Field Report September 7, 2023
Caribbean Music Awards Inaugural Edition: On the Red Carpet

Photos by Sean Barlow

Many of the greats of Caribbean music walked the red carpet last Thursday, August 31st at the first annual Caribbean Music Awards (CMA) at the beautifully restored Kings Theater in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. All the artists, Caribbean media and music fans we talked to expressed great satisfaction that finally the Caribbean had its own music awards to celebrate the accomplishments of Caribbean artists and the overall vitality of the culture. They said it was fine to get occasional recognition at the Grammy’s and at the BET Awards, but here they felt at home.

On a red carpet, you are lucky to get a minute or two with the stars. I introduced Afropop Worldwide to Grammy Award-winning Haitian star Wyclef Jean who was MC for the evening by saying we championed the careers of Haitian racines(roots) stars Boukman Eksperyans and Eddie Francois. Wyclef exclaimed “Oh. You are with my people!” I asked him what was exciting him about today’s music scene in Haiti and he reeled off emerging styles and artists there. Stay tuned for our words with Wyclef on our new Planet Afropop podcast rolling out on September 19.

Wyclef Jean
Wyclef Jean

Next on the red carpet was Trinidadian soca superstar singer Machel Montano, set to be honored with the CMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Machel’s main claim to fame is as the composer and singer of numerous “road march” hits in the Trinidad carnival. The Carnival Road March is the musical composition played most often at the "judging points" along the parade route during a Caribbean Carnival. And the road march becomes more or less the people’s choice. I asked the beaming Machel on the Red Carpet what he thought about opportunities for a Caribbean-African conversation in today’s music. He said it was already happening. He had just two days ago gotten off a plane from Lagos where he was working with Afrobeats artists and producers. Can’t wait to hear that--the king of soca gets down with the kings and queens of Afrobeats! Stay tuned.

See below the extensive number of Caribbean Music Awards awardees:

Machel Montano (left)
Machel Montano (left)

The Red Carpet at the CMA was also very successful in terms of media attention. There must have been 30 or so media organizations covering the event, including the Caribbean media and mainstream media like NBC and CBS TV news. A major snafu however erupted at the moment when credentialed media, like me, were supposed to be shepherded inside the Kings Theater at the start of the awards ceremony. Instead, a group of a dozen or so fellow journalists were told there were not enough seats in the sold-out 3,000+ capacity event at Kings Theater. First time this ever happened to me! So I cannot give readers a first-hand account of what went down at the CMA that night. But here is a link with some video highlights of the awards ceremony.

The Caribbean Music Awards have plenty of time to work out their production issues and to grow in terms of brand recognition and the recognition it brings to deserving veteran and emerging artists. One note in terms of inclusion. Post event, there was some talk back online of people criticizing the CMA for ignoring certain genres and countries. It’s of course hard to please everyone but I noticed the roster of awardees and performers were almost 100% from the English-speaking Caribbean—Jamaica and Trinidad especially. So there was plenty of soca, dancehall and reggae in the house. There was one Haitian kompas artist honored and of course, Wyclef Jean represented Haiti. But there were no artists from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean—Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean coast of Columbia. So we did not hear reggaeton, salsa, merengue, cumbia, bachata artists who add so much to the cross-cultural richness of the Caribbean. Perhaps the organizers of the Caribbean Music Awards will widen their embrace in years to come. Or perhaps they prefer to leave Spanish-speaking Caribbean artists to the Latin Grammys. Time will tell.

But for now, big kudos to the CMA for launching such a successful and welcome event.

I leave you with a tempting thought for Labor Day weekend 2024. If you like to party with Caribbean party people who are generally happy to have strangers join them, you don’t have to fly to Montego Bay or Port of Spain. The place to be on the long, extended Labor Day weekend is Brooklyn. You can kick things off with the Caribbean Music Awards and see over a dozen leading artists perform. Then head to the joyous Panorama steel band competition on Saturday night at the Brooklyn Museum. The finale is partying with some one million souls at the Labor Day West Indian Carnival parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn on Monday, And throughout the weekend you'll have dozens of choices of DJd parties, harbor cruises, root parties, themed parties like "Queeribbeana" and much more. (See our report and photos on Panorama 2023 and more Caribbean Labor Day events.)

Morgan Heritage (Jamaica)
Morgan Heritage (Jamaica)
List of Awards and Awardees

Machel Montano Received Lifetime Achievement Award
Beres Hammond Received Elite Icon Award:
Humanitarian Award Honoree: Buju Banton // The Buji Baton Foundation

EP of The Year (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Alkaline
EP: The Ripple EFFX

Impact Award (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Chronic Law

Impact Award (Reggae)
Winning Artist: Kabaka Pyramid

Impact Award (Soca)
Winning Artist: Viking Ding Dong

Performer of Year (Soca)
Winning Artist: Mr. Killa

Album of Year (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Masicka
Album: 438

Female Artist of The Year (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Spice

Male Artist of Year (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Ding Dong

Male Artist of Year (Reggae)
Winning Artist: Beres Hammond

Male Artist of Year (Soca)
Winning Artist: Machel Montano

Female Artist of Year (Soca)
Winning Artist: Patrice Roberts

People’s Choice Award (Powered by Spotify’s Frequency)
Winning Artist: Kes

Artist of Decade
Winning Artist: Vybz Kartel

Collaboration of the Year (Soca)
Winning Artist: GBM Nutron & DJ Spider
Song: "Down Dey"

Collaboration of the Year Dancehall & Reggae
Winning Artist(s): Skeng & Nicki Minaj
Song: "Likkle Miss"

Video of Year (Dancehall/Reggae)
Winning Artist(s): Popcaan & Toni-Anne Singh
"Next To Me"

Video of Year (Soca)
Winning Artist: Patrice Roberts
Song "Mind My Business"

Best New Artist (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Valiant

Best New Artist (Reggae)
Winning Artist: Samora

Best New Artist (Soca)
Winning Artist: Tempa

Kompa Band of the Year
Winning Artist: Klass

Dance Song of The Year
Winning Artist: Ding Dong
Song: "BOUNCE"

Performer of Year (Dancehall)
Winning Artist: Dexta Daps

Album of the Year (Reggae)
Winning Artist: Kabaka Pyramid
Album: The Kalling

Ricardo Drue (L) and Teddyson John (R)
Ricardo Drue (L) and Teddyson John (R)
Jada Kingdom
Jada Kingdom
Romain Virgo
Romain Virgo
Kes (Jamaica)
Kes (Jamaica)
DJ Stephen X Doug (R)
DJ Stephen X Doug (R)
The press!
The press!

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