GROUP SHOT: Wayne Griffith, VIP marketing director, from left, Dexter Lal, Angostura brand officer, Rhonda-Lee Yhapp, manager, events and sponsorship, TSTT, Donovan Neita, vice president of Martin's International & Associates, LLC and founder of the IRAWMA Ephraim Martin. —Photo: SATEESH MAHARAJ

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Reggae Music Awards For T&T Next Year

By Sateesh Maharaj

Some of the Caribbean region's biggest music personalities are expected to walk the red carpet when the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) are held in this country next year. Not only will the ceremony honour artistes and their work, it will mark the 30th anniversary of the event and, for the first time in its history, see the introduction of a Chutney music category.

The event is scheduled for May 28, tentatively at the National Academy for the Performing Arts.

Donovan Neita, vice president of Martin's International & Associates, LLC, said travel packages are currently being put together to bring visitors from all over the world to see the show.

"We feel this is going to be a tremendous economic boost to the country of Trinidad and Tobago."

Neita outlined some of the reasons why this country was chosen to host next year's awards ceremony.

"Trinidad, we feel, has tremendous opportunities. It becomes a great opportunity for IRAWMA to be able to showcase the people and the culture of Trinidad and Tobago."

He said the "star-studded, red carpet event" focuses on reggae, soca, calypso and Caribbean music in general as well as other world beat music. We feel that we are the bridge between the Caribbean and the rest of the world."

Neita guaranteed that following the event, people would be talking about the show for years to come and this country as the place to come not just for Carnival, but throughout the year.

Founder of the IRAWMA, Ephraim Martin, said that earlier this year, 30 countries were vying for the right to host the event. He said that the international strides made by music out of Trinidad and Tobago and the level at which entertainers such as Machel Montano has taken soca music worldwide, and the introduction of the Chutney music category were all reasons why Trinidad was the clear choice to hold this year's show.

He said a strong push by Trinidad-born designer Bruce Williams sealed the deal.

"We came down to three countries and as we were trying to make that final decision, one of the most outstanding international designers in the United States, Bruce Williams came out and said we had to go to Trinidad."

Martin promised an outstanding event and also took the time to mention another of his projects, the Festival of Life which saw a mammoth attendance last year due to an appearance by Machel Montano.

"It was the first time that we had seen that kind of crowd with [lines] two miles long going around the park. People were forcing to get into the park and a fence had to be moved so they could get in. He created a storm in Chicago which people are still talking about."

He said that it was time for us to brand Caribbean music and get it out there so it could be recognised internationally.

"There's a huge market share out there and we must stand up and be counted. We must make sure that the world knows our strength and know the power that we have."

Martin said that ballots would soon be distributed for nominees to be named.

He said that the production team is looking at close to 5,000 people going to NAPA to view the event. He said they were thinking of possibly closing a street with a red carpet scenario. Martin said outside the venue would be transformed in such a way that attendees would be comfortably accommodated.

Rhonda-Lee Yhapp, manager, events and sponsorship, TSTT, said the event was a good forum to show local artistes that the world is larger than R&B, hip-hop and rock.

She added: "An event of this magnitude and prestige brings with it further appeal to the country and builds our reputation as a destination for expertly catered diverse interests."

Speaking to the Express following the media launch, Martin said that it is only recently that soca artistes have been exposing their music to a bigger worldwide audience.

"Besides [the late] Arrow with 'Hot, Hot Hot' there were not many artistes out there promoting the brand the way they should. Recently they have started incorporating it with other music and that has helped them reach different genres."

He said local entertainers quicker gravitate to R&B and rap genres because they see that is where the quick money is.

"But that helps," he pointed out. "When they know that person is from Barbados or Trinidad they want to check that country out."

He further stated that Chutney music was making a serious impact outside of Trinidad.

"If it continues at the rate it is going it will become international music that will be heard on radio all over the world."

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