Fri | Nov 27, 2020

Industry players have their say on the return of Sunsplash

Published:Thursday | August 29, 2019 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Joe Bogdanovich
Robert Russell (left) vibing at the recently concluded Reggae Sumfest with international R&B star, Ne-Yo.
Ninjaman holds a New Testament given by a patron during his performance on Dancehall Night, Thursday, August 5, 1993 at Reggae Sunsplash 93 at Jamworld. Ninja was singing about giving up drugs.
Sanchez belts out a hit in front of a large Reggae Sunsplash crowd at the Bob Marley Centre in Montego Bay, St. James, in August 1989.

After a 14-year absence, Reggae Sunsplash, the original reggae music festival, is set to return in November 2020 at Grizzly’s Plantation, St Ann. For many, this revival reiterates Jamaica’s ability to produce unique, exclusive experiences, and further indicates potential to revitalise the local live music scene which has waned over the years. For others, Reggae Sunsplash’s return is neither here nor there.

“Right now, I’m more concerned about the potential of a global recession to hit our shores in the next 12 months and various ­elections to take place in the USA and Jamaica,” Joe Bogdanovich, executive producer of reggae music ­festival brand, Reggae Sumfest, told The Gleaner. Co-producer Robert Russell offered different sentiments. “I wish them all the best. It’s not easy. I know the challenges they will face.”

Reggae Sunsplash was acquired by Guardsman Group Ltd, and the brand licensed to eMedia Interactive Group Ltd, in which Guardsman owns a 35% ­interest. Reggae Sunsplash will be ­produced through eMedia subsidiary Vertical Creative Ltd by Robert ‘Chuckles’ Stewart, who worked on the original Sunsplash and has produced tours for Sean Paul and Buju Banton.

eMedia founder and CEO Tyrone Wilson will take on the role of executive producer, while Debbie Bissoon and Randy Mattis will be festival managers. Jerome Hamilton of Headline Entertainment is booking acts.

Though it’s still early days, Reggae Sunsplash principals have not yet sought guidance nor mentorship from their more experienced colleagues. Nonetheless, Russell assured he and his Sumfest team are willing to assist and advise. “As much as we can, we will only be happy to help them. We welcome any music festival to Jamaica, because it creates more interest in the country. It helps attract visitors to the island, which is what it’s all about – bringing in a number of overseas persons to help boost the economy,” Russell asserted.

Founder of International Reggae Day (IRD), Andrea Davis, shared her desire for the revival, that it will be embraced by all relevant stakeholders for the sake of resuscitating live music events. “I hope we embrace the opportunity to add another reggae music event to the entertainment calendar, because we are too far behind other ­countries, in terms of the live reggae music product we can offer to the world,” she told The Gleaner.

This year, International Reggae Day saluted Reggae Sunsplash as the blueprint reggae festival. “It’s heartening to see Reggae Sunsplash return to the stage – and it’s encouraging for the live music event product in Jamaica that holds such a strong appeal worldwide. Curiosity alone will drive visitors to the festival, which will itself offer something that ­people have been nostalgic for,” Davis said.