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Remarks by the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, Minister of Tourism & Entertainment at the National Ecumenical Service Marking Reggae Month 2013 Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 12:00 noon the Edna Manley College of The Visual and Performing Arts


Members of the media, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen…good afternoon.

I am delighted to have been invited to address this special National Ecumenical Service today, as we observe Reggae Month 2013. As we celebrate February as Reggae month with the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association-JaRIA, the theme ‘Reggae 50…A New Dawn’ undoubtedly heralds thoughts of restoration and regeneration. 

Last year we observed our 50th anniversary of independence with a yearlong calendar of events which quite appropriately summoned us to reflect… Reflect on who we are as a people, reflect on who we are as a nation, reflect on the route we traveled to get to where we are today and envision where we are going.

Reggae music is an encapsulation of all this, as the lyrics of songs such as Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross, Robert Nesta Marley’s No Woman No Cry, Etana’s Roots and Buju Banton’s Destiny have throughout the years reflected the social, political and economic realities of people across the globe.  

Brand Jamaica has earned international appeal with the most recent example of this being the Volkswagen Super Bowl Game Day television commercial which uses reggae icon Jimmy Cliff’s new rendition of the Partridge Family theme song "Get Happy." Though controversial in some quarters, I believe this is a distinct acknowledgement of the global strength and appeal of our music, language, mannerisms and culture which augers well for brand Jamaica.

I am delighted to see JaRIA take a hold of this opportunity to reposition Jamaica internationally as the forerunner and pace setters of reggae music. Reggae music and Jamaica are intrinsically linked and I take this opportunity to commend the Chairman and members of JaRIA for contributing to the development of the industry and therefore to the Jamaican economy.

As we reflect on the month’s theme, it begs the question: What is Reggae 50: A New Dawn? Reggae 50 is about preparing for the years ahead, charting the course which the music industry will travel in the future as we seek to ensure its growth and renewal. Kingston the Creative City - is itself undergoing a similar rejuvenation and rebirth as historic sites such as The Ambassador Theatre in Trench Town are undergoing a renewal through the efforts of the Jamaica Music Institute. Easily known as the birthplace of reggae, having launched the careers of Alton Ellis, Toots and the Maytals, Derrick Harriott, Bunny & Scully and Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Ambassador is an invaluable piece of our history that must be preserved. The Ward Theatre, also a historic landmark located in Downtown Kingston, with almost perfect acoustical architecture also must be looked at as one answer to the lack of closed venues in Jamaica. 

Trench Town – the birthplace of Reggae music and Reggae icons such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Toots & the Maytals, has deservedly been celebrated in numerous songs – Trench Town and Trench Town Rock to name a few. Trench Town, is a landmark for reggae aficionados around the world as Prince Harry’s visit to Trench Town’s Culture Yard last year proves. The rebirth of the cradle of our music, Reggae music, is fitting at a time when we’re looking towards ‘A New Dawn’ and I must say how pleased I am to see the start of these restoration works as they build on our cultural tourism product and the array of attractions Kingston – the Creative City - has to offer.

I have said it on several occasions that as a Ministry we see tourism and entertainment as an apt match, as they complement each other. The Entertainment Division, Entertainment Advisory Board, where JaRIA is represented, and other private and public sector stakeholders are working to ensure that all elements of Jamaica’s creative sectors are developed and nurtured through the implementation of appropriate policies and legislation. This collaborative approach will ensure that the full economic benefits that have always come from the hearts and minds of the Jamaican people will accrue to our artists so that this nation will achieve growth.

I know JaRIA has a comprehensive calendar for Reggae Month including the Annual Bob Marley Lecture, Reggae Wednesdays at Emancipation Park and the remembrance of Dennis Brown. Many of these are noted as calendar events on the Jamaica Tourist Board’s website that stimulate travel and enquiries from overseas visitors. The Ministry of Tourism & Entertainment through the JTB has consistently funded Reggae Month as we see the value of preserving Jamaican music. 

Finally, I believe that Tourism and Entertainment are two industries that must work hand in hand towards the sustainable growth and development of our nation. I look forward to working with JaRIA and other industry associations towards accomplishing this end and encourage all Jamaicans to join together in supporting the events and activities organized in celebration of Reggae Month 2013.

Thank You.