The most recognized Awards show in Canada, the JUNO Awards, has included reggae in their lineup for the first time in 50 years. It’s a great signal that reggae continues to engage the world and is finally getting the respect it deserves. The show is well-known as the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards in the United States or the Brit Awards in Great Britain.
The first show was held in 1970 and was called the Gold Leaf Awards. The winners are chosen by the members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). Awards are given out on the sole basis of sales figures. Some of the more popular categories include Album of the Year or Artist of the Year. The names of the judges are kept confidential, and a person cannot judge the same category two years in a row.
Chairperson for JUNO’s Reggae Committee Carrie Mullings explained that the move to incorporate reggae had been on the cards for some time. She spoke to the Jamaica Observer about this latest move to make that dream a reality.
“It has been a long time since we have desired reggae to receive a main stage presence in the JUNO Awards broadcast. Every year we edge closer to that goal,” she said.
She added that acting as chair of the Reggae Committee allows her to bring suggestions and ideas to the table. Some of those ideas that included reggae’s presence on stage and at the award show were received warmly.
“However, this year’s performance is a statement that the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) organisation is hearing all the requests, working with myself and our Caribbean community to deliver a great performance by three of the nominees,” she continued.
The performers who will make the historic appearance at the awards are five-time nominee Ammoye, three-time nominee and Spanish Town native Kirk Diamond, and Montreal-born French/Nigerian singer Tome. Ammoye is originally from Halse Hall in Clarendon and is nominated for Reggae Recording of The Year along with Dubmatix ( Roots Rock), Tome featuring Sean Kingston ( I Pray), and Blessed ( Black Man).
Mullings said it was an honor to feature reggae as the show was celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“I think the exposure will be amazing for reggae and the nominees. The JUNO is celebrating 50 years and delivering completely virtually! It presents a whole new look for all genres of black music,” she added.
She also said that she was very proud of her involvement in reggae and that she was “equally as excited to see the performances from the hip hop genre that feature some of Canada’s finest hip hop veterans”.
Jully Black and rapper Kardinal Offishall, who have strong Jamaican roots, will also perform during the show to commemorate the 30th anniversary of rap music at the JUNO. Both artists’ parents are from Jamaica.
Diamond shared his excitement at being given the chance to perform. He said that it meant a lot to him and that as an added bonus, he would be given the privilege to represent Jamaica.
“For reggae, I believe it will show the Canadian music industry that this isn’t a small niche genre, and confirm something we the Jamaicans, or those of Jamaican descent living in Canada, already knew, which is reggae and the whole culture has a place in the Canadian music Industry,” he said.
Ammoye also shared that she was excited about the opportunity. She said that the chance meant a great deal of upward momentum for her career and reggae music as well.
“To get this opportunity to perform on this platform allows for a broader and wider audience to see and get to know who are representing reggae in Canada,” she added.
Their pre-recorded performances are expected to show on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) this Friday, June 4. The show has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and had to be postponed several times. It was originally carded for March, then May, but has now been given the green light for June 6.