The third annual Rhum Barbancourt sponsored Linkage Awards proved to be a spectacular affair for the thousands of music lovers and industry insiders who converged at the Macedonia Center in Mount Vernon, NY where Dexter ‘Linkage’ Blake and his production team paid tribute to artists, producers, radio jocks, journalists and comedians in the reggae entertainment industry in the New York tri-state region.
When the curtain fell on the extravaganza in the wee hours of Monday morning, it was rising reggae star Romain Virgo who proved to be the night’s big winner, picking up awards for ‘Recording Artiste of the Year,’ ‘Best Male Vocalist’ and ‘Most Consistent Artist.’ Moments after accepting his third plaque, Virgo was invited back on stage to perform and he threw down a glittering performance, treating fans to hits like ‘Mi Caan Sleep,’ ‘Live Me Life,’ ‘I Know You Like It’ and ‘ ‘Rich In Love.’
Veteran singer Ken Boothe, who this year is celebrating his 47th year in the industry was presented with a proclamation from Mt. Vernon’s Mayor, the Hon. Ernie Davis. Boothe was also presented with a ‘Music Ambassador Award’ and he was later inducted in the ‘Linkage Awards Hall of Fame.’ Other multiple award recipients were Lady G who received the ‘Female Dancehall DJ of the Year’ award, an award for ‘Outstanding Contribution To Music’ and a proclamation from the City of Mount Vernon while cultural DJ Brigadier Jerry, known for hits like ‘Pain’ and “Gwan A School’ walked away with a Proclamation and an award for ‘Outstanding Contribution To Music.’ Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond, Sanchez and Wayne Wonder were also recipients of proclamations from the City of Mount Vernon.
Veteran radio broadcaster Barry G, who won the award for ‘Radio Personality of the Year’ (Jamaica) was given a standing ovation when he accepted his ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for 35 years of dedicated service to the radio fraternity. During his acceptance speech, Barry reflected on his early years as a young radio jock and spoke candidly about the days when singers of amazing talent like Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy, Gregory Issacs and Beres Hammond were the rave on radio. He said he yearned for the day when radio would return to its glory days and implored the current crop of radio jocks to give more exposure to singers – a move he feels would help to revive the sagging industry.
Other winners were Mavado who won ‘Entertainer of the Year’, ‘Crossover Song of the Year’ – ‘One By One’ by Laza Morgan featuring Mavado; ‘Best New Artiste’ – Khalilah Rose; ‘Female Culture Singer’ – Etana; ‘Most Outstanding Stage Performance’ Kiprich and Canadian singer Tasha T who was voted ‘Canadian Reggae Artiste of the Year’.
The four hour show delivered an intriguing blend of old and new artists, with a sterling performances coming from Ken Boothe, who reeled off vintage hits ‘The Train Is Coming,’ ‘Moving Away,’ ‘Puppet On String,’ ‘Everything I Own’ and ‘Silver Words’. Marcia Griffiths, Tinga Stewart, Wayne Wonder and Noddy Virtue all accounted for themselves with rousing applause. Khalilah Rose, Toronto songbird Tasha T and Iyablaze all had their moments in the spotlight but it was NY based reggae singer Leighton Miller who created the first spark of the night. The talented crooner charmed fans with his current single ‘Silly Of Me,’ ‘Life,’ ‘Ratio’ and ‘All Over Me,’ which went over well with the packed house and his trained vocal talent is earning growing respect in the New York area.
Pot Of Gold recording artiste Richie Stephens – a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient won the coveted ‘Song of the Year’ award for his single ‘Live Your Life’ featuring German singjay Gentleman. Stephens had the crowd on their feet with his upbeat songs and smooth, perfectly executed vocals. Songs like ‘Trying To Get Close To You,’ ‘Tempted To Touch,’ ‘I Wanna Make You Sweat,’ ‘Let’s Drink,’ and “I Would Rather’ struck a responsive chord with patrons. But it was his emotionally charged tribute single ‘Live Your Life’ and his newly minted Gospel Medley that took him over the top. Fans danced up a storm as the singer from Westmoreland glided his way into their hearts.
The Linkage Awards in three short years has cemented its place as a not-to-be-missed treat on the New York City calendar of events. There are admittedly a few kinks that the production team must resolve to realize Blake’s vision, but this rapidly growing event is moving in the right direction. The promotional potential of this event has not gone unnoticed by companies such as Rhum Barbancourt and VP Records who came on board as sponsors. Barbancourt did tastings for four of its rum lines and gave away t-shirts. And local politicians were more visible at the event this year than ever before.
“I have been very encouraged by the tremendous response to this year’s show and I look forward to doing it again”, event founder Dexter ‘Linkage’ Blake remarked.