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Caribbean Music Icon Byron Lee Headlines Jerk Festival – Sunday, September 24, 2006 Sunrise, Florida

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Jamaican musical icon, Byron Lee and his Dragonaires will be the headline act at this year’s 5th annual Jamaican Jerk Festival, presented by Air Jamaica, set for Sunday, September 24 at Markham Park in Sunrise, Florida.

Lee, 71, is celebrating his 50th anniversary in the business, and has distinguished himself as a successful band leader, promoter, label owner and studio owner. His efforts have contributed to the explosion in popularity of Jamaican music in the late ‘60’s and ‘70’s. His recording studio, Dynamic Studio, remains one of the most popular in all the Caribbean.

Generations of Jamaicans have grown up listening to the sounds of Byron Lee & The Dragonaires. The multi cultural Lee, born on June 27, 1935, to a Black Jamaican mother (whose father was Chinese) and a Chinese father, explains, “From my mother I received the soul, rhythm and love of music and from my father I received my shrewd business sense.” Lee went on to form his band, Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, in 1956 and aptly named after his alma mater’s St. George’s College football team, the Dragonaires.

Encouraged by former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, to play ska, Jamaica’s first indigenous popular music, and who produced the Dragonaires’ first single (a cover of an R&B instrumental called “Dumplins”) in 1960, the young Byron Lee & The Dragonaires was forging a musical future. According to Lee, “Ska was confined to the poorer elements – of Jamaican society – who couldn’t afford to buy the records or present the shows. So, I brought ska to a club uptown then radio picked up the music and the rest is history.”

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, features Byron Lee & The Dragonaires in the scene at Pussfeller’s Club and the band also played a number of tunes on the soundtrack. In 1964 many came away aglow with love for the high-energy, first-to-be-seen-in-the- world ska performance of the band at the New York World’s Fair.

For years, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires has been a fixture at Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and have re-recorded Carnival’s top hits with their cover versions. In his usual pioneering role Lee brought the Trinidad Carnival-style costumed road parade to Jamaica and launched Jamaica Carnival. Jamaica Carnival is now one of the must-see cultural musical experiences in Jamaica.

The Main stage at the Jamaican Jerk Festival will erupt into a high-energy party as the crowds will jam to the popular hits of the Caribbean, played the way only Byron Lee and the Dragonaires can. Other acts scheduled to appear include Fyah Wuk Band, Pluto & Company, Ernie Smith and Jerry D.

The Jamaican Jerk Festival will feature a number of highly anticipated culinary activities and cultural fare which includes vendors selling authentic Jamaican Jerk foods; the Jerk Cook-Off Contest; Western Union’s Cultural Heritage Village paying tribute to Jamaica’s only female National Heroine, Nanny, and a tribute to Miss Lou; Domino Contest; Purple Reign, Inc. Wine Pavilion pairing Jerk cuisine with wine. A glass of Merlot anyone?; and the Lovebird Kidz Fun Zone of bounce house, rides, slides, cotton candy and, naturally, Jerk hot dogs, proceeds benefiting the Lovebirds Kids Club.

Tickets are $7 in advance from selected outlets or on-line at www.jerkfestival.com; they are $12 at the gate and include Broward County Parks fees of $1.00 per person.

The Festival is produced by Ridims Marketing and Jamaica Awareness, Inc. and is sponsored by Western Union, Grace Foods, Maroone Toyota, Ting, D&G Sodas, People’s Telecom., Comcast Cable, Sun-Sentinel, CN Weekly and WAVS Radio.

For more information contact Riddims Marketing at 305- 891-1242 or online at www.jerkfestival.com.

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Written by Staff Writer