In what has been a year of firsts for Jamaica’s entertainment and culture sectors, the use of 100 per cent digital technology to stage the 2020 Jamaica Festival Song Competition is being hailed by lead sponsor, Digicel, as a major accomplishment in keeping the country’s culture alive, while it responds to COVID-19 restrictions.
To get festival song fans familiar with all the new songs, Digicel staged a special Jamaica Festival Song edition of its Digicel Unplugged online concert series, broadcast to thousands on its Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and D’Music and YouTube pages. The event was an opportunity for everyone at home or in the diaspora to get an ‘up close and personal’ online experience with their preferred artistes, as well as to narrow down on which of them to vote for. To support their choices, Digicel also hosted the voting platform – a first for the competition since its inception in 1966.
In going all out on digital for festival 2020, Digicel also featured all 10 festival songs on its D’Music app for customers to download the songs, create playlists and watch videos from the finalists. The move has been widely endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport (MCGES), which selected Digicel as its lead partner to collaborate with the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), for the all-digital staging of the Jamaica Festival Song Competition.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport (MCGES), Olivia Grange, noted, “Digicel has been instrumental in using technology to create a seamless engagement experience for festival song fans near and far. Though we miss the traditional ways of coming together to stage the various events, we were all kept engaged through the use of technology and other innovative activities.” Grange was especially pleased that everyone was able to – for the first time – determine the winner by voting for their favourite contestant.
Chief marketing officer of Digicel Jamaica, Nasha-Monique Douglas, noted, “We saw an opportunity to overcome the challenge and help to elevate the festival song tradition. The addition of Digicel Unplugged and D’Music as new elements of the competition experience was successful in engaging fans from all across the world and, of course, building anticipation for what turned out to have been an epic final showdown. In the end, digital technology helped to preserve Jamaica’s rich culture.”
New technological components, however, were not the only innovative elements in this year’s competition. Many fans were pleasantly surprised to see three reggae giants, Buju Banton, Freddie McGregor and Toots & the Maytals, among the 2020 finalists.
With all 10 talents stepping up their game towards the end of the competition, Digicel decided to increase its $9-million sponsorship through the introduction of second and third place prizes of $300,000 and $200,000, respectively.
For Douglas, the inclusion of established artistes in the finals was a “brilliant” way of encouraging fierce competition, increasing the diversity of the entries, while providing an opportunity for younger artistes to learn from the veterans. She commented, “This is why we decided to sweeten the pot with the new second and third place awards. As a major supporter of Jamaica’s music and culture, Digicel is proud to have been a part of the competition’s continued growth and development.”
To hear their favourite Jamaica Festival Song finalists on repeat, people can download the D’Music app and listen to their preferred tracks, along with over 30 million other songs.