Jamaica Land We Love Gala

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Submitted by Bill Delingat


The Metro Toronto Convention Centre ‘s south building lit up with a big Jamaican Sun as all the flowers, colours and beauty of the island encompassed the great halls to  celebrate the 50th Golden Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence.


The ‘Jamaica Land We Love Gala’ was hosted by CBC Television’s Dwight Drummond and Anne-Marie Mediwake and featured  a spectacular star-studded four-part evening, honoring 50 years of Jamaica's Independence and  toasting the mother land while celebrating great Canadian-Jamaican achievements. The production commenced with The '62 Reception, and then moved into the main halls for the greetings. welcoming remarks with introductory speeches including the Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, Sheila Sealy Monteith High Commissioner For Jamaica to Canada and a message from Jamaica by the Hon. A. J. Nicholson Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Government of Jamaica to name a few of the many dignitaries in attendance. The event is one of many worldwide that is recognized as an official event by the Jamaican government.


Opening entertainment began with a beautiful rendition of the O Canada by Jay Davis, followed by Allan Jones with the National anthem of Jamaica only to have his microphone malfunction, but the audience joined into the chorus to back him up. The moment brought to mind the Bob Marley song“One Love” as you could feel the love the audience have for Jamaica.


The 1500 dinner guests were seated for the “Dinner in Hope Garden” to enjoy an authentic Jamaican cuisine and performances by the Heritage singers, Tribute to Jamaica by islander Mutabaruka and the young and enchanting violinist Jessica Yap. Yap flowed up the ramp to the stage in a white gown and performed some interesting mixes including traditional tunes, Bob Marley songs, and  the little known fact of what was considered the first reggae pop hit out of Jamaica, of ”My Boy Lollipop.” The evening progressed with laughter as Marc Trinidad, a brilliant comic explained the language of Jamaica, and that it is actually taught in Oxford University. It is hard to put into words but it made sense when he explained that in Jamaican if a word starts with an “H” and is followed by a vowel, the “H”: becomes silent. He made reference to of all things the beer Heineken  becoming “Ei neken “.you have to imagine the comments as the comic from Trinidad, Tobago gave his best explanation of Jamaican slang to the captivated audience;


The main event called the “Jamaica Jubilee” included a multi-media showcase of visuals, music, dance, comedy and spoken word from Jamaican and Canadian artists and personalities. Some of the skits gave us a look into the islands past with folklore tales like Letna Allen’s “Miss Lou” tribute where we heard what it was like to be brought up by a Jamaican family. It was interesting to learn that as a child they not only loved their reggae but also Celine Dion and of all things Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, yes country music. The country influence could be seen in the dance troupe KasheDance where the outfits and style had a country flair.


Jessica-YapJessica YapThe legend Derrick Harriot known for his hit “The Loser” brought the house down with his combination of merging R&B into reggae style tunes. Other artists and performances  throughout the evening  included  Blakka Ellis regarded as a top comedic entertainer, Claudette “Nana” Mclean ,Stephen Lewis and the KCC Gospel Choir, Ammoye (2011 Canadian Female reggae artist of the year) Kafaye Rose, Jay Douglas with the All-Stars Orchestra, Leroy Gibbons (known for his dancehall hits and “lover rock “style), DJ Eugene Chang playing the best in classic reggae tunes, Dwayne Morgan (winner of 3 Canadian Urban Music awards), Iyah Yant Drummers, Rachael-Lea Rikards, Earl ”Wire” Lindo  (keyboard /musician best known for his work with Bob Marley) and  R&B singer and reggae artist Steele, who swooned the crowd with what felt like a moment in Motown with his sultry voice and charismatic stage presence. Kreesha Turner, the chart topping Pop Diva who has her own unique fashion sense by incorporating more of her Jamaican heritage into her music, closed the Jubilee portion of the evening. Turner is known for keeping her new (old) natural hairstyle: Turner once said she wanted to inspire other curly and kinky-haired girls to wear their hair naturally, since so many famous ethnic women prefer not to do that. Turner is riding high on her successful CD “Tropic Electric” and this was a perfect choice to bring on the Grand Finale with all of the artists on stage for an encore performance.


The evening wrapped up with the after party, including featured artists playing old and nu-skool music. With Jamaica’s Gold winnings at the Olympics with Usain Bolt and the Golden 50th Anniversary, Jamaicans worldwide have a reason to celebrate their country and heritage with more opportunities for their youth to look forward to and be proud of in the years ahead. .
Congratulations to the Jamaican Canadian Association on a successful series of events and celebrations.