Move Over, The Spotlight is Calling!
Grace Vanriel
Reggae Reflection Correspondent

Photos: Empress K @ Reggae Reflection &  MyFlash Photography

Still grieving the anticipated void on the NY Reggae scene left by the International Reggae and Music Awards (IRAWMA) to be hosted in Trinidad in 2011 and all its celebrity splendor and red carpet glamour, I admit that my first assumption about the 2nd Annual Linkage Awards was that at best it would rate a disappointing second. The problem with assumptions isn’t only that they can be dead wrong; in this case it can be simply short-sighted. 

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DJ Linkage
The brainchild of Dexter Blake popularly known as "Father Linkage" owner and CEO of the community radio broadcast station Linkage Radio, the awards ceremony held on Saturday, March 5, 2011 made for a relaxed and entertaining evening honoring the contributions of Reggae artists, radio DJ’s and this year a newly added category in recognition of outstanding journalists. Granted, this was a very ambitious production – three categories and approximately thirty-four awardees made for a long evening and opportunities to criticize, of course. The late production start, unusually long performances, the lack of clear emphasis on the differentiation between categories was somewhat confusing and, the absence of awardees with no representatives in place to accept awards on their behalf stood out and made for a few awkward moments.  However on the flip side, the pros far outweighed the cons as the Linkage Production team did their absolute best to recognize and honor those who should be and, to personalize the experience by circulating throughout the audience making sure that everyone was comfortable and having a great time.

MC Fireball did an incredible job keeping the audience entertained and in stitches throughout the evening and you were either tapping your feet or dancing in the aisles in between presentations thanks to the fabulous Unity Band and house DJ King Barka.   Sponsor Barbancourt had a colorful and popular display with a wide variety of rums for sampling – drinking on the job aside I tasted the Rhum Barbancourt Three Star (aged 4 Years) and loved it.  In the artist spotlight we were well entertained with notable performances by familiar names including artists Lady G, Devon Jorge, Papa Biggy, Ky-Enie and Kapa Shanti accompanied on stage by diva Keisha Martin and Don Wallis that stood out as some of the most rousing performances of the evening. And I heard just enough to want to hear more in the future from artists Jay Young, Khristopher and Christini.   Another crowd pleaser was House of Leeds recording artist Iyahblazze who thrilled the audience with thought provoking lyrics backed by a high energy performance as attendees called loudly for an encore.

Artist Performance Spotlight

Not to be overlooked on the red carpet spotlight, talented artist Junie Ranks was stunning in a turquoise blue dress and former model now Dancehall DJ and award winner D’Angel wore a revealing red hot dress that looked exquisite. Big Ship captain Freddie McGregor was definitely debonairin his custom fitted tux and presenter and Reggae legend Dobbie Dobson looked as sharp as a tack and as handsome as ever. In fact everyone, ladies and gentlemen alike put their best foot forward wearing fashionable attire that was wonderful to look at and another plus in favor of the ceremony’s overall presentation. 

Red Carpet Spotlight

                 2nd Annual Linkage Awards Photo Gallery


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Freddie McGregor & Ernie Smith
Inducted in the Linkage Hall of Fame and further honored with a second award for Outstanding Achievement in Music, Ernie Smith with over 45 years in the business and over 21 albums to his credit gave an outstanding performance singing a generous selection of tunes in his sexy tenor voice such as All Over the World, No More Oil In My Lamp, If I Had The Wings Like A Dove and from his most recent music, That's The Kinda People We Are; by audience demand his encore song was Tears On My Pillow and looking around while he was singing, he could have sang all night long.  Another anticipated and great performance well appreciated by the audience came from another Linkage Hall of Fame inductee Freddie McGregor whose run through of a few of his popular songs left the audience screaming for more. However on that night it’s my bet that he was also just a proud dad as his son Stephen DiGenius McGregor was awarded Producer of the Year and son Chino awarded Recording Artiste of the Year. Another legendary and charismatic artist and among the best performances for the evening came from Ed Robinson who was presented with the award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. I must say that he easily won over the audience with his new hit song Our Heroes and spiced up the evening with a few others including his signature tune Knocking on Heavens Door.  By the time he was over an enthusiastic impromptu onstage stint on the drums, the audience was standing and cheering.  Mystic Bowie who is the 2010 recipient of the Red Stripe Artist of the Year award and founder of the Mystic Bowie Cultural Center Foundation in Jamaica West Indies that provides free programs for school aged children won the Linkage award for Outstanding Achievement in Music which he followed up with an incredible acapella performance.  On the rise with a voice and style that will one day place him in the ranks of Reggae’s most revered singers, I-Octane gave a great high-spirited sample of his music and garnered three awards for the 2010Song of the YearMy Life, Entertainer of the Year Award and Most Consistent Artist.  


Linkage Hall of Fame and  Award Spotlight

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I-Octane Entertainer of the Year Spotlight

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The venue overflowed with an impressive roster of presenters like Louie Grant and Kali Niabingy of Irie Jam Radio, Kay Star of Caribbean Star TV, DJ Hypeness and Chad Royal of Royal Radio, Anthony Turner who also earned the Journalist of the Year Award, Patrick Maitland of Street Hype Newspaper, Jewel Shannon of Jewel Shannon Designs worn by the beautiful young ladies carrying the awards and Carl B Moxie of Wake Up Radio to name a few as well as the star-studded entertainers themselves. As I looked out across the Macedonia Center filled to capacity from the balcony right down to the main floor I was energized by the tremendous show of support for the 2nd Annual Linkage Awards and all those with a sincere appreciation for Reggae who made the event possible. Ticket prices were affordable and the stage was graced by everyone from the Mayor of Mount Vernon Clinton Young to Canadian recording artist Shalli who sang admirably early in the show. It was unquestionably a community’s effort born out of love as Saturday’s ceremony recognized many and appreciative attendees showed up in droves – so much for assumptions.  I look forward to future presentations of the Linkage Awards because it clearly has a lot of potential as an exciting and unique event and also because it celebrates Reggae in a glamorous down-home way as a traditional Jamaican art form that includes broader award categories involving more of the movers and shakers such as DJ’s and journalists who actually brings the music into our homes. Next year you can bet that the 3rd Linkage Awards will grow in attendance and expand in focus as the word spreads that it's a spotlight event not to be missed.


Media Spotlight

The 2nd Annual Linkage Award  Photo Gallery