Letter from Rototom Reggae Film Festival


by PETER GITTINS – Co-Director, Reggae Film Festival


The Rototom festival went very well, better than the organizers had expected. The numbers of people really exceeded all their expectations. They never expected so many people would turn up as reggae isn’t usually known as being big in Spain, but the event drew people from all over Europe, many came from the UK, Germany, France etc. I even spotted many Jamaicans there! Africans, people of all nations had come to the event.

Some of the headlining acts where Alpha Blondy, Pablo Moses, Fantan Mojah, Marcia Griffiths, Mighty Diamonds, Abyssinians, Albarosie, Busy Signal, Linval Thompson, some well known sound systems form the UK attended, Jah Shaka and Dave Rodidgan.

There was also a European dancehall contest running for days where bands from each country would perform in competition and judges would vote on the best.  The festival had a dub area, ska, main stage, lion stage, House of Rastafari tent which was showing some Rasta films and had a Rasta art exhibition.

The festival really livened up at night after midnight when usually most festivals are closing down about this time Rototom was gearing up for the influx of festival goers who had been sleeping during the day and keeping out of the sun. The problem for most was the heat as that week the TV had been reporting about a heat wave that was coming from Africa which spread across spain, by the Friday it had got as high as 45 degrees, this was causing people many problems especially those who where camping, so many people spent the days on the beach and near the sea where some of the Rototom music events took place in the day.


The film screenings where only a part of the music festival, so we had lots of people passing by the tent and popping in because the festival was full of tents doing all kinds of stuff but we had a good position in the Reggae University tent which was the Conference Centre by day and RFF by night. Each night we started showing films at 12 midnight; each night was approx. 3hrs long, give or take 20-30mins and we also put some films on loop in the evening before the festival started and this got in a small crowd. We mainly played ‘Roots Time’ on loop and everyone enjoyed it.

I had 2 people help with speaking, mainly Nicole Hewitt and also she recruited an English guy to talk on day 2+3 so this was a great help. I prepared speeches for them which was basically a synopsis on each film and a small bit about the 24 hr film competition, when we showed the 2 short films. We stuck to the program apart from a couple of things we missed out and jiggled it about but all went well and not one complaint. Everyone knew that you had probs getting here so we had some probs with the films. This was announced and explained why some films weren’t in the right place on the program.

Day one was a full house (well 90% full) so was really good, very impressed with the turn out.

JAM DOWN on screen

To be honest I didn’t get much chance to see the festival side of things as i was busy every day Wed-Fri with the films, getting them ready on time. I did this Wed-Fri, from 7pm each night till abour 3:30am.

The people who deserve some real thanks in all of this are Nicole Hewitt who really helped us and an Italian guy named Mauro who was the head of IT. He went out of his way to get us internet connection and burn off any downloads I made, etc. He was a great help as was the projectionist guy who was from Modena in Italy. He runs his own sound system. These guys were great and they loved to see the RFF in Rototom.


It was very nice to see that they had a stall there from Trench Town. It was the “Trenchtown Reading Centre” which I visited with Bernard Collins of the Abyssinians. He lives in Trench Town, so was keen to speak with the stall owners about their work. The lady who was running the stall had never actually been to Jamaica ,but had heard about the project on the internet 3 yrs earlier. She really warmed to what the Reading Centre was about and started working for them as a volunteer 3yrs ago, so she contacted Rototom and they allowed her to setup a stall which was great.

Inside the film festival tent.

The stall was full of pictures of the Centre in Trench Town and all the kids with books etc. I think the idea was to get books to the children there and they were appealing for support so they could build a school etc., so was very nice to see this at Rototom. They hope to get one of the other Trench Town groups involved for next year — I think she said it was “Culture Yard” they wanted to get involved, who where already based in Trench Town doing good work.

The festival was full of food stalls from all over the world, Cuban, Mexican, Italian, Jamaican, Indian, Chinese, Guinea-Bissau(East Africa), so plenty of great food to choose from, also many clothing and trinket stalls packed with the red/gold+green colours.


What amazed me personally was the huge number of dreadlocked white people, mainly Spanish and European but a huge percentage of those at the event had dreads! Was very interesting. I have to say for me this is the biggest reggae event I have ever seen or heard about, to see so many stages and acts all in one place at the same time was amazing. Just a shame that this wasn’t happening in Jamaica but what a tribute to Jamaican culture that all these Europeans are embracing the culture.

Hope this helps give you an idea of what it was like. Congrats especially to Sabrina and Gina who did so much to get this all together and to get us there. They must be exhausted! We missed you, but there’s always next year!



Reggae Film Festival @ Rototom, Miss Jamaica Universe


The REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL was presented in Spain last week as a special 3-night feature of the ROTOTOM REGGAE SUNSPLASH – Europe’s largest annual event celebrating Jamaica’s music culture. A special programme of feature, documentary and animation films, including 5 made by Jamaicans and some of the Honour Award winners of the February 2010 event, were presented to an interested audience in a special showcase that began after the live stage performances ended each night.

Peter Gittins & BBH, Reggae Film Festival 2008

Though the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL went to Rototom, I did not. The films were introduced each night by Peter Gittins, the UK-based co-director of the Reggae Film Festival who has been the ‘other half’ of the event since we both conceptualized it in 2007. Though I had been provided full travel and accommodation by the Rototom organizers, I could not get an early appointment for an interview to renew my US Visa before my scheduled departure date, and had to miss the flight. (Yes, I got the renewal, but a day too late!)

It was a disappointment, as I looked forward to the chance to be at Rototom in person and see and report on what the event is like. The Rototom invitation was important, because it shows the opening of an international distribution link and exposure for films from and about Jamaica. With attendance of 150,000, the enormous potential for access to the young European market was clear. Peter reports that people were so interested in everything Jamaican that we could have sold not only our films, but also products such as T-shirts, banana chips, jerk sauces,  beer, books.

The Reggae Film Festival will return to Rototom next year, and we are presently negotiating invitations to present the event in the USA and in Africa. In its 3 short years the Reggae Film Festival is fulfilling its objective of assisting the growth of the Jamaican film industry and the spread of Jamaican culture through film.




Last June at Caribbean Fashion Week a slim, sparkling Yendi Phillipps just back from South Africa posed for my camera and told me she was entering the Miss Jamaica Universe competition. I encouraged her to keep doing what she was good at. Now that Yendi’s winning appearances in the Miss Universe finals has broadcast Jamaica’s positive image around the world, those who questioned my early support for our newest Jamaican beauty queen now see what all the fuss was about.

Yendi at CFW

Looking good in all her personal appearances from the early days of the Miss Universe contest, Yendi brought a sparkling personality that showed in her bright smile, her classy poses and her charming interviews. The Judges voted her the ‘beach beauty’ and 2nd best evening gown, so when she made it to the final 5 of the judging, Jamaicans all over the world held their collective breath, bursting with pride just to see her standing there.

Then there were just two, and as Yendi stood in the spotlight with Miss Mexico, Jamaica’s hopes were high. When Miss Mexico was announced the winner, I know I am not the only Jamaican who felt the decision was wrong, but Jamaicans still smiled as it was so clear that Yendi was definitely the prettiest girl.

#2 National Costume winner

Congrats to Yendi Phillipps for joining the ranks of Jamaicans who made their country proud by showcasing what wonderful, great and beautiful people we are.



Last Wednesday the United States Embassy division of Cultural Affairs screened the classic feature film “STORMY WEATHER’ starring the late, great singer and acress, Lena Horne as part of a series of American musicals being shown each week at the Tom Redcam Library in Kingston.  The film, which was a showcase of Black American talent of the 1940s and 50s, gave the world a classic song that became forever identified with the great Black beauty and it was wonderful to see the full version of the film for the first time on a big screen with a full house audience.

Not only did the film feature Lena Horne singing several songs and dancing with Bill ‘BoJangles’ Robinson, but showcased the big band of flamboyant band leader Cab Calloway, the classical dancing of leading Black dancer Kathryn Dunham and her troupe, and the incredible tap-dancing acrobatics of the Nicholas Brothers who had the audience gasping for breath with their splits. 

The screening was a special tribute to Lena Horne and a rare opportunity to experience some of the best Black entertainment talent ever filmed by Hollywood. It brought back memories of an era of glamour and class personified by this great lady that we will never see again.   Those were the days!!!



“We are ready to go and Buju is looking forward to his day in court.”

David Oscar Markus of Buju Banton’s legal team.

SLEEPING OVER – Breezes Runaway Bay

Imagine starting your day by stepping out of your bedroom and into your own private plunge pool! A waterfall gushes from a wall fountain and the sound of its bubbling flow soothes as you slip into water made blue by small turquoise mosaic tiles. You lean your head back under its invigorating shower. The sun shines overhead and a cool breeze rustles the lush palm trees at patio end that screen this special luxury. BLISS!!!

This is the unique pleasure of the new Verandah Suite rooms of Breezes Runaway Bay Resort and Golf Club, where The Traveler spent an idyllic weekend. It’s one of eleven Breezes resorts in Jamaica, Cuba, Curacao, Brazil, the Bahamas and Panama and though perhaps the oldest property in the chain, a recent refurbish has made the hotel seem new again, morphing from a former incarnation, yet keeping the basic elements that made it memorable.

For instance, the ‘new’ includes the Verandah Suite rooms-with-a-pool, which are a special accommodation option lining the spacious grounds between two room blocks. Once a grassy park, the space between now houses the Breezes Blue Mahoe Spa – a tree-covered oasis set in a tropical garden between the one-bedroom suite blocks.
Also new are the three large free-form pools and 3 jacuzzi overlooking the sea. These came in handy that weekend for vacationers whose tans needed ‘basting’ with water, as the prevailing and very breezy Northern winds that were making the hotel earn its name, had made the sea too rough for swimming. Despite the winds, the beach and sea were as blue and as beautiful as they were when the hotel was first built decades ago.

The coral reef that stretches several miles along the coast of Runaway Bay continues to grind itself into white sand on rough days to keep the beach beautiful. On calm days makes the beach a wonderful and protected swimming pool across the front of the hotel, with ample space for sunbathers and game players. Those hotels that were built years ago with the environment in mind, have been rewarded by endless beaches of clean, turquoise sea.

Another asset preserved at Breezes Runaway Bay is the lush green grounds that are an unusual sight and clearly inspire golfers to lace up their shoes and head for the nearby greens. Tennis is another sport actively played by visitors to Breezes Runaway Bay and there are the usual water sports, but my favourite sport at nice Jamaican hotels is resting, so I did a lot of that, watching plasma screen cable TV from my comfy bed.
One thing that kept me close to my room was the wonderful massage shower which sends six jets of water shooting out as you hold the shower attachment overhead. It was so much fun, I found every excuse possible to take a shower in the two days I stayed.

I wanted to experience the Munasan Japanese restaurant, but arrived too late on Friday night to be seated. So we had a quick dinner while listening to a live roots band and excellent female singer who gave guests a taste of first class Jamaican reggae. On Saturday night I felt it was necessary to experience the variety of the hotel buffet, which is always the test of a truly good hotel. I was not disappointed with my choice of lasagna, pizza , roast potatoes and garlic bread, while my friend feasted on lamb stew, braised vegetables and rice with peas and carrots. There’s always space for seconds at the buffet, so on my return trip I tried the stew chicken, which was tender and tasty in true Jamaican style.

Special pleasure of my weekend was meeting SuperClubs Marketing Manager Zein Issa and her father John Issa – founder of the SuperClubs ‘all-inclusive’ concept that revolutionized Jamaican tourism. It was a lighthearted and ‘breezy’ conversation, as the Honorary Consul and former Senator talked about the hotel’s history and amenities. I was surprised to hear that you can get married for free as part of your Breezes Runaway vacation and even more surprised to learn that you can get married underwater if you are a qualified diver, as the hotel has one of the best scuba diving programmes and there are over 14 different dive sites nearby.

As someone who has been visiting the property for many years, I was glad to see that one special feature of Breezes Runaway Bay has been preserved. This is the collection of Rastafari carvings that has adorned the lobby for decades, long before that aspect of Jamaican culture became the popular image of tourism. Mounted on walls and in special alcoves, these priceless treasures embody the true Jamaican flavour of Breezes Runaway Bay.

Located half way between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, Breezes Runaway Bay is moderately priced, and welcomes families with children 14 years and older for whom there are games and diversions, including the beach – which Breezes boasts is ‘the best on the northern coast of Jamaica”. All facilities are included, especially the 18 hole par 72 championship golf course and lessons for those who need them. The hotel is close to all the main North Coast attractions such as Dunns River Falls, Chukka Cove and Mystic Mountain.

Another diversion is the Circus Workshop with real circus rigging and nets, which gives you a chance to try out the flying trapeze if you’re feeling adventurous, but as I am not one of those daring people, I just passed as far away as I could in case someone tried to talk me into a trial run.

Sunday afternoon came far too early and it was hard to pack and get back on the road, after such a restful and breezy stay at Breezes Runaway Bay. We will return soon.

Jamaica Farewell, Music News


The Jamaican theatre scene is vibrant and well populated with choices. Most are ‘roots plays’ depicting very broad humour set in ghetto-like situations, while some are dramas of life and love which employ a number of theatrical stars of all ages and genres.

None are as strikingly unusual as JAMAICA FAREWELL, an 85-minute one woman show written and performed by a brilliant Jamaican actress that totally portrays, and then laughs at, the mind-set of that group of high-born, high-colour Jamaicans who – in the Michael Manley political era of the 1970s — felt life in America was a holy grail to be pursued by any means necessary.

 In JAMAICA FAREWELL, Debra Ehrardt dramatically and with sarcastic and ironic humour, tells the story of how she achieved her childhood dream of going to America. It was a dream from age 8 singing  patriotic American songs, and continued through the years with several efforts to get a Visa that including dressing up as a nun, until her eventual opportunity to seduce a chance-met American CIA operative and have him help her escape.

 The opportunity that gets her a Visa includes her having to do something highly illegal, yet she not only accomplishes this, but gets the American to help her without him knowing. I won’t spoil the dramatic details as the humour depends on all the surprises in her story, but it is one of the funniest stories I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. In the monologue Debra voices all the characters and shows off her acting talent, re-creating her pious, church-going mother, her loving but drunken gambler father, the CIA American rescuer and various other characters that peopled her journey.

What makes JAMAICA FAREWELL unusual is that it’s the first time someone who left Jamaica at that time in our political history, has come back to tell the story of why and how they left. Debra’s story is not as political as others would be, managing to allow us who remained behind to laugh with and at her highly amusing tale. As she tells her full story, one can sense the real social attitudes that inspired her desire, behind the frills she added that made the story a tale. There is the story of Veronica the housemaid who shocks Debra by not only getting a US visa, but later writes to say she is now a University professor. The class prejudice displayed in her reaction is typical and realistic.

In another telling moment displaying white-upper-class prejudices, she tells of her drama-filled ride across the island to the airport by car and minibus — a journey of impossible dead-end stops including a whorehouse where she is pursued and threatened by a ‘red-eyed dreadlocks man’. In hearing how remembering her mother’s words helped her escape his attack, one can see that the incident is inspired by the prejudices inculcated by her Christian mother against ‘the black heart man’.

Ehrardt & friends after the show.

Political purists of either colour may find fault with the history depicted in JAMAICA FAREWELL, but lovers of pure drama will be entranced by the theatrical tour de force of both script and performance. Debra has remained true to her island and her play is tender in its depiction of her home. Full houses attended the 5-night run, and audiences and reviews have been deservedly full of praise. Presentation kudos are due to Paul and Michelle Goldson of Ultra Wave Vision. The best endorsement of JAMAICA FAREWELL is that the show has been optioned by Tom Hanks wife Rita Wilson, who plans a big screen feature film of it, as well as a US tour of a larger stage production. Well done, Debra Ehrardt!



RSEENAL IN LONDON –  Young upcoming Jamaican DJ Rseenal Di Artillery is feeling good about his career, as he is currently in London recording with UK grime label FireCamp. UK Grime is a genre of music which has been developing in London’s underground since 2002 for a new breed of rappers whose style of flow varies whose rappers or MCs to “spit” double time or aggressively over the beat. The success of UK grime has a lot to do with the pirate radio scene in London, with many performers practicing their skills and getting an underground reputation before going ‘mainstream’. The term grime was born in 2002 and since then the scene has grown and strengthened. One grime MC to really take his career to the next level is Dizzee Rascal who began his MC-ing when he was 15 on pirate radio in East London.

Rseenal, who last year won a Heiniken DJ competion that took him to Holland, has been in London since mid-July with Andy Freshney as road manager linking him with the top London underground producers and musicians. Having worked with him on couple tracks in Jamaica, Rseenal is specially in the UK to promoting his two mixtapes – the Hoztyle Crossova and Chedda Cheeze & Blind Mice$ debut hip-hop mixtape which he finished early summer.   (Hoztyle Crossova mixtape LINK: http://www.facebook.com/l/bcfb0YZDqvgDR0N0HCrvz5kG7Jw;rseenalsplanet.blogspot.com  for a free download.

RSEENAL (second left) in London

In a letter to IN THE SPOTLIGHT Rseenal says “Producers are in a frenzy to record me before I return to jamaica.. they have a particular interest in my hip-hop side.. they love my dancehall side.. but are more drawn to the versatility of my hip-hop style. For all of this week producers from Yorkshire will be in London to do all the tracks and collabo with all the artistes who have shown interest in working with me.. have done shows last weekend.. at the Vibes Kick Bar.. close to Aldgate East … will do a major performace at the GRAFITI show this weekend… and i will also be doing 2 stages at the big NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL… real big thing here!!..

It’s long overdue for this talented and prolific artist to get the big break. As if that is not enough, he returns to Jamaica then heads back to Europe for a month long tour of France. Good to see talented young artists getting known outside Jamaica, as there is so much talent here that not all can shine on Jamaica’s stages. Big up to Rseenal. You will be hearing more from him.

Another artist currently in London recording is Ras Iwhan completing tracks for VP Reords.  This Rasta chanter heads for Gambia  next to finish his second house is Africa, the first being in Ghana.  Nice to see Rasta artists living up to the principles they sing about. Check out his recent music video: Fire In the UK: .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oI3lRIT5780



Trying to promote some new artists I thought worthy of media attention, got me in some hot water last blog. My presentation of the music of three artists from uptown neighbourhoods as ‘uptown’ reggae caused them to object to the label. Juss Ice found himself under attack by a reader who said the film “Rise Up” showed him in a bad light. He was quick to point out that how the film was edited showed him in that bad light, despite the film maker having ample opportunity to show how far removed he was from his family’s ‘uptown’ address. Nevertheless, he agreed that all publicity is ‘good publicity’, as the negative comment gave him a chance to clear his name. (See Juss Ice’s Comments below previous story.)

Marcus I, who gave thanks for a great live show at Red Bones last Friday,  was thankful for the publicity, saying: “Loved the article online, but didn’t want to play up the uptown ting. Is just good artistes regardless where we from, yet in the context of the story its all good. Some still judge us and belittle us for coming from where we come from, yet its all just one rich, poor etc, don’t matter!” (The point my article was making!) “All exposure and media mention is good — no one likes all reviews or articles, or songs. I’ve learnt we can’t please everyone, so we work for JAH!”

The third artist, who I have known from before he grew dreadlocks and started trying to become a singing star, put up a FB message saying I had damaged his career and that I was working for the CIA to destroy young artists!   I recommend he follows the example of the older and wiser heads such as Marcus I, who knows it takes much more than hype to make a music career. ONE LOVE!



God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.


Rototom Reggae Sunsplash, Reggae Film Festival


Reggae fans who recall the vibe and objectives of the original Reggae Sunsplash will be happy to know that the memory lives on after 16 years of Rototom Reggae Sunsplash, undoubtedly the biggest reggae gathering in Europe. The event now attracts around130,000 people every year from 120 countries, a peaceful army of reggae lovers who gather for 10 days from August 21 to 28 to celebrate Jamaica’s music and culture.

In addition to the festival’s role as an honoured European ambassador for the Jamaican reggae scene, through all the collateral activities it has also become a legitimate voice for peace, human rights, sustainable development and positivity – in a conscious effort to build “Un altro mondo possible” (another possible world). With such noble ambitions, it is no wonder that Rototom has maintained the loyalty of thousands of European reggae fans, despite its move this year from its original home in Italy, to Benicassim, Spain.

This year’s line-up of reggae artists, headed by Alpha Blondy, Anthony B, Albarosie, veterans Big Youth and Bob Andy, Fanton Mojah, Queen Ifrica, Busy Signal, Bushman, Tony Rebel and newcomer Romain Virgo is certain to please. Other stars booked to perform on the 8-night event include the Mighty Diamonds, Chuck Fender, Marcia Griffiths, Aswad, Etana and the Abyssians.

The move from Italy to Spain was caused by what the organisers call “the intolerance of Italian politics towards models of society that values different cultures and multi-racialism.” Spain, they state, has proven to be more democratic and more open to cultural diversity and therefore, the ideal environment for the festival to continue on its mission whilst protecting the rights of its public. Benicassim, situated on the Mediterranean coast in the province of Castellon just 88km from Valencia, was finally chosen as the location for the 2010 edition of Rototom especially because of its proximity to the nearby beach — fulfilling Rototom’s promise this year to provide ‘reggae, sea and sun’.

In addition to performances on the Main Stage, a second large stage called the Lion Stage as a symbol of youth in Rasta culture, will showcase an exclusive line up of bands and artists, both new and well established, who will perform from late afternoon and until dawn to give a spotlight to the energy and creativity of up and coming artists, taking a break only while the Main Stage concerts are on.

Other attractions include the finals of the European Reggae contest between winning bands from across Europe, while in the hours after performances end on the Main Stage, patrons can enjoy red hot nights in the Dancehall Tent with international DJ stars playing a variety of music styles, from bashment to roots and dub. The shows in the dancehall last until dawn: the flames of lighters in the air, whistles and blasts, and the latest dance steps… it’s just like being in Jamaica.

As well as the musical events, the festival will once again feature meetings, debates, courses, art exhibitions, films and documentaries, meditation seminaries, holistic therapies and many other activities grounded in reggae culture, largely presented by non profit organisations. A Reggae University will present speakers and invite discussion on reggae-related issues and for the first time the Reggae Film Festival from Jamaica will present a 3-night programme of films from its archive.

The objectives of Rototom Sunsplash in this new phase are to remain true to its history despite the new location, bringing the Spanish reggae scene opportunity to bridge the gap between Europe and the Caribbean. Spain enjoys close ties with Jamaica through the presence of leading Spanish-owned hotels and a proactive Spanish Ambassador who has made significant contributions to Jamaican cultural and historical activities.

Advance ticket sales are going well, and everything is in place as Rototm and Benicassim, Spain await the 17th staging of Reggae Sunsplash.



The organisers of Rototom Reggae Sunsplash 2010 have invited the Jamaica Film Academy director Barbara Blake Hannah to present a 3-night programme of ‘the Best of the Reggae Film Festival’ (see Full Programme here).

Since 1972 when Jamaica’s first feature film “The Harder They Come” exposed reggae to the world on its soundtrack, a growing number of films have been made that focus on Jamaica’s reggae music culture. In 2008 these ‘Reggae Films’ were gathered together in one place for the first ever REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL, held in New Kingston in February as part of Reggae Month.

The event was organized by a collaboration between Jamaican film maker and film festival organizer Barbara Blake Hannah and British film archivist Peter Gittins of REGGAE FILMS UK, with support from private sector sponsors and the Jamaican Ministry of Culture. Sixteen feature and documentary films from Spain, Germany, Argentina, Canada, the UK and the USA were screened, at the end of which 6 Jamaican film pioneers appointed to head a Jamaica Film Academy dedicated to the objectives of the Jamaican film industry.

In 2009 a smaller programme premiered films from the USA, Serbia and a Spanish/Jamaican sports documentary that went on to win several international awards.

In 2010 the REGGAE FILM FESTIVAL was held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, where the Jonkanoo Lounge was transformed into a cinema for nightly screenings of 22 films, a special daytime Children’s Programme and a Make A Film In 24 Hours competition. In the presence of film makers from Japan, Germany, USA, Hawaii, Canada and the UK, the 2010 festival specially featured entries of 10 new Jamaican films and the coming together of a New Jamaican Cinema movement of several new Jamaican film makers, producers and actors. For the first time, the Reggae Film Festival presented Honour Awards in several categories of features, documentaries, animation, music videos and short films.

'Kina Sky'
Lee 'Scratch' Perry

Among the films to be shown are the Argentinian feature film ‘ Roots Time“, award winning Japanese documentary “Ruffn Tuff – Founders of the Immortal Riddim’, a German documentary on Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the animated film ‘Kina Sky” and “Not To Me“, the first feature film by noted Jamaican film maker Ras Kassa. Though only 3 years old and operating without sponsors or funding, the Reggae Film Festival has made an impact in Jamaica and internationally. Not only have film makers from all over the globe entered their films and travelled to Jamaica to present them and win awards, but the event has come to the notice of global reggae fans, international media and cultural organisations, several of which have established links for future collaboration.

The directors of the Jamaica Film Academy and Reggae Film Festival are honoured by the invitation and recognition by Rototom Reggae Sunsplash.



LIFELINES: The Black Book of Proverbs. Askhari Johnson Hodari & Yvonne McCalla Sobers. Foreward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Review: ‘This little book contains the wisdom of the ages and is guaranteed to produce a smile of appreciation at the sheer sense of the proverbs you will find inside. from advice you wish your mother had given you to things you probably suspected but never put into words, Lifelines is a book to be read, absoerbed and treasured.

THE HILLS OF HEBRON: Sylvia Wynter. Ian Randle Publishers.

The story of a group of formerly enslaved Jamaicans attempting to create a new life and assert themselves against the colonial power. Based on the life of Revivalist preacher Alexander Bedward, the novel written in the late 1950s is the first attempt to present the lives of Black Jamaicans as independent human beings.

Author Professor Sylvia Wynter is one of Jamaica’s senior literary and cultural scholars, founder of Jamaica Journal and author of several major essays on Jamaican culture, history and literature, as well as several plays.


Is there a distinct and new genre of reggae coming out of the priveleged enclaves of ‘uptown’ Kingston? RIDDIM Magazine October 2009 issue first identified it:
“… We knew it already, but seeing it with our own eyes, we were suprised once again: The big names in Reggae & Dancehall are only the tip of the iceberg. Behind it whole armies of artists and producers wait to be finally noticed by the world. Such as the Multicast crew … a group of young free-thinking reggae artists, whose procedures as well as configuration could hardly be more eklektic. They refer to themselves as Underground, they ignore unwritten society and faith rules, and their music is the most exciting coming from Uptown for a long time.

Only by topics and language of the protagonists this internationally connectionable sound can be located in Jamaica, as it does not correspond to the usual hype postulate that defines the success formula usually to be followed by everybody. This musical secondary arena is Dancehall Underground made in Uptown Kingston.”

Ever since ‘uptown brown man’ Sean Paul Henriques defied the norm and became the first reggae star without ‘downtown’ origins , the options have open for a new breed of reggae artists from the same background who have emerged to prove that Jamaica’s music influences all, no matter the social or even racial origins of its music makers. Damion ‘Junior Gong” Marley named his successful album ‘Half Way Tree’ referring to the geographical location where ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ supposedly meet and in the home studios of Cherry Gardens, Beverly Hills and Norbrook many are following through the musical doors opened by Sean Paul and Marley.  Here are three of the most interesting: Michael ‘JUSS ICE’ Lewis, Marcus ‘I’ Crawford and Alex Marley.


ICE” is one of three artists profiled in the new award-winning reggae documentary ‘Rise Up’. Though his racial identity categorises him as ‘uptown’, he describes himself as ‘a farm boy’ who grew up in the country milking cows and feeding animals. When his parents decided to leave the farm and open a sports goods store in Kingston, ‘Ice’ went through the growing pains of the transition and, later, disorientation of a family relocation to Florida which he did not enjoy.

“But music was always in me, so I just never stop until I got my chance to record.” He’s been singing since age 14 when his talent was first recognised by Sean Paul’s manager Jeremy Harding. His voice is powerful and melodic, no one-note chanter but a strong singer with meaningful lyrics, whether social, cultural or romantic. It’s not possible to categorise him, as he is equally at ease singing straight dancehall lyrics, pop or R&B and rolls easily into roots reggae. On stage his performance is enhanced by his edgy attire, usually accompanied by a hairstyle-to-be-noticed. Recent performances at Village Cafe have received approval from patrons and reports by leading print, radio and online entertainment journalists.

Hits to date include ‘Thank God It’s Friday’, ‘Talking ‘Bout Love’, ‘Kingston Town’ and ‘Nah Get Hype’, all of which are currently in rotation on local radio. He continues to record with MultiCast Entertainment whose ‘uptown’ producer Makonnen Blake Hanna explains: “Multicast is about networking, bringing together the most different people and a support system for artists. We know how ‘uptown’ artists feel when people treat them like you can only do reggae if you are black and born in Trench Town.”

ICE enjoys the recognition he has received nationally and internationally from “Rise Up”, in which he shares the spotlight with reggae star Turbalance and female singer Kemoy in a documentary about the Jamaican music industry. The publicity and acceptance the film has received has brought him welcome attention and given him more confidence in his career. “Music is my LIFE,” says ICE.  “Me nah go nowhere!”   VIEW VIDEO: “Thank God It’s Friday:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jg4ayFTnxWc&feature=related

Marcus I has been singing since age 7, in school, church choirs and various public events and honing his professional craft for the past 10 years. His parents were upper-middle class – his father a University lecturer and respected political commentator, was one of the early members of the Reggae Sunsplash team of friends and Marcus I ‘grew up’ backstage at the annual show. With this closeness to reggae music at its most fertile time, Marcus decided to become a musical artist and eventually made his first professional appearance at that event in 1993.

Parents insisted he complete college and get a university degree, but that pause in his musical career only served to give him further experience. His apprenticeship at Reggae Sunsplash led to his appearance on subsequent editions of the landmark reggae show, as well as all the leading Jamaican stage shows since, including Reggae Sumfest, Rebel Salute and the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, and performances in the USA and Europe.

With over 30 recordings and 4 radio singles released including a song on the Gibbo Label- “Hard Times” Riddim & the Grillaras Compilation CD, as well as numerous shows and appearances from JA to USA, Marcus I has a large enough fan base and respect to be hosting a show on August 13 at the prestigious Red Bones Blues Cafe  — yet another listing on the full calendar of his career.  To hear his latest single, performing with Sean Paul, click on this link.   Marcus e Sean Paul by Young Revolutionaries.


The Marley name is an instant attention getter, as young Alex has discovered on his short, yet active career.  His father is from the same family as the man who fathered Bob,  and while growing up he received a mix of negative and positive reactions when people heard his surname.  But when he decided to grow his locks and pursue a musical career, the reactions were different, as people thought he was just a talentless amateur trying to cash in on a famous surname.

Time has proven the doubters wrong.  To learn his craft, Alex attended music school and learned to play all the instruments he needed to accompany himself on his early recordings. Later he formed his own backing band, the Black Lions, who now perform and tour with him.

An avid surfer and skateboarder with more than 3,000 Facebook fans and a playlist in countries as far apart  as Brazil and Bermuda, Alex Marley is living up to his famous relative’s legacy.  His latest single “Lovely Woman” is currently receiving rotation play on radio and cable TV stations across Jamaica and Alex is becoming recognised as yet another Marley to be taken seriously.  View his ‘Lonely Woman’ video here:

These are just three of the ‘uptown’ artists now coming to attention.  I must also mention Noah Issa, Timothy Hanna and Dax Vernon  — ‘uptown’ youths who are showing that when it comes to reggae, there is neither class nor colour barrier to success.


This week Jamaica celebrated Emancipation from Slavery (August 1) and Independence from British colonialism (August 6). It was sad but fitting that Sugar Minott’s emotional funeral ceremony was held on Emancipation Day at the National Arena, with many tributes from leading artists who were influenced by or worked with him, including Nahki — who praised Sugar Minott as ‘the man who brought reggae to Japan’ — Bongo Herman (who did a spirited performance of “Mr. DC”), Errol Dunkley, Derrick Harriot, Little John, Triston Palmer, Phillip Frazer and Bunny Brown. It was good to see the outpouring of love to this unsung reggae hero, who we hope will soon be added to the Jamaican Music Hall of Fame unveiled recently.


Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds.

BOB MARLEY – ‘Redemption Song’