Reggae history in spray paint

April 5, 2024

article reposted by Chelsea


MONTEGO BAY, St James — As a tribute to entertainers, past and present, who have contributed significantly to Jamaican music, organisers of the annual Reggae Sumfest showcase are in the process of converting the walls of the Catherine Hall Entertainment Complex into a mural.

“We are going to do the entire wall with portraits honouring our artistes that have excelled in the music and have taken Jamaican music and Jamaica to all the corners of the world,” deputy chairman of Downsound Entertainment Robert Russell told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday.

He is currently overseeing the work being done at the facility in St James.

“We’re creating the Wall of Fame for our Jamaican musical greats, our Jamaican artistes,” Russell added.

Work has started with portraits of reggae legend Bob Marley, crooner Beres Hammond, dancehall artiste Spice and the once-raunchy Lady Saw who rebranded herself as gospel singer Marion Hall.

According to Russell, work is being done by a group of artists from overseas. Their medium is spray paint. A bonus from the project, he explained, is that a few local artists will get the opportunity to learn the technique.

“It’s quite a talent to use spray paint to do it. Those kinds of features, and to bring out details…it’s almost as good as a photograph on the wall,” he said, obviously pleased with the results so far.

“It’s a work in progress but we feel very, very happy with what we have seen so far and the reactions have been amazing,” Russell said.

While work was being done over the weekend, the team has now taken a two-week break to attend to matters overseas. Russell said he is unable to give an exact timeline when the project will be completed.

“We’ll do as much as we can, we’ll be working right through, we’re hoping to finish in time for the shows but we don’t know exactly how long it’s going to take because it’s quite a bit of wall,” he told the

Reggae Sumfest is slated to get going on July 14 and will run through to the 20th.

The wall runs along Howard Cooke Boulevard, straight up to the main gate that leads to the Reggae Sumfest venue.

“Some of it has not been cleared, still in bush. We plan to clear the bush from the rest of the wall but we didn’t want to do everything at the same time. We’re going step by step and hopefully we will catch up to the bush shortly,” Russell explained.

“Even the little bit that we have done already, people are stopping every day and taking pictures with it and we haven’t really reached anywhere with it as yet,” he added.

Reggae Sumfest is one of the calendar events on the music scene, drawing thousands of fans and big name entertainers from Jamaica and abroad. Russell said the mural is event organisers’ gift to the city and the country.

“We are giving that back to Montego Bay as Reggae Sumfest, creating a world-class attraction at Catherine Hall,” he said.

“It should have quite a very positive effect for Montego Bay and for the people of Montego Bay and for Jamaica,” he added.

He opted not to provide the price tag.

Despite the investment in the venue, Russell noted that they are yet to ink a deal to acquire the lease for the facility.

“We haven’t finalised those arrangements as yet but nonetheless we are planning to stage Reggae Sumfest 2024 at Catherine Hall and as a result we felt that something like that was needed for Montego Bay,” he said.

“An attraction like that was needed to focus attention on the artistes that have given us so much in the past. We felt that it was incumbent on us to honour them and to showcase them in that fashion,” he added.

He and his team plan to use the mural to enhance the Sumfest experience.

“What we are planning to do also is pave a walkway in front of the wall so that people can actually walk and take pictures with and of their favourite artistes. We are also planning to install lighting so that it’ll be visible in the nights as well,” Russell revealed.

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