Photos & Feature by Empress K
Sunday, September 4th, 2011 - For many people, Labor Day Weekend in the US signifies the end of summer - a time to celebrate with family and friends at local gatherings. For me, it means time to take a trip to NYC to visit my adopted Reggae family and check out the melting pot of activity that attracts so many visitors to the city on Labor Day weekend. The annual Irie Jamboree festival usually held on Labor Day weekend did not take place in 2010, which definitely left a void in the city for a live outdoor festival. That void was filled this year with the inaugural launch of Reggae Rhythm & Blues touted to bring the best in Reggae, Dancehall and R&B together on the same stage. Mavado, one of the first artists advertised got his work permit back this year. Announcements soon followed for R&B headliners BabyFace & Monica, Reggae Singer Tarrus Riley, and Machel Montano to round it out with some soca vibes especially appropriate since it is was also Carnival time in NYC.
Many individuals and families came early to the spacious area of Roy Wilkins Park located in Queens, NYC well prepared for the day and evening ahead with chairs, blankets and even umbrellas which this time was for a completely different purpose - to protect from the sun rather than from the rain that I've recently encountered at other reggae festivals over the summer. The large vending area located at the back of the park grounds provided a wide array of caribbean art, merchandise and as expected numerous Caribbean food stands. Roast Corn, a major favorite at Caribbean festivals, seemed to be on everyone's plate. The Door, one of my favorite Jamaican restaurants in Queens was present with a steady stream of customers. For cool refreshments, Sky Juice SnowCone was a popular choice along with Baba Roots & Hi*T serving up beverages to quench the thirst. It was quite some distance to trek from the stage area to the vending booths, however a large display screen on the stage provided a good view for those in the back on the park grounds.
Machel Montano Pumps Up The Crowd
Machel Montano was one of the earlier headliners to hype up the crowd with his high energy soca set backed by his band and along with the HD dancers and special guest Patrice Roberts to wow the crowd. Monica, the only female headliner on the event kicked off the R&B segment of the program and entertained the audience prior to Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds taking the stage. By the reaction of the crowd, Babyface easily satisfied the R&B lovers performing a solid set of his well known hits.
Beenie Man Arrives in Style
Meanwhile Mose Davis more popularly known as Beenie Man arrived in high style complete with a Rolls Royce and was quickly surrounded by the media, paparazzi style as he was quickly whisked back stage. Beenie Man was in attendance to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior to accepting his award, a video tribute honoring Beenie Man's achievements in Reggae Music was shown. Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke had the honor to present the award to a beaming Beenie Man. Since he had not yet received a work visa, he engaged the crowd dancing along to the music and brought out a surprise guest, Khago performing for the first time in the area. The late VP Executive Joel Chin was also honored at the event with a heart-felt video tribute to acknowledge his significant contributions to the Reggae Music Industry.
Beenie Man receives Lifetime achievement award
Tarrus Riley fresh from a successful European tour was up next with his only area appearance. Backed by Dean Fraser and the Black Soil band, he performed many of his well known hits although a few sound issues appeared to be present, delaying the start of his set. As the festival neared it's early evening ending time, it was time for the long-awaited return of Mavado to close out the Reggae Rhythm & Blues Festival. The festival was definitely a successful blend of Reggae, R&B, Soca, and Dancehall and will hopefully continue next year to keep the tradition of having a family friendly festival on Labor Day weekend in NYC for years to come. Labor Day weekend in NYC would not be complete without partaking in some of the numerous Carnival festivities. For me, it was time to experience my first and most definitely not last time celebrating Jouvert in NYC before heading back to Boston. Click here for photos & story => J'Ouvert 2011 NYC. See the Reggae Rhythm & Blues slide show below to see all the pics from the festival.
Final Acts of the evening: Tarrus Riley and Mavado
For more information on the event, check out the official website www.reggaerhythmandblues.com
The International Reggae & World Music Awards better known as the IRAWMA was originally established in 1982. According to the official website, www.Irawma.Com, the mission of the award show "acknowledges and honors the accomplishments and contributions of Reggae and World Music artists including songwriters, performers, promoters, and musicians". The award show has been held in multiple locations with NYC being the home for the last 8 years. Billed as being the Grammys of the Caribbean, Martin’s International & Associates announced in November of 2010 that Port of Spain, Trinidad would the location for the special 30th anniversary of the IRAWMA. Since many consider Trinidad as the “New York” of the Caribbean, Trinidad seemed to be an ideal choice for this prestigious event held on Saturday, 05/28/11 at the National Arts Performing Association (NAPA).
NAPA in Port of Spain is a fairly new state of the art performance hall, the perfect setting to stage the elaborate production, and to provide the appropriate ambiance for a world class event. Just as the sun began to set in Port of Spain, the Red Carpet was active for about 2 ½ hours as Artists, Presenters, and VIP Guests were greeted with with music by a Steel Pan performance before proceeding to stroll the red carpet in their formal attire, pose for photos, and take part in various interviews with the local and international media outlets.
IRAWMA Red Carpet Glamour
Reflecting the local flavor of the location, lovely young ladies dressed in vibrant orange and green carnival designs along with Blink Bmobile attendants were present along the red carpet.
The exterior of the venue featured an outdoor stage where a local reggae band entertained the small general admission section until the ceremonies commenced shortly after 8:00pm. Two large display screens allowed the general admission patrons to view the award presentation.
NAPA Sets the Stage
NAPA Photo Credit: UrbanIslandz
NAPA itself is a spectacular venue offering multiple levels of graduated seating. The brilliant stage showcased glass pillars illuminated throughout the evening and featured a gold globe podium adorned with a musical note, a miniature replica of the actual award given to each winner.
Tony Rebel, the master of ceremonies for the evening shared his hosting responsibilities with Shaggy and 4-time Grammy winner Deniece Williams. Tony Rebel who has previously hosted the show numerous times along with Shaggy kept the audience entertained with their quick humor and Shaggy’s flirtatious antics with the ladies on the stage.
The massive stage allowed for the celebrated Saxophonist Dean Fraser and Friends backing band to glide back and forth throughout the evening when providing live music for the opening instrumental set as well as backing solid performances by reggae artists Rocky Dawuni (Ghana), Gramps Morgan(Jamaica) and Tarrus Riley(Jamaica). Additional performances of the evening included TnT artists General Grant and Soca Elvis; an instrumental Steel Pan set by The Mighty Dow (St. Maarten); DJ’s Macka Diamond and Tifa (Jamaica); and Machel Montano (TnT), the final performer of the evening.
And the Award goes to......
Awards were presented in 48 categories encompassing multiple genres of Caribbean and World Music. While the first segment of the show focused mostly on award presentations, the second segment of the show featured award presentations interspersed with the numerous performances of the evening. Four artists were recipients of multiple awards.
Freddie McGregor not present at the event, tied with Mighty Sparrow for Most Consistent Entertainer and received a special award for Master of Reggae.
Shaggy and Jah Cure were tied with three awards each. Shaggy received the coveted Entertainer of the Year Award, and was also recognized in the Community Service and the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Award categories. For the latter awards he paused for a serious moment and humbly accepted the awards. He then spoke about his belief as a public figure to engage fame, talent and time for the good of all and recognized the Bustamante Children's Hospital staff in Jamaica, an organization that Shaggy has been involved with for some time.
Jah Cure, not present at the awards, received awards in the categories of Most Educational Artist, Award for Spiritual Service and Best Song for ‘Unconditional Love' featuring Phyllisia.
Machel Montano the King of Soca in his home country was a crowd favorite and picked up the most awards of the evening, taking home awards in five of the seven categories in which he was nominated: Most Outstanding Stage Personality, Best Male Calypso/Soca Entertainer, Best Caribbean Entertainer, Most Outstanding Show Band, and a special King of Soca award. For his last award, he had his youngest daughter join him on stage and noted that while she was not an entertainer, he celebrated her work as a scholar echoing his earlier sentiments as he previously had thanked his parents in the audience for their encouragement early in his career for him to put his studies first.
Other artists present to receive their awards included: Tarrus Riley, Best Male Vocalist; Dean Fraser, Best Instrumentalist; Macka Diamond, Best Female DJ; Rocky Dawuni, Best African Entertainer; Tony Rebel, Award of Honor; Isidore “ The Mighty Dow” York of St. Maarten accompanied by his family was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award; Ricky Jai, Best Chutney Entertainer, a new category introduced this year and a special recognition to co-host Deniece Williams.
The award show ended just after 11:00pm with an entertaining group finale of “One Love” backed by Dean Fraser and Friends and accompanied by all the artists, winners, and many presenters in this final celebration of unity through music.
For a full list of categories and winners: http://irawma.com/vote2011.html
IRAWMA 2011 Photo Gallery by Reggae Reflection
A Reflection in Time
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