Sun | Sep 22, 2019

‘Jamaica’ prevails at JCDC album launch

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:08 AMYasmine Peru/Gleaner Writer
Nester Chung, who goes by the stage name Humility, thrills with his entry titled ‘Battlefield’.
Nester Chung, who goes by the stage name Humility, thrills with his entry titled ‘Battlefield’.

A former gospel song winner, an enchanting church group, which even includes the pastor, a spiffy assortment of locks-wearing singers, a few ‘bald heads’ and two females make up the 10 finalists and one wild card in this year’s Festival Song Competition. Last Thursday, Emancipation Park in New Kingston was the venue chosen to host the official launch of the Festival Song album, which was attended by Minister of Culture Olivia Grange; Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) officials; the reigning 2018 Jamaica Festival Queen winner and a strong contingent of vuvuzuela-blowing fans.

It was one of those late-start events, but the engaging and entertaining performances from the competition’s 2019 finalists more than compensated for the delay. A mix of seasoned performers and newcomers hit the stage to show exactly why they were chosen to represent. And, not surprisingly, in a nod to the nature of the event, of the 11 songs, eight had titles with the name ‘Jamaica’ somewhere therein. The other three songs are Hero Fight, Battlefield and Embassy Appointment.

Veteran artiste, the sprightly Edwin Myers, gave a huge chunk of himself with his performance of A Piece Of Jamaica. In a post-performance interview with The Gleaner, Myers revealed that he had entered and won the Gospel Song Competition on 1989, and that he has previously written songs for others in the Festival Song contest.

The other church singers, Escarpment Road New Testament Church of God (NTCG), like Myers, said they deliberately chose this competition over the Gospel Song contest and did not feel like they were betraying their gospel roots. “Christianity is relevant in our popular culture. Our national anthem is a prayer, and that is the foundation of who we are as a nation,” Escarpment Road members said.

Last year’s second-place winners, Escarpment Road is fully endorsed by their church community and declare that this competition is an excellent way for them to proclaim the gospel..

“We have overwhelming support from the Christian community in general, not just our own church. Last year, for example, we had the most ‘shares’ and ‘like’ on social media, more than the other nine contestants combined,” they revealed.

The group, whose lead singer is their pastor, the Rev Dr Steven Samuels, gave a rousing performance of their entry song, Jamaica Bless. They say that they are determined to take home the trophy this time around.

The two females finalists, Meckedah Henry and Alero Perrier, shook up the park with their performances, as did most of the finalists.

Special guests were last year’s winner, Nazzle Man, who opened the show, and Grammy Award-winning deejay Beenie Man, who told the gathering that he will be entering the Festival Song Competition next year.

Next on the agenda for the top 10 finalists, and the lone wild card, is a series of road shows and special performances across the island. This, the JCDC says, will give the finalists necessary exposure, while giving members of the public the opportunity to get to know the songs and the artistes.

The Jamaica Festival Song Competition is one of the longest-running original-song competitions in Jamaica and continues to unearth and showcase several talented individuals each year. A signature programme of the JCDC, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, this competition, which started in 1966, continues to serve as a musical platform for cultural exposition and for entrants to make an indelible mark on Jamaica and the world.