yourself” Stood out Strong.
Younger artists such as Teejay and Valiant reminded the audience and youths around the world to believe in themselves. They are the living proof of success in their own music and the opportunities that come with getting global exposure. Masicka too, appears to have his confidence when communicating with the bandsmen in tandem with his 2014 track, Believe In Yourself, on the Ruff Life Riddim. Though Jahvillani brought a stardom energy to the stage, and he too always reminds everyone to believe
in themselves, his performance was perhaps too short for the audience to fully bask in the energy he brought to Sumfest 2023.
5. International press coverage represented, but weaker than expected.
Although there were specks of Europe, Asia, Africa and other Caribbean countries present, these were general audience members, but nevertheless, a nicely mixed crowd with international visitors. The international media was not so much present, and so more work could be done in terms of extending invitations to the global media, although with social media/internet might have played a huge role in their low turnout, due to the various social media and live streaming sites available today. It might have been to the benefit of Downsound Entertainment, and the entertainers, to have more journalists from other cultures representing reggae given that Jamaican music is celebrated so much, by other cultures of the world.
6. Reggae Sumfest still attracts sponsorship from Jamaica’s most iconic brands
The esteem with which Reggae Sumfest is held, saw Downsound pulling in Caribbean Airlines, which not only came on board as presenting sponsor, but going as far as to brand one of its 737 aircraft with the festival’s iconic logo and incorporate Reggae Sumfest into its newly completed mural at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. However, with the 189-year-old Gleaner Company, to the 101 year old Grace, as well as “The Great Jamaican Beer” Red Stripe on board as major sponsors yet again, is an indication that the Sumfest brand is so huge and respected, that companies of this calibre still want to associate themselves with the festival.
7. An example of Excellent Customer Service
Foreigners or expats visiting Jamaica, may quickly see that customer service, in most instances, is dealt with very differently on the island. Some may even go to the extent to say that many Jamaican entities need training in terms of how to deal with customers. However, not so at Reggae Sumfest. Reggae Sumfest 2023 sponsors and staff at the respective booths, were accommodating throughout the event. From all indications, everything appeared to be running smoothly, which is really what the culture needs.
8. More research needed to quantify and qualify Reggae’s contribution to the Jamaican economy
After 30 years of Reggae Sumfest, one area in which more research is needed
would be how, as a country, Jamaica can translate the successes achieved by reggae music and culture into economic value for the nation’s benefit. In other words, how does the great successes of Reggae translate into making money for its people and those involved in the Reggae-Dancehall Industry. Considering the fact Reggae Music has gotten recognition as a world heritage music by the United Nations, Jamaica must understand the global economic significance of this cultural expression. An “intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity” is the title that was given to reggae in November 2018, by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
That said, Reggae Sumfest’s 30th anniversary was a blast! The organizers,
sponsors and patrons should be extremely proud.