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#1 Sep 08, 2017 11:42 am

New Historian

At Sunsplash, all hostilities ceased

Reggae Sunsplash was one of those events that instantly achieved iconic status. Bob Marley missed the first, at Jarrett Park in June 1978, as he was in the middle of his Babylon by Bus world tour, but he made sure to headline at the second. Any reggae star worth his or her salt was clamouring to get on the bill, performing for free if necessary, such was the drawing power of Sunsplash. I was at the first Sunsplash. And the second. And the third …

How can I describe those early Sunsplashes? It seemed like the worse things got, the more people partied. And the biggest party of all was Sunsplash. No matter how bad the crime, how worthless the dollar, Jamaicans still managed to hold onto their one abiding strength through times of adversity: their ability to have fun.

Okay so the crime and tribal war was out of control and your paycheck could barely buy a hamburger in New York, but life wasn’t all bad. Maybe it was simply the inherent ability of young people to enjoy themselves against the odds, but we collectively seemed to do like the Monty Python song and “always look on the bright side of life”.

In the midst of all this doom and gloom, Jamaica was buzzing. Reggae was the hottest music on the scene and it seemed like every superstar wanted to come to Jamaica. You would rub shoulders with Mick Jagger and wild Keith at parties and think nothing of it. No big thing. You wouldn’t get all star-struck; that wouldn’t be cool

Then, as now, reggae really did hold Jamaica together. If there’s one thing that every Jamaican has in common from Beverly Hills to Trenchtown is their love for reggae music. At Sunsplash you’d find cabinet ministers, captains of industry, drug dons and adventurous tourist types, all enjoying the music - or huddling together in the rain.

For true aficionados, Sunsplash was a week-long test of mental and physical stamina. Our friend Kurt Chin worked for the promoter Synergy Productions so we always got the best tickets – not that the massive were respecters of anything as capitalistic as VIP sections. First there was international night, singers’ night and the biggest of all, DJ night.

By the second night your most prized possession was your “reggae bed”, a broken down cardboard box that was the only ineffective barrier between your backside and the clinging mud that had become of the Jarrett Park playing field. Why did it always rain at Mudsplash?

After Sugar Minott invariably closed off the show at dawn on the third day, legions of wet, weary, bedraggled yet happy reggae fans would begin the exhausting trek back to Kingston.


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