When U-Roy was crowned

When U-Roy was crowned

'Chin' recalls event to honour the late reggae veteran

Observer senior reporter

Sunday, February 21, 2021

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The death of reggae veteran U-Roy on Wednesday and the subsequent firestorm of publicity surrounding an event held in New York in 2019 when the icon was honoured for his burgeoning work in the growth and development of the reggae music industry has left event promoter Garfield “Chin” Bourne of the US-based promotions outfit Irish & Chin with mixed feelings.

According to Bourne since U-Roy died on Wednesday he has been flooded with messages of commendation for honouring the iconic artiste. However he noted that while he has no regrets and is absolutely pleased that he was able to honour the man credited with giving birth to and popularising the toasting style in Jamaican dancehall and sound system culture, Bourne noted that he can't help but reflect on the limited number of similar acts and events aimed at recognising the contribution of Jamaican artistes who paved the way and gave their all to create what many enjoy today.

“Don't get me wrong, I am so, so happy that Irish & Chin chose to honour Daddy U-Roy when we did. But I can't help but think how sad it is in our culture that many times it is only when someone dies that we think about honouring them. U Roy has done so much for the music. When you think about the fact that what we now know as hip hop has its roots right there in Jamaica, and it's man like Daddy U-Roy who really set the trend.”

“The fact that the crowning and recognition that we staged in 2019 is what everybody is referring to at this time really makes me wonder if we were appreciating his contribution over the years. Now that he is no longer with us there should be so many photos and footage of him being honoured in so many other ways. The fact that our event was done in America and not in Jamaica by the powers that be also makes makes me sad,” Bourne continued.

The 2019 event at which U-Roy was recognised was Rewind, an annual sound system celebration which had been held for ten years. Each year Irish & Chin would invite some of the top sound systems, selectors and a heavy roster of dancehall acts to New York for the event.

According to Bourne, the event is aimed at honouring the veterans of sound system culture and taking patrons back to where the music began so that they can develop an appreciation of where it is today.

Each year the popular show would see as many as 15 acts billed to perform, and for the entire history of the series the one constant was U-Roy and his Stur Gav sound system.

However, in 2019 things had been different.

Irish & Chin decided that they would honour U-Roy, the man born Ewart Beckford. That year, instead of a full roster of acts, they just wanted to focus on the man and his music in a tribute by some of his peers from the sound system culture. Rory of Stone Love fame, British reggae aficionado David Rodigan and Johnny from Bodyguard were among the selectors on the bill, along with Stur Gav. However, U-Roy had no idea he was being honoured.

“He had not been in the [United] States for a while, so we knew we had to make it special. We know how much Shabba respects U-Roy and so we know he had to be included in what we were doing. We came up with that whole concept of a coronation – a ceremony with a crown and a cape – so he would have an idea about how we really felt about him,” Bourne shared.

On the evening of the event held at the famous club, Amazura, in New York, the team at Irish & Chin did their best not to reveal anything about the surprise which was awaiting Daddy U-Roy.

“We waited for the perfect moment. We took Shabba into the club via a back entrance so nobody would see him. When the moment arrived, we distracted U-Roy and brought a huge cake on the stage and then out of nowhere Shabba's voice echoed in the club. He then became aware of what was happening and he began to cry. It was such an emotion-filled moment for us all, but it was worth every moment,” he noted.

In the days since his passing at the age of 79, Bourne is naturally saddened that the industry has lost this legend, but stated that he is filled with pride at having been able to share that moment and show his appreciation.

“It was only right that we say thank you to someone who has done so much,” he said.

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