If there is an impression that the Jamaica Rum Festival made in the first and second years of staging, it’s that rum and rhythm go hand in hand, giving the organisers and sponsors more rhyme and reason to stay on beat for 2021, but in a virtual setting.
Over the past two years, the festival amassed approximately 20,000 patrons with a digital footprint in the millions, underscoring the potency and impact of Jamaican culture. Last year’s staging alone attracted over 13,000 patrons to the Hope Gardens, which had the organisers exploring the possibility of a larger venue. However, utilising a virtual platform in the current context of the pandemic presents the avenue to reach a wider audience practically and safely.
Festival director and CEO of Mystique Integrated Valón Thorpe, stated during the livestreamed launch, that “Our culture, art, food, music and our rums have captured the hearts of thousands of people across the globe. The Jamaica Rum Festival is the bridge that connects these indispensable hallmarks of the true meaning of Brand Jamaica, and is a platform for captivating storytelling of what it truly means to be a Jamaican. The virtual festival event will elicit the same immersive experience via mobile and traditional devices.”
Appleton Estate is presenting the virtual experience in partnership with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Enhancement Fund. Other local rum brands participating in the festival include Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, Kingston 62, Hampden Estate, Rum Fire, Rum-Bar and Monymusk Plantation rums.
The Virtual Rum Heritage Tour, an exhibition of the 270-year history of Jamaican rum production, will propel the festival into high gear. The organisers have not excluded the signature, interactive seminars involving all participating rum brands; these will take place from March 22 to 26. Tickets for the seminars will be available for purchase online through Gustazos, via the Jamaica Rum Festival website. Patrons will be able to collect their seminar kits from specific redemption centres. It ends on March 27 with a live concert which is expected to last six hours, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Kamal Powell, Appleton Estate’s marketing manager for Jamaica and the export markets, spoke to The Gleaner about the brand’s continued investment in the festival, local culture and talent.
“It’s been an amazing experience over the last couple of years, where we have invested heavily in music behind the scenes; and, of course, looking back on National Rum Day celebrations, our ‘Reserved the Night’ virtual concert and the previous rum festival executions; it is all about the partnership with musicians,” Powell said.
This year, Shaggy, Sizzla and Shenseea are expected to have virtual lighters fired up for the free concert, which will bring the week-long activities to a close.
The artistes rostered to perform, Powell expressed, “have all gone out to sell Jamaican culture throughout their careers, and we want to be part of that; that is why Appleton Estate is the presenting sponsor for the Jamaica Rum Festival.”
Speaking to Shenseea about the festival and its role as a platform for generational music, she said, “When I hear the word ‘festival’, I think of a platform that caters to everybody, and though this is one involving rum, where we have to consider restrictions to persons who are 18 years and older, I believe the organisers are putting on an event which showcases our culture and talent, still making it a platform for everyone; we just have to stay within the guidelines.”
The Blessed lyricist assured that her delivery will be entertaining and engaging, despite the festival being presented to a virtual audience. As it relates to guidelines, she will select an appropriate set of songs to perform.