JIS News

Prime Minister Bruce Golding, led the tributes at this afternoon’s (Nov 22) service of thanksgiving for the life of music pioneer, Byron Lee, at the Abe Issa Auditorium at St George’s College, on North Street in Kingston.
“Like a relay runner determined to run more than just his leg of the race, Byron Lee has straddled the amazing evolution of Jamaica’s music from its early formative years, based on the Mento, fused with the Calypso, spiced with the American Jazz and Blues, Rock and Roll and Soul. He straddled the long period through Ska, Rock Steady, Reggae into Dance Hall and through it all, helped to shape Jamaica’s music”, Mr. Golding said.
The Prime Minister said Byron Lee stamped his own influence on the music and took it to the world, internationalising it so that it became part of what is now proudly called ‘Brand Jamaica’. But he noted that Byron Lee did not always occupy that stage alone as a Jamaican band leader. “There were other bands- The Vagabonds, the Skatellites, Carlos Malcolm and the Afro-Jamaican Rhythm, the Mighty Vikings, Sonny Bradshaw 7, Bare Essentials, and Fab 5”. He said many bands occupied the stage, but what was outstanding about Byron Lee, was that he never left the stage and is the most enduring of all bands. “Byron Lee and the Dragonaires is more than just a band he said, it’s an institution and a part of our culture and heritage”. Mr. Golding noted that for all Byron Lee had done for the development of the music, its members must ensure that Byron Lee and the Dragonaires Band must never die.
Other tributes were paid by long time friend and Band manager for over 34 years, Ronnie Nasralla, and the Reverend Rhonnie Thwaites, who stood in for Opposition Leader, Portia Simpson Miller.
Former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, delivered a brief history of Byron Lee’s contribution to music from the early days when he was first involved in the music as a producer and his growing friendship with the music pioneer. Mr. Seaga described Byron Lee as a social engineer, praising him for his ability to weld our people together, bringing those from downtown and uptown together. He said Byron Lee had learned the rhythms of the Eastern Caribbean and brought it to Jamaica, mastering the Soca and Calypso rhythms.
“Byron introduced Soca into Jamaica through Jamaica Carnival, replicating the Trinidadian Carnival in Jamaica, joining uptown with carnival, triumphing once more as a social engineer. Engineering that union of the two Jamaica’s is one that we will forever be grateful to him for”, Mr. Seaga said.

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