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Technical Specialist

March 20, 2017

Reggae Sunsplash Festival Archival Project

Project Summary:
Narrative for Reggae Sunsplash
Analog Audio-Visual Recordings (1978 – 1994)

Reggae Sunsplash, considered as the godfather of all reggae festivals, was first launched in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1978 by four young entrepreneurs that formed a company called Synergy Productions. The festival was a pioneering event that was done in conjunction with the Jamaica Tourist Board with the aim of attracting tourists during the summer months when the hotels were traditionally closed because of the customary lull in visitor arrivals. Synergy Productions set specific objectives that included showcasing the best reggae artists and using the highest contemporary production standards, creating a summer tourist season that would earn the island of Jamaica critically needed foreign exchange while providing employment to the artistes, the many people involved in the tourist trade and the art and craft industry, as well as the concessionaires, farmers and street vendors. The organizers hailed the 7-night festival that started at dusk and went through the night until dawn, as “Reggae Sunsplash, the biggest reggae festival in the history of the World.”

Synergy Productions achieved its stated objectives within the first 5 years and Reggae Sunsplash became the annual premier tourist attraction in Jamaica. Spurred by the Sunsplash World Tours, the festival attracted traditional tourists from Europe and the USA, as well as non-traditional tourists that came from diverse areas around the world ranging from Japan in the Far East, to Greenland, to South America and visitors arrived from niche areas such as Hopiland and Monaco.
Reggae Sunsplash became the Mecca for reggae artists worldwide and it soon became the industry benchmark and the venue where all reggae artistes aspired to perform. The impact of Reggae Sunsplash was so widespread that it attracted many international record labels seeking to sign new talent. Artistes such as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear, Toots & the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Andy, Marcia Griffith, Black Uhuru and Culture laid a solid foundation along with Sunsplash regulars like Ziggy Marley, Dennis Brown, Yellowman, Gregory Issacs, Third World, Steel Pulse, Shabba Ranks, Cobra, Patra, Shaggy, Buju Banton, Garnet Silk and many more.

Due to the impact of Reggae Sunsplash there are now more than 250 annual reggae festivals worldwide that have provided employment opportunities for reggae artistes. The current situation now is that a lot of this significant and valuable part of the history of reggae music is at risk because of deteriorating quality over the years.

Ironically, the music has experienced several changes and stages from Ska, to Reggae, to Rock Steady, to Lover’s Rock, to Dancehall the music keeps evolving and its impact on international music is now at a very high level. Current artistes such as Drake, Rhianna, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Sia have all collaborated with Jamaican Dancehall artistes and have enjoyed number 1 or within the top 10 hits on the popular Billboard charts.

We propose to properly inventory and catalogue the 250-300 hours of festival footage that is at risk due to deterioration of the analog film, and our first priority is to house the audio-visual materials in a stabilized, climate-controlled environment. Having been responsible for producing Reggae Sunsplash programs for the USA, Canada and Caribbean pay-per-view distribution between 1990 and 1994, Douglas Green, co-researcher on the preservation and dissemination project and co-founder of the Reggae Sunsplash Preservation Society, is deeply familiar with the artistes and can prioritize according to uniqueness and historical significance.

With respect to ownership and rights we have signed artiste contracts and in circumstances where contracts cannot be found, we can secure the rights and have artistes sign new contracts if there is a need because of our positive storied goodwill. Our focus is to ultimately digitize all the audio-visual footage and preserve this very important part of the history. We have identified qualified personnel at St. John’s University, including archivists in the Library and Information Sciences department, who have expressed interest in assisting with the preservation effort and we have outlined the planned preservation methodology.

We would like someone who can help us create a Reggae Sunsplash Preservation Society website which will allow the streaming of the Festival concert footage which has been digitized. We would like also help in the digitization process itself. See the "Job Responsibilities" section for more on what the project hopes to achieve.

Job Responsibilities:
The project will create the following products.
1. The first order of business for the project is to catalog all of the analog tapes in chronological order from 1978 to 1995, there are around 200 individual tapes in Beta format (90%) and U-matic format (10%).
2. From here the next step is to create finding aids for the individual artiste performances each year. In general the festival would run for 5 nights, with 10 artistes a night for around 50 artistes per year, with each artiste doing 3 to 5 songs per set. The NARA grant will allow us to create finding aids for 50% to 75% of all performances.
3. The next and one of most important products will be the digitization of the analog tapes. Digitization will allow us to preserve this material for future generations and arrest deterioration of the archived material. The grant will allow us to digitize 50% of all analog footage. The digitization will include placing a Reggae Sunsplash watermark on the digital footage, this will add authenticity value to the digital archives.
4. Concurrently we will be developing a Reggae Sunsplash Preservation Society server and website. The website will allow us to make available the digitized footage through streaming to the general public and to musicologists, cultural historians and other interested specialists. Streaming will be available for free on condition that those interested register with the society through the website. There will also be an option for those who would like to donate to the preservation society to help cover onward costs after grant funding is ended. The website will also include original graphical material relating to the festival such as promotional materials and festival catalogs, original VHS packaging materials, T-shirt designs and other related material.
5. We will determine from the film catalog which are the 20 most historically relevant performances. These performances will be the first performance to be streamed through the website.
6. By the end of the grant we will make available for streaming 25% of all performances.
7. After the first year of the grant St John’s University will hold an opening ceremony for the project at the campus museum / exhibition space and will invite all stakeholders in the project including the Department of Library and Information Sciences (DLIS), the television and film studies program, the college of liberal studies, the student audio-visual association, the college of liberal arts and sciences, Sunsplash performers in the New York area and NARA partners. We will publicize this event in the media, both traditional and social (note from the project plan that we will be engaging a student 10 hours a week for one year to promote the project through social media, once we have the website, streaming, catalog and finding aids on-line). The exhibit will run for 3 months’ time which will allow the publicity to gain site-specific momentum.
8. Also as part of publicity and dissemination for the project we will create three 30 minute television specials on the project including concert footage of some of the most historically-significant performance. These specials will appear on Brooklyn Cable Television, which is available New York City-wide.
9. The final product for the NARA project will be to secure professional, long-term, archival space for the analog Reggae Sunsplash Festival tapes, which we allow us to continue the digitization and streaming availability of these historically significant performance, and as well make the original tapes available to interested researchers.

Recruiting Information:

  • Level: Undergraduate or Graduate
  • Campus(es): Queens
  • Position Title: Technical Specialist
  • Hours per Week: Variable (minimum 5 hours a week)
  • Type of Position: Unpaid

Position Status: Open

Interested in this Job?

If you are interested in this research opportunity, call Cameron Weber at 202-531-1281, or e-mail [email protected]