It has been dubbed ‘The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’ and for years, July has seen persons from home and abroad trek to Montego Bay, St James, for Reggae Sumfest, an experience like no other.
First held in 1993, Sumfest, over the years, presented patrons with three nights of live stage shows, namely, Dancehall Night and two international nights.
In 2016, Chairman of Downsound Entertainment Josef James Bogdanovich took over Reggae Sumfest and set out to revamp the show into what he called a music festival, featuring a week of parties and activities and a two-night show dubbed ‘Main Festival Nights One and Two’, with mainly dancehall and reggae artistes.
“We came up with the idea that we do have superstars here, we do have international stars here and that’s called reggae music and dancehall music. A lot of people at that time said, ‘That’s not going to work, you need international acts’. We did pretty good that year, 2016; the attendance was a lot higher than it was in the previous year and we got a lot of international fan base. It was a successful entry into the market,” Bogdanovich told The Gleaner.
He said that in 2017, the attendance in the venue doubled that of 2016, while the online viewers tripled. According to Bogdanovich, several million viewers looked at the Sumfest archives over the following weeks, and this was very encouraging for him.
“And then last year (2018), we kept raising the bar with production. A lot of people who came there last year said that they hadn’t been to Sumfest in, like, 10 years and coming back, they all enjoyed themselves.
“But we have always had international artistes there and we always have our eyes open for international acts, but we have got to make a business sense out of it and we certainly support our music, our festival and with promoting the youth.
“This year, we will be promoting a lot of the females and the younger artistes than ever before, and we have some good bookings right now,” said Bogdanovich.
Against that background, Reggae Sumfest 2018 is the recipient of this year’s RJRGLEANER Honour Awards in the entertainment category, for the success of its strategy to present an all-Jamaican line-up for the festival last year.
It is an award which Bogdanovich said was unexpected and one that he really appreciates.
“I was surprised to even hear about it. I have been pretty busy, and I think it’s great to be acknowledged. Acknowledgements don’t really come easy here in Jamaica and I think it’s just part of my journey here in Jamaica, and I think it’s wonderful. I am very thankful,” said Bogdanovich.
The Downsound boss said that while he is a big supporter of doing business in Jamaica, and has quite a few investments here, it’s not an easy place to do business, but his passion for the music and for Jamaica keeps him going.
“There’s opportunity here in Jamaica, (but) education has got to get better. The violence has to come down, (and) people have to understand that we have to get this place stable, and it’s getting better. I think things are a lot better; the economy is getting better and more people are working.
“There is always a challenge in the concert business here. There are very few concerts going on and I know that a lot of people are trying to get back into the concert business.
“It’s not an easy business, and people are fickle and they are not easy to please, but we really are champions and we love reggae music and we love the culture. Here at Downsound, we are very passionate about the music and what we represent, and it’s exciting,” said Bogdanovich.
He has a clear vision for the island that he now calls home.
According to Bogdanovich, he wants to see the continued growth of reggae and dancehall music, with young people contributing to the country instead of migrating.
“The way to get them to come back is to give them some real opportunity, and it’s hard because it’s a small country and the dollar is not worth as much as it used to be. It is just a hard struggle, so it’s the family structure that has to be strengthened.
“The reason why I think Jamaica can do so well in terms of the future is because Jamaicans are very competitive, and they are smart and they are overachievers, some of them,” declared Bogdanovich.
He added that he has a clear vision for the latest chapter in his life in Jamaica.
“I am trying to make a mark, trying to give opportunity to people, to give them some opportunity with good business practise, and do as much as I can for reggae music and for dancehall and for the artistes’ community. That’s what I’m interested in and that’s my vision for the future,” said Bogdanovich.
ON THE AWARD: “I think it’s great to be acknowledged. Acknowledgements don’t really come easy here in Jamaica and I think it’s just part of my journey here in Jamaica and I think it’s wonderful. I am very thankful.”
VISION FOR JAMAICA: “The reason why I think Jamaica can do so well in terms of the future is because Jamaicans are very competitive, and they are smart and they are overachievers, some of them.”