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Ephraim Martin gets promotional backing for Int’l Festival of Life—

By Desmond Allen—

In a major breakthrough for Jamaican culture, the Chicago Office of Tourism will put its promotional might behind the 20th Anniversary of the International Festival of Life (IFOL), produced by Jamaican-born Ephraim Martin and held over the big July 4th weekend.

Jamaican culture is one of the staples of the International Festival of Life which Martin plans to merge this year with his long running

IRAWMA flyer 2012

Top: Ephraim Martin & Wife


International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA).

Martin started the awards event as the International Reggae Music Awards but later broadened it to incude other world music genres, taking it across cities and countries for nearly half of its 31 years of existence. It returns to its Chicago birthplace this year after 15 years on the road.

“It’s a very satisfying feeling to see that the Chicago Office of Tourism has recognised our efforts to impact the culture and economy of this great city, and we are doing everything to make this year’s Festival one never to be forgotten,” Martin told the Jamaica Observer by phone yesterday.

“With the support of the Chicago Office of Tourism, we have planned a major four-month promotion,” said Martin who is president of Martin’s International Culture, organisers of the event. “We are inviting visitors worldwide to Chicago to spend the 4th of July weekend at the culturally rich International Festival of Life (IFOL). And then to stay for the culinary delights of the Taste of Chicago.”

Joe Biden/Martin’s Father-in-law/Barack Obama


The Festival of Life will feature a pavilion showcasing “all things Jamaican” and serving as a road to Jamaica’s golden jubilee in August, Martin said, encouraging importers/exporters, hoteliers, shipping services, travel-oriented entrepreneurs and businesses that market Jamaica or Brand Jamaica products to participate.

He said the music awards event itself is set for July 5 and, along with the IFOL, will commemorate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence at a time when the people of the United States are celebrating their biggest weekend and American Independence.

Martin was a freelance newspaper photographer from St Thomas before migrating to Chicago, Illinois where he wanted to lift the image of reggae music by encouraging excellence among its proponents. He started the Chicago Reggae Music Awards for local artistes in 1982, and followed that up with the International Reggae Music Awards. The 10th anniversary of the awards event was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Last year, the 30th anniversary, it was held in Trinidad and Tobago.

Rita Marley, widow of reggae megastar Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley, will be among eight outstanding Jamaican personalities to be specially honoured in a ceremony dubbed “Icons of Reggae 50th” as part of the 31st annual International Reggae and World Music Awards. The others include: Marcia Griffiths; Judy Mowatt; Freddie McGregor; Ken Boothe; Eric Donaldson; Charles Cameron; Copeland Forbes and Winford Williams of CVM-TV’s On Stage.

The Chicago office of Tourism joins NBC 5 Chicago, as major promotional partners in the International Festival of Life (IFOL), which is being held over five days, from July 4 to 8, 2012 in Washington Park – walking distance from President Barack Obama’s home and across from the University of Chicago.

Obama attended the Festival prior to being elected Senator and eventually becoming the historic first black president of the United States in 2008.

The IFOL which celebrates health awareness, is expected to bring thousands of visitors to Chicago, Martin said.



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