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By Richard Johnson—

 Clyde McKenzie —-

FOR Clyde McKenzie, being awarded the Order of Distinction (Officer class) is a “great feeling”.

“It’s always good to know that your contribution to national life has been recognized. Personally, I am not much into titles, so this is more for my family and relatives, but don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of receiving a national award and it feels really good.”

Come National Heroes’ Day, October 16, McKenzie will be recognized for his service to the creative industry, media and broadcasting in Jamaica.

With his formative years being influenced by life in the inner-city communities of Jones Town and Craig Town in Kingston, McKenzie said it was only natural to gravitate towards and be inspired by what was then the sounds of Jamaica’s burgeoning music industry. For the young McKenzie, music was everywhere and this set the tone for, as well as has fed into and connected, all his activities since.

“It was a musical family. Although my father had a nine-to-five job, he was also a dance promoter who staged events in West Kingston. One of my earliest images of my father is seeing him with a guitar and an amplifier. His association with the music offered me the opportunity to interact with so many players in the industry and I was like a sponge, soaking up the wealth of knowledge these elders had to offer. I learned a lot about the history of the music, techniques and of various music forms and genres and this has served me well in almost every aspect of my life,” he recalled.

This innate love for the music would serve him well when he went on to become the founding general manger and chief architect of the all-reggae format of radio station Irie FM, a feat for which McKenzie is extremely proud.


“It is monumental for me to have been a contributor to an institution like Irie. We were toying around with formats. Before we could decide, I had a meeting with advertisers at McCann Erikson and was being pressed. I simply said it would be all reggae and before I knew it, I now had to take this to the board, which was open to the idea and we simply moved right along. The early days were frenetic. But we had such a creative team. People like Dennis Howard, Lloyd Stanbury and Bob Clarke really helped to pull things together.”

“I am proud of the impact this reggae radio station made in asserting the legitimacy of Jamaican music in a way that had never been done before. It was simply phenomenal. So many stars rose to prominence with the coming of Irie. People like Garnett Silk and Tony Rebel emerged locally and Shabba and Patra took to the international stage. It’s as though it all became aligned,” said McKenzie.

With reggae radio on a firm footing, he would look to further challenge himself and decided to join the team at Shocking Vibes, a music label and camp, headed by Patrick Roberts, that had some promising young talent including deejay Beenie Man.

Clyde McKenzie

Clyde McKenzie

“Musically, I am most proud of my work as one of the co-producers on Art and Life— the Grammy Award-winning album from Beenie Man in 2000. This I feel has been the high point of my musical career.”

McKenzie is also proud of his contribution to cultural policy, not only locally, but also in the region. For him, being able to stimulate discussion and put forward ideas on the value of culture to national development has always proved satisfying.

He however, still wants to see more done in terms of Jamaicans getting more value for what they do — move up from just being primary producers to a more lucrative segment.

“For this to happen, there has to be more indigenous investment, whether directly or through the establishment of a fund to seed projects. This would ensure that the rewards stay in Jamaica rather than go elsewhere. We have to bring structure and order to the sector to the industry in order to reap maximum benefit. Jamaica is rich but we have to work in a much more cohesive manner to see the benefits,” said McKenzie.

The full list of arts and entertainment recipients are: Bunny Wailer (Order of Merit); Robert Russell (Order of Distinction — Commander class); Prof Keith Morrison (Order of Distinction — Commander class); Carl Bradshaw (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Copeland Forbes (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Rosina Moder (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Carlos Malcolm (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Lloyd Stanbury (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Ferdinand “Bobby Little Bra” Gaynair (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Patrick Brown (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Maxine Walters (Order of Distinction — Officer rank); Joseph “Josey Wales” Sterling (Order of Distinction — Officer rank) and Michael “String Bean” Nicholson (Badge of Honour — Long and Faithful Service).


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