Dharma's 17-year wait


Dharma's 17-year wait

Observer writer

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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Today, the Jamaica Observer presents the first in a five-part series on entrants in this year's Festival Song Competition.

Amid the high level of crime and violence, Festival Song Competition finalist Dharma says his piece, A Jamaica We Love , highlights the true beauty of the country.

“The single is introducing Jamaica to the world…inviting tourists and letting them know that Jamaica is fine. We have lots to offer — our nice rivers, beaches, the tropics and so on. So, I just want to show that Jamaica still seh love, and it's not all about crime and violence like it is stereotyped to be,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Dharma, whose given name is Percival Lord, is one of the 11 finalists in this year's contest. The grand final is scheduled for July 27 at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in Kingston.

Dharma, who is from St Mary, said he wrote and produced A Jamaica We Love in 2002.

“It was supposed to be part of an album, but I didn't release the album. The inspiration was basically to dedicate a song to Jamaica. I wanted the album to feature some cultural aspects,” he explained.

“I was told about the 'Festival Song Competition' a couple years ago by DJ Roderick Howell from Hitz 92, and while I was listening to the track the memory flash back in my mind of what he (Howell) said, so I just decided to enter this year,” Dharma continued.

The Festival Song Competition was first held in 1966. The Maytals won that inaugural contest with Bam Bam; the 2018 winner was O'Neil “Nazzleman” Scott, with Jamaica A Wi Home.

Dharma, whose favourite Festival Song is Roy Rayon's Give Thanks and Praises (1987), explained what the competition means to him.

“The Jamaica Festival Song was like a way to celebrate freedom, a way to celebrate our rich culture and growing up and hearing Roy Rayon and those other Festival Song artistes, I didn't really have an idea of what it was all about, until now. But for me, it's really more of Jamaica's culture and the vibe of the people coming together as one,” he said.

The Festival Song Competition has experienced a dip in recent times, but Dharma believes that is an easy fix.

“Back then, the Festival singers would normally not just sing about Jamaica. Its appeal [was] based on the type of things they used to sing about and the way they did their songs; it wasn't three or four minutes like us…it was shorter and spicy. They also cared more about how the people embraced the songs whereas we care more about lyrics. We can never get back Festival to that stage unless we revolutionalise that, based on the type of songs that are selected for the competition each year,” he said.

Dharma feels all contestants have an equal chance of winning next week.

“I don't think about segregation. We all have our own unique songs that sets us apart, and everybody is really talented,” he said.

Julian Cowan, events coordinator at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, organisers of Festival celebrations, agreed.

“There are 11 fabulous finalists for this year's competition. The songs are amazing, and they are well-received at the various road shows that were conducted across the island. The songs have covered all areas of the island — from our culture, heritage, and our beautiful island home. All the |finalists are very talented and creative. In fact, most of them wrote and performed their own songs,” she told the Observer.

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