The International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) will this year hand out the first-ever Toots Hibbert Award for the category Best Album/CD, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and the U-Roy Award for Best Male DJ/Rapper.
According to IRAWMA President Ephraim Martin, this is one way to honour the memory of these icons. Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, the frontman of the groundbreaking reggae and ska group Toots and the Maytals, and credited with naming the genre reggae, passed away on September 11, 2020. Legendary pioneer of the dancehall, Ewart Beckford, better known as U-Roy, took the art of toasting and transformed it into an international phenomenon. The Godfather of Dancehall helped to start the career of early toasters. U-Roy transitioned February 17.
“Once they are alive, they are here with us, but we want to remember them,” Martin said.
IRAWMA, now in its 39th consecutive year, has long gone the route of paying homage – upon their passing – to music industry players who have made a tremendous impact. “We used to have a General Echo award, and then we stopped doing that. We had a Vere Johns award for a very long time as well,” the founder explained.
Other reggae heroes who have awards named after them are Bob Marley, Emperor of Reggae and World Music – Bob Marley Award for Entertainer of the Year; Peter Tosh Award for Recording Artiste of the Year; Jacob Miller Award for Best Male Vocalist; and Gregory Isaacs Awards for Best Song. There is also the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Awards, in honour of Jamaica’s first national hero and pan-Africanist.
Award named for Mutabaruka
Interestingly, dub poet and broadcaster, Mutabaruka, bucks the trend by being alive and having an award named after him. “Muta won the category for Best Poet/Spoken Word Entertainer so often, that he retired from it. After that, the award was named after him,” Martin explained.
Acknowledging that this is the era of lockdown and new normal, which has seen in-person events and live concerts replaced by the virtual experience, IRAWMA has moved with the times and is this year asking industry persons to nominate the Virtual Entertainer of the Year and the Best Virtual Showcase. Nominations by artistes, producers, promoters, songwriters, record labels, entertainment media bloggers, managers, agents, engineers opened on February 1 and ends on March 10. Public voting runs from Monday, March 20, to April 20.
‘Reggae/World Music Rise’ is the theme for this year’s event, which honours musicians and industry professionals for their creativity and contributions during 2020. The virtual staging is scheduled for May 2, and Martin promises that it will be spectacular.