Bob Marley’s widow Rita Marley and reggae/dancehall star Sizzla are this year’s honorees at the Independence Day Grand Gala.
The Grand Gala committee has designated Sizzla and Rita Marley as this year’s recipients of the Gala award at the annual event that took placed at the National Stadium on Tuesday, August 6. Minister Olivia Babsey Grange made the announcement during a recent press conference at Jamaica House. If we’re raising our eyebrows at the Rita Marley part, it’s because we’re wondering what took so long.
The Reggae icon and matriarch of the Marley family imprinted her name in the genre’s history books a long time ago. In the 70s Rita was part of a trio that sang back-up vocals for Bob Marley. She also released her own solo albums in the 80s and 90s. Rita eventually married and had kids with Bob Marley and their union literally spawned further greatness to the reggae industry. Today we are still serenaded by the beautiful vocals by Steven and Kymani Marley.
The Jamaican government awarded Rita Marley the Order of Distinction in 1996 for her contribution to music. She’s a big deal. In a statement to the Observer, director of marketing and public relations, Andrew Clunis said, “She, in her own right has made her own contribution as a female in the reggae industry. She has been a woman of the music industry for a long time…” he said.
The government will also be honoring Sizzla, who is another historical name that has played a significant part in the reggae music industry. Sizzla Kalonji started his music career in the 1990s, and he never stopped delivering great music. Reggae fans cannot forget hits like “Thank You Mama” and “Solid As A Rock.” Sizzla has carefully maneuvered the reggae evolution and has managed to stay relevant in the modern era of the music. He has made multiple collaborative records with international music producer DJ Khaled for the latter’s “Grateful” and “Father of Asahd” albums in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Clunis told the Observer “[Sizzla] was at the forefront of bringing the culture to dancehall music, bringing some consciousness to the industry and creating another generation of artistes to carry this on,” about honoring Sizzla.
The Independence Grand Gala is really a grand finale to a week-long series of events that the government orchestrated for Independence week in Jamaica. It promises to be a great treat as acts like Cocoa Tea and Koffee are set to perform.