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Jamaica Marks 50th Anniversary of Independence

Highlights from the nation’s gala event

Martei Korley

Jamaica is probably more closely identified with music than any other country in the world, and its 50th anniversary of independence was celebrated with an appropriate emphasis on sound. For six days, from August 1st through the 6th, a temporary entertainment venue and cultural expo (dubbed Jamaica 50 Grand Jubilee Village) was set up on the grounds of the National Stadium in Kingston, hosting live music performances, plays, movie screenings, a fashion show, dance competition and raucous public viewings of Jamaican track stars Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce’s Olympic wins. The events all set the stage for a massive, music- and dance-filled independence gala inside the National Stadium attended by more than 35,000 Jamaicans attired head-to-toe in green, gold and black.

By Jesse Serwer

Martei Korley

Yellowman

Yellowman began his set with his signature tune "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng" and closed with his cover of Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill." But he left his most lasting impression during a wacky instrumental interlude which saw him flexing his muscles before dropping down to do some push-ups.

Martei Korley

General Trees

Known for his humorous brand of dancehall, General Trees entertained the crowd with "Eye No See," a song about butchers who sell donkey and call it beef, and "Bashco," about off-brand clothes bought at the Kingston store by that name. 

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Alaine

Alaine was born in New Jersey and appeared in Clara's Heart with Whoopi Goldberg as a child, but in Jamaica she's best known for her 2006 hit "No Ordinary Love." Her brief set offered a very feminine reprieve to the dominant male energy that abounded stage. 

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Tifa

Bawdy dancehall diva Tifa, who gave the final musical performance at the Independence Gala, took her show to the people at the Village. 

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T.O.K.

Dancehall quartet T.O.K. strike the Bolt "To Di World" pose, one of many tributes to the world's fastest man by the evening's performers. 

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Junior Reid

You can't get far in Jamaica without hearing Junior Reid's "One Blood." A string quartet did their interpretation of the 1990 dancehall classic (more recently updated by rapper The Game as "It's Okay")  during the Independence Gala and, a few hours later, the former Black Uhuru singer got to perform it himself on the Jubilee Village stage. Here he is pouring his heart into "Mashing Up the Earth," his version of Michael Jackson's "The Earth Song."

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Tony Rebel

Tony Rebel closing out the night with the final performance at Jubilee Village. As he did earlier in the evening at the Independence Gala, Rebel freestyled his 1991 song "Sweet Jamaica," a sly commentary. 

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Vuvuzelas

Vuvuzelas have largely replaced the traditional airhorn as the preferred noisemaking device at Jamaican music events. The sound of vuvuzelas drowning out the music signals a "forward," a rambunctious crowd response calling for more.