Celebrations for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence are intensifying. Yesterday, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission hosted the National Song Competition at the Indoor Arena. A last minute decision to go meant we had to procure tickets, which were free, but we had to pick them up ourselves. According to a Tweet from the government department hosting the event, we could pick them up at several locations. However, upon arriving at a couple of them, people working there said they had never heard of such a thing and never even had tickets. Organization is clearly not a strong suit for the people staging Jamaica 50 events. In any case, we decided to take a chance and arrived at the Arena early. People seemed to be producing tickets to enter, so we went and explained that we had tried to pick up tickets, but were unsuccessful. They waved us through, the guard asking me where I was from. 

It was an incredible event. Eight finalists were competing to wing $500,000 JMD, a car and a trip. This is an annual competition and has produced some stellar songs in the past, but this year was extra-special because of Jubilee celebrations. We were first treated to a warm-up from a well-known DJ, and the audience was mainly comprised of families and supporters of the finalists. Because it was also broadcast live, the event started exactly on time. The finalists first performed a cover song from well-known artists then their original song. Then Tony Rebel performed several songs. He tried to get away with stretching his performance out, even pleading for a couple more minutes. He even got political, calling for an end to Jamaica’s ties to the Monarchy, but ended his set with a reggae version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” 

There were some clear crowd favourites for the original song, but the panel of judges did not go with any of these. Instead, they chose Abbygaye Dallas. Displeasure in the crowd was palpable, including the young boy next to me who was clearly upset. We got a ride home from someone on the board of directors from the JCDC and he suggested something untoward might be going on. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining evening.