Machel, Tarrus And The Marleys Dominate 27th IRAWMA Awards At the Apollo Theater

New York City: The 27th International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) at the Apollo Theatre in New York City changed to Sunday evening from Saturday, yet the change didn’t affect the caliber or attendance of the event. As veteran Journalist Vinette Pryce, who has attended all 27 staging of the IRAWMA road show, noted, “This was one of the best ever.”

When I arrived at 4:45 pm at the Apollo Theater, despite a balmy breeze, the blazing afternoon sun made working the red carpet a challenge. As the entertainment personalities, industry types and celebrities like actress Janet Hubert (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) actor Leon, (Waiting to Exhale) singers Junior Reid, Cecile, Etana, Shaggy, Kymani Marley, Sheila Hylton (host & performer) rolled out of their Limos onto the red carpet, the press was in full operations.

This year’s event with its unique design stage backdrop, magnificent lighting which visually enhanced, accentuated and complemented the performers, presenters, and the hosts especially, the sexy, beautiful, classy and eloquent Sheila Hylton, the jovial G.T.Taylor, commanding presence of Ritchie B was an unqualified success. The presentations with their brief commentaries and acceptance speeches did not allow for boredom, the live performances were outstanding and the production pace flowed smoothly making nights presentation a memorable event.

Caribbean pop culture’s greatest entertainer Trinidad’s, Michel Montana, and the Marley clan of Ziggy, Kymani and Steven dominated the lion’s share of IRAWMAS at the Apollo Theatre. Michel Montana, arguably the Caribbean best entertainer created Soca history by winning the most awards (3) for a Soca artist at one time for the Best Calypso/Soca Entertainer, Most Outstanding Stage Personality and the Bob Marley Entertainer of The Year award (Sean Paul has the record with 6 one time) The Marleys with five awards, Ziggy, won the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Award, Kymani, (2) Most Promising Entertainer and Producer’s “Respect” Award and Steven, Best CD -Mind Control, and Songwriter of the Year. Jamaican singer and breakout artist for 2007 Tarrus Riley continued his dominance in reggae winning both the Song of the year “She’s Royal’ and Singer of the Year. Riley has won ten awards for 2008. Sean Kingston won two IRAWMA’s for Best New Entertainer and Crossover Artist for his monster hit ‘Beautiful Girl.’

When I strolled inside the Apollo Theater after the red carpet outside, guitarist Dwight Pinkney, 2008 recipient of the International Award of Honor was wailing his guitar rendition of his self-penned Dennis Brown Classic “ How Could I leave.’ The appreciative audience responded with warm applause. Sheila Hylton was up next; dressed in tight-fitted black leather out fit as she reprised her 80’s hit “Bed’s too big without You” she proved she can entertain. My colleague, Billboard magazine’s Pat Maschino noted after watching Hylton performance that all she needs is hit song to be back in the limelight.

Montserrat Soca star Jaydene, after sound malfunction finally hit her stride with “Don’t call me.” When Jamaican radio man Ritchie B announced Tarrus Riley, the winner eventual of Song of the Year Award for She’s Royal, entire audience with rousing approval and screams by female patrons validated him as their favored choice. Tarrus Riley added a nice touch when he told the females this one was for them. He received an equally appreciative welcome when he returned to collect his trophy for the Best Male Vocalist.

Dub poet, Mutabaruka who said he was running out of space on his fridge to put his 22nd IRAWMA trophy for Best Poet delivered a moving tribute in the form of a poem titled ‘Reggae Strong’ livicated to murdered South African Reggae star Lucky Dube. Dube, posthumous won the award for Best African Entertainer. Saxophonist Dean Fraser, who doubled as the event’s band leader, collected the award for Best Instrumentalist, then immediately resume his duties on the bandstand telling the audience “I have work to do.”

Special mention must be made of Diamond Grammy-winning dancehall star Shaggy who won Best Video for Church Heathen. He truly knows how to be a star. From the red carpet to his acceptance speech and performance Mr. Burrell entertained the audience with his antics by poking fun at his fellow nominees and playing the drunkard to the hilt. Comedic dancehall DJ Professor Nuts, with his Jimmy Bascombe routine has nothing on Shaggy when it comes to art of playing the entertaining drunk. During his performance Shaggsman appropriately drew ‘Strength of Woman’ as he brought sidekick Red Fox on stage (both with a glass of liquor in tow) who dj his hits’ Pose Off’ and the absent Rayon’s ‘Big Up.’ They got a rousing applause from the crowd.

The mercurial Junior Reid who won for Most Improved Artist, unusual since he is a 30 year veteran, got a rousing welcome from the crowd. When he launched into this his monster hit “This is why we Hot’ the shouts became deafening. The crowd simply erupted out of their seats when he segued to the Stalag rhythm for his signature “One Blood.” ‘Female singer of the Year’ winner Etana, elegant dressed, she strutted across the stage in diva like fashion, with her regal bearing and royal presence rolling out her hit “Warrior Love.’ Her performance impressed Malika Lee Whitney, author of Bob Marley Reggae King of the World with her sense of importance.

The self proclaimed King of Dancehall, Beenie Man, the doctor (no-show) received two IRAWMA awards for Recording Artist of the Year and DJ of the Year. this was a surprise given the unquestioned dominance of DJ Movado and the fact that Beenie didn’t have too many hits or monster tunes for 07.Tarrus Riley with his anthem and possibly the biggest tune for 07 ‘She’ Royal’ (rerecorded in Soca by BL&D & Portuguese by a Brazilian singer) would have been a more appropriate choice for Recording Artist of the Year. D’Angel who came to the public’s attention in 07 as Beenie Man’s ex-wife seems to making her presence felt. Statuesque, well dressed she gave a good account of herself. Macka Diamond, unquestionably the hottest female DJ in dance hall ‘Hoola hooped’ her way across the stage with some creative dance moves.

Grenadian Herman Hall, publisher of Everybody’s Magazine, a long standing and most respected Caribbean entertainment/news publications in the United States was honored with an Award of Appreciation for Contributions to the Music Industry along with veteran publisher Karl Rodney, of Carib News (NY) and entertainer Winsome Benjamin. Everybody’s began publication in the1970s. And, from sport, politics to entertainment and culture it has been a pioneering publication exposing and promoting Caribbean culture placing Caribbean culture at center the American mainstream in the tri-state New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and nationally. Currently a contributing Editor to Everybody’s and a writer with the magazine for twenty years, seeing Mr. Hall honored is was a source of pride given the enormous sacrifice Mr. Hall has made to keep the publication alive for more than thirty five. He’s truly deserving of being honored.

The Hall of Fame IRAWMA Inductees were Trinidadian born London base Billy Ocean, who sent a recorded thank you video message, Jamaican gospel singer Claudelle Clarke, who was absent, the classy Errol Brown and British-base Jamaican born Rock Steady icon Winston ‘Mr. Fix’ Francis aka Billy ‘Extra Careful’ Cole who was on hand to received his plague joined a select group on inductees.

When ‘bad gal’ Cecile took the stage in her tight fitting black dress and launched into ‘Gangsta Girl’ things seemed a little incongruous, however as she segued to her hit ‘I am Still Waiting’ her appearance seemed more relevant. The next performer Kymani Marley stayed with the tried and true by doing one of his father’s songs “Turn Your lights Down Low’ the audience repesponded to him, however his familiar hit ‘Dear Dad’ would have been more appropriate especially since Kymani, the solo act rarely reaches ethnic audiences in NYC. Tarrus Riley closed a night of great performances. Riley delivered a poignant and spiritual rendition his masterpiece “Africa Awaits” with Dean Frazer at the helm of the band duties it was fitting close from the singer of the year.

The absence of some big name artists winners like Beenie Man and Buju Banton who received the award for Most Educational Entertainer didn’t affect the event as the A-list stars and performers present more than made up for their absence. However it is hard to understand why big artist such as Beenie Man didn’t see it appropriate to send either a video taped message or representative. Contrast Beenie’s behavior to Billy Ocean, who sent video taped thank message or Shaggy who sent a video taped message at another award because he was on tour. One has to wonder if this attitude explains why Ocean and Shaggy are bonafide superstars and Beenie, after so many years still remains an ever popular artist who just can’t get to the next level. When fans consider an artist work enough to reward them, the least the artist can do is say thank you in an appropriate fashion.

The music fraternity and Caribbean-American business community needs to give events like IRAWMA more support.

Winners of the 27th International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA)

1. Entertainer of the Year – Machel Montano
2. Recording Artist of the Year – Beenie Man
3. Best Male Vocalist – Tarrus Riley
4. Best Female Vocalist – Etana
5. Best Song – “She Is Royal”- Tarrus Riley
6. Best CD – “Mind Control”- Stephen Marley
7. Best Crossover Song – “Beautiful Girls”- Sean Kingston
8. Best Gospel Song – “Lava Ground”- Prodigal Son
9. Best Female D.J./Rapper – Queen Ifrika
10. Best Male D.J./Rapper – Beenie Man
11. Best New Entertainer – Sean Kingston
12. Best Calypso/Soca Entertainer – Machel Montano
13. Best Reggaeton Entertainer – Don Omar
14. Best Latin Entertainer- Marc Anthony
15. Best Compas Entertainer – Carimi
16. Best African Entertainer – Lucky Dube- Post Humous
17. Best Soukous Entertainer- Papa Wembe
18. Best Hip Hop/R&B Entertainer- Rihanna
19. Award for Outstanding Contribution to World Music – King Sunny Ade
20. Most Outstanding Stage Personality – Machel Montano
21. Best Music Video – Shaggy “Church Heathen”
22. Best Poet- Mutabaruka
23. Most Educational Entertainer – Buju Banton
24. Most Outstanding Show Band- Morgan Heritage
25. Most Consistent Entertainer – Freddie McGregor
26. Most Promising Entertainer – Ky-Mani Marley
27. Most Improved Entertainer – Junior Reid
28. Best Instrumentalist – Dean Fraser
29. Best Backing Band – Live Wyya
30. Most Popular Selector – Mighty Crown
31. Concert of the Year — Reggae Sumfest
32. Promoter of the Year – Sumfest Production
33. Producer of the Year – Stephen McGregor
34. Songwriter of the Year – Stephen Marley
35. Selassie I Award for Spiritual Service through Music – Tony Rebel
36. Community Service Award – Capleton
37. Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Award- (a) Ziggy Marley, (b) Jay-Z
38. IRAWMA Hall of Fame- Inducted May 4, 2008- (a) Billy Ocean, (b) Claudelle Clarke, (c) Errol Brown, (d) Winston Francis
39. Martin’s International Award of Honor- Given May 4, 2008- (a) Freddy McGregor, (b) Dwight Pinkney
40. Producer’s “Respect” Award- Given May 4, 2008- Ky-Mani Marley
41. Awards of Appreciation for Contributions to the Music Industry- (a) Herman Hall- Everybody’s Magazine, (b) Winsome Benjamin- Entertainer, (c) Karl Rodney- Carib News