Wrong move Joe! …Heavy D says Sumfest needs foreign acts

May 12, 2016
Heavy D
Joe Bogdanovich
@Normal:Johnny Gourzong (left), Joe Bogdanovich (centre) and Robert Russell (right) during an interview at The Gleaner's North Street offices yesterday.

Sting promoter Heavy D wants the organisers of Reggae Sumfest to reconsider the decision not to have foreign acts at the 'Greatest Reggae Show on Earth'.

"They are saying the major acts are too expensive and are charging as much as J$100 million. I fully understand that because I know this business more than most people. However, I believe that will pose a serious problem because that is what the people love about Sumfest," Heavy D told THE STAR.

"It's better you go and find a long-time artiste that the people love. Sting and Rebel Salute can survive without the inclusion of international acts because we aren't built on that," Heavy D added.

Reggae Sumfest organisers, Joe Bogdanovich, Johnny Gourzong and Robert Russell told THE STAR in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that the festival will be repositioned to embrace Jamaican entertainers and to showcase Jamaican music. The Reggae Sumfest promoters said they would not be putting any foreign artiste on the show this year, a decision which represents a monumental shift in the positioning of the music festival.

Gourzong said it can cost organisers up to US$2 million (J$248 million) to book an international act.

However, Heavy D, whose show, Sting, is built solely around local acts, said the organisers of Reggae Sumfest should immediately reconsider its model.

"Go and look again. You can't just move from three international acts per year to none this year," Heavy D said.


Over the past few years, international acts such as Chris Brown, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, TI, Common and Jennifer Hudson have performed on the event.

"You don't have to bring the hottest acts. You can bring a man from the past and him mash up the show same way. Better you go for an old rapper or an old R&B artiste. Sumfest has an identity and you can't go below the people's expectation," he added.

Unlike Heavy D, culture minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange is of the view that Sumfest can survive without international acts.

"How much is done to attract local supporters will determine how successful the event will be. At the same time, they have to pay attention to marketing and creating that excitement because it is show business, and Sumfest has to be a promoted like a show," she said.

"If the decision to host the show without foreign acts was based on cost, then it makes sense ... it's a technical decision. When the show just started in the early days, we didn't necessarily need foreign acts because we had local performers who were performing at international standards. What Sumfest needs to do is start promoting earlier and engage with the core reggae fans. They should partner with the Jamaica Tourist Board and commence promotions at least a year in advance," Grange said.

Meanwhile, Reggae Sumfest organisers are hoping that with the free live streaming across the world being one of the festival's main features this year, more international eyes will be forced to pay attention to Reggae Sumfest.

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