MoBay welcomes first staging of Reggae Nights
The infusion of visitors with locals in the tourism capital made several steps to becoming a reality with the official staging of Reggae Nights at the multimillion-dollar Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay on Sunday.
At the original home of some of the biggest festivals in the country, namely, Reggae Sumfest, Reggae Sunsplash, and the World Music Festival, Reggae Nights staked its claims as the island’s latest attraction, showcasing the evolution of Jamaican music from ska to rocksteady, reggae and dancehall, on the famous Jimmy Cliff Boulevard to hundreds of patrons.
“This is really what we wanted to do for quite a long time – a fusion of our local people with the tourism product. We had the Montego Bay community giving us our culture in different forms. We had patrons here filling the beach park, which we think is underutilised,” remarked Carolyn McDonald-Riley, head of the Tourism Linkages Network, a unit of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
The monthly event is being sponsored by the TEF, and McDonald-Riley wants to have more tourists interspersed with the locals at the next staging. On Sunday, several community groups performed, including fire dancers, the Silver Bird Steel Orchestra; reggae dance classes; combined with local artisans and chefs showcasing the cuisine, craft and fashion.
Excited about the prospects, one of the biggest advocates of the event, Mayor of Montego Bay Councillor Leeroy Williams said this augurs well for the city’s tourism product offerings. His idea is to have not only international visitors flocking the Harmony Beach Park location, but local tourists from places such as Kingston, Ocho Rios, Mandeville and Savanna-la-Mar.
“This is something Montego Bay has yearned for, and now it has become a reality,” said Williams, adding that this was good, clean family entertainment.
The brainchild of municipal councillor and businessman Dwight ‘Debo’ Crawford, and Andre ‘P’Nut’ Brown, operator of Social Butterfliez and Sobe Holdings, both men felt it was important to bring back a similar community event to the former ‘MoBay Nite Out’.
“Back in the day I used to have to sweep the yard, clean the house and be a good boy for one week to go to MoBay Nite Out. And to know, fast forward, we are here, a couple years down the line ... we are here revitalising and revamping this project to bring to the greater Montego Bay ... the greater good, which is bigger than me and everybody else,” Brown told The Gleaner.
His business partner, Crawford, described the event as a feel-good experience for Montego Bay. “MoBay needs this. We have one of the nicest beach parks in the Caribbean and the most fantastic people in Jamaica. What we need are events like this to bring them out.”
The aim, he said, is to satiate the appetite of the citizens, offering them the crème de la crème in entertainment, while allowing them the opportunity to share their culture with the visitors.
Approximately 1,500 people turned out for the inaugural Reggae Nights, leading Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Homer Davis, to comment that Montego Bay was really the birthplace of the big reggae shows. “We will be putting the conceptualisers of this show in the archives as having started one of the great shows here,” he stated, making reference to the fact that the event was being staged on a street named in honour of one of reggae’s icons, Jimmy Cliff.
“Reggae music is synonymous with Montego Bay. We have never failed with a reggae festival, so I expect this to grow from strength to strength, and hopefully become a weekly event.”
Meanwhile, Senior Superintendent of Police Vernon Ellis, the man behind the public order reset project, welcomed Reggae Nights as one of the components towards reducing crime in the city.
“Music, sports, technology, those are three things that we strongly believe are key intervention tools that can bring people together. When you look at how Montego Bay is viewed, what this is showing – people enjoying, themselves standing in unity, having fun, families are out – this is what we want to see,” he told The Gleaner.
Ellis added that he was looking forward to seeing a lot more Reggae Nights integrating the communities in a holistic way.