September 5, 2023 -The first-ever Caribbean Music Awards unfolded this past Thursday at King’s Theatre in Flatbush, Brooklyn, an area fondly referred to as New York’s “Little Caribbean.” With Grammy-winner Wyclef Jean at the helm, the event pulsated with the rich musical tapestry of the West Indies.
A different kind of music awards
Unlike mainstream music award ceremonies like the Grammys or the Billboard Music Awards, this show put the spotlight squarely on Caribbean genres.
Soca, Dancehall, and Kompa were among the styles celebrated, with the added twist of fan-chosen winners.
Months before the big night, fans cast their votes for their favorite songs, artistes, and music videos, allowing for a truly democratic selection process.
The diversity debate: A call for more inclusion
However, not all were satisfied with the representation at the event. Critics pointed out that the focus seemed to be primarily on Dancehall, Reggae, and Soca.
Kompa was the only other genre acknowledged, with two distinct honors—one for the Best Kompa Band and a posthumous tribute to the late Haitian singer Mikaben.
Jael Joseph, a Dominican presenter at the event, expressed disappointment that Bouyon music from her homeland was left out of the festivities.
Wyclef Jean responded to such concerns by promising broader inclusion in future editions of the awards.
Performances of the night
The night kicked off with an electrifying performance by Karnival Bounce Crew, followed by appearances from luminaries like R&B singer Mya, Majah Hype, and DJs Jabba and Bobby Konders.
Jamaican Dancehall artiste Ding Dong took the excitement to the next level with an ensemble of dancers, performing hits like “Genna Bounce,” “Fling,” and “Happiness.”
He later received the Dance Song of the Year award for his 2022 hit, “Bounce.”
Celebrating Caribbean talent
A diverse array of artistes graced the stage, from newcomers like Best New Artiste winner Tempa to seasoned pros such as Wayne Wonder and Machel Montano, the latter of whom received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Caribbean Music Awards captured decades of Caribbean music that have often been overlooked by more mainstream award organizations.
An emotional tribute and honorary moments
In an unforgettable segment, some Jamaican artistes paid homage to Beres Hammond, the Elite Icon Award Honoree.
Dexta Daps, Kranium, Toni-Ann Singh, and Romain Virgo performed a medley of Hammond’s hit songs, including Step Aside, Rock Away, Double Trouble, and I Feel Good.
Adding to the honor, the New York City Council formally recognized Hammond for his contributions to the Caribbean community.