- Thousands gathered to celebrate the country’s 51st Anniversary at the Independence Grand Gala
- The event, which was held under the theme, ‘Our History, Our Strength’, showcased the nation’s rich musical legacy
- The show also paid homage to a number of outstanding Jamaicans
A sea of black, green and gold descended on the National Stadium in Kingston on Tuesday, August 6, as thousands of Jamaicans from near and far, gathered to celebrate the country’s 51st Anniversary at the Independence Grand Gala.
Among those in attendance were Their Excellencies the Governor-General, the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen and Lady Allen; Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller; Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna; other Cabinet Ministers; and Custos of Kingston, Hon. Steadman Fuller.
The event, which was held under the theme, ‘Our History, Our Strength’, showcased the nation’s rich musical legacy over the past five decades. The well-organised production took the audience on a musical journey, highlighting past and present entertainers, who have had tremendous successes on the local and international stage.
From Derrick Morgan, Ken Boothe, General Trees and Tiger to Junior Reid, Queen Ifrica and Junior Gong, the country’s rich repertoire of musical talent, creativity and innovation was well represented.
Not to be outdone were the performances of the uniformed and costumed groups, choirs and dance troupes, who gave stunning performances throughout the evening’s proceedings.
The show also paid homage to a number of outstanding Jamaicans, who have helped to focus international eyes on an island of just 2.7 million people. Among the video tributes of the evening were a replay of the Men’s 4×100 meters Final at the 2012 London Olympics; a feature on Jamaican Miss Worlds; and a tribute to past and present Prime Ministers.
But, it was the unforgettable feature on the best festival songs over the years which brought the audience to their feet. Both young and old could be seen dancing and singing along to songs such as ‘Land of my Birth’, ‘Bam Bam’ and ‘Mek wi Jam’.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Sydney Bartley, told JIS News that this year’s production was different from all other Grand Galas of the past.
“We deliberately wanted it to be different…We looked at the Grand Gala over the last several years and (we decided this year) to do a (production) that was totally artistic,” he said.
“We brought in dance companies, trained dancers, choirs and we decided to do a musical – different from the other Grand Galas of the past,” he explained.
Mr. Bartley said that while this year’s event was somewhat different, it still sought to uphold tradition by highlighting the richness of Jamaica’s culture and history. “You want to maintain your traditions, but you also want to change, innovate and create,” he added.
“My feeling now is that the people seem to be enjoying it and that is good, because ultimately that’s what you want,” he said.
Mr. Bartley noted that the organisers were able to put on a spectacular show with very limited funding. “The Grand Gala budget was about $50 million and we had to use that in some very wise ways. I have to lift my hat to the creative team that worked day and night to do this,” he said.
“I also lift my hat to the dressmakers from the inner city communities, who sat down after the costumes were designed and worked (overtime) to make these brilliant costumes tonight,” he added.
Patron, Jean Sutherland, who lives in New York, but visits Jamaica every year, said she was happy to be celebrating the nation’s 51st Independence in such grand style.
She pointed out that her favourite segment of the show was the festival song feature. “It was very entertaining and it brought me way back to the (old days), back to Dinki Mini and those things. That’s what festival was all about,” she said.
Spanish Town resident, Dave Davis, said the Grand Gala is one event that he cannot miss. “I am a born Jamaican. I am here every year,” he said.
Mr. Davis said he enjoyed himself tremendously, adding that the performance from D.J. Tiger was the most memorable moment of the show. “I haven’t heard anything from Tiger in many years. I didn’t even know he was still in Jamaica, so it was a pleasure to hear his voice,” he added.