International Reggae Day Generates Electricity, Even Unplugged

Celebration continues despite lack of planned webcast; Ernie Smith, Mighty Diamonds, Ken Boothe participate.

KINGSTON, Jamaica — Like a power outage, the failed Web linkage of Saturday's inaugural International Reggae Day could have short-circuited the event, but the show went on unplugged and still managed to keep the juice flowing.

The plan had been to link electronically 15 countries to Jamaica for up to 10 hours of discussion and entertainment. Such stars as Luciano, Tony Rebel and Buju Banton were scheduled to participate virtually through telephone and e-mail.

Unfortunately, the event couldn't win the support of the island's leading (and, until recently, only) Internet service provider, Cable & Wireless Jamaica. "They reviewed the proposal," said Andrea Davis of Jamaica Arts Holdings, which initiated the event. "My sense is they didn't see where or why they should be involved."

The show still unfolded offline, however, and videotape from Jamaica television station CVM's 10-hour telecast will be posted on the International Reggae Day site, dereggaemall.com.

Supported by local media and musicians' organizations, International Reggae Day's online events would have reflected the manner in which such groups as Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide share information via Web pages, e-mail and e-zines.

International Reggae Day took place from noon to 10 p.m. at the Bob Marley Museum/Marley Music Studio at 56 Hope Road. The site's tall metal entrance gates open up onto a small park, in which sit stone sculptures of Bob Marley, holding a guitar with a football at his feet, and a pair of stone lions.

On Saturday the lions served as seats for children enjoying hours of entertainment slanted entirely toward cultural "upliftment" — the roots of reggae culture — rather than the good-body, gal-praising escapism of contemporary reggae dancehall.

Stone Love, reggae's top ranking sound system (mobile disco), served as the event's sonic host, along with dub poet Mutabaruka. Love busted vintage vinyl tunes you didn't even remember you'd forgotten, including choice selections from such towering reggae icons as Peter Tosh and Jacob Miller.

Leading Jamaican radio DJs served as MCs for the program, which included three fashion shows from houses specializing in African-inspired lines, stunning dance performances also distinguished by their African "retention" and performances by such reggae legends as Ernie Smith, the Mighty Diamonds, Ken Boothe, Cutty Ranks and chanting "singjay" Junior Kelly, whose "Love So Nice" is burning up reggae charts.

Despite failing to secure its webcast, International Reggae Day successfully drew together key players from the island's music, dance, art, fashion, tourism and government sectors. With the CVM footage proof that the event was more than a flight of fancy, next year's celebration should have a better chance of being shared by the entire planet.