The grounds of Devon House were booming with positive vibration on Wednesday as patrons, dignitaries and various artistes turned out for the inaugural media launch staging of Ital Food Fest.
The air which was tainted with the natural aroma of Rastafarian cuisines, caressed its audience as they hurdled in the Edward Seaga’s Suite of the complex for an intimate setting for the official media launch of this royal event. The spectacle of events of the evening started out with the soothing sounds of live acoustic performances from up-and-coming artistes while the audience of approximately 30 guests and patrons who were in attendance, dine and rocked to the beats. The Mckoy’s News team arrived just in time to capture the energetic performances of musical icons and headliners for the event, Agent Sasco and I-Wayne.
The “Grateful” singjay Sasco, wets the patrons’ appetites with a few of his hit singles but midway in his performance he stopped and questioned if this is really the first staging of Ital Fest as the atmosphere and overall production from the organizers created a nostalgic ambiance, which he said felt as if this event [Ital Fest] has been launched and hosted before. When our reporter from Mckoy’s News caught up with Sasco, he briefly explained his initial reaction when he was contacted to be a major part of Ital Food Fest.
“I recognized that it is a new event and we always welcome new events especially in the local landscape. Ital Fest, I felt like it existed before or should’ve [because] that lifestyle and culture is a big part of Jamaica and I am happy to be a part of it so it was a no brainer, especially the inaugural edition, being a part of something from it start;” Sasco expressed.
Agent Sasco also took the time out to pay homage to and applaud the Rastafarian community in Jamaica as he strongly disagreed with the views of a former guest speaker at the event who repeatedly stated that, “Rastas are now sidelined and pushed to the back.” Agent Sasco refuted this opinion by stating that his experience with Rastas in his community, Kintyre, is very different as Rastas are the ones who are seen as the molders and shapers of the way in which youths are grown in the community while still showing respect to their peers and elders.
“As a bald head, that has not been my experience with Rasta inna Jamaica…mi have great respect fi Rasta…inna di community if certain things a gwaan a Rasta man can always step forward and seh juvenile don’t do that…and a lot of the values and principles I put forward in my music nuff a dat come from Rasta teachings same way;” Sasco explained just before he resumed his performance.
Similarly, “The Book of Life” songbird, I-Wayne, a Rastafarian artiste whose songs are also embedded with positivity, cultural vibration and the spreading of love among each other, concurred the stance that Agent Sasco took on the roles and values Rastafarians still play in today’s society.
Ital Food Fest is dubbed as “the brainchild” of UK-based, Portmore, St Catherine native Michael Cunningham and his wife Felicia, whose roots are in Darliston, Westmoreland. Mrs. Cunningham said “the artistes of this event were specifically hand-picked because they truly embodied ital is vital livity;” which is also the event’s tagline. However, as one of the ‘hand-picked’ headliner artistes, Agent Sasco expressed to our Mckoy’s News reporter that the invitation meant more to him that just him showcasing his musical talent.
“A new event to the calendar, Ital Food Fest, so it’s more than music, it’s a family event, it’s an event promoting healthy lifestyle and way of living and especially after the events of the last few years after the pandemic; it’s just a great event and I am happy to be a part of it” he stated.
Reggae superstar I-Wayne echoed similar sentiments to the call he received about being a major headliner for the show and also revealed to our news team that he does not only sing about and breathe positivity but it is his daily way of life.
“First of all, it was a joy because a positivity wi deal wid and mi she alright, mi compatible wid dah type a vibe yah. As you know, protecting and preserving life is all that I’m always about and I even have a foundation called ‘Preserving Life Foundation.’ I’m all about goodness, positive vibration and I am more than happy to be a part of this;” I-Wayne explained as he highlighted and expressed respect to some of the other established and up-and-coming artistes that are also booked for the show on July 15.
The Ital Food Festival aimed at presenting the best of Ital livity and the promotion of Jamaica as a culinary destination. ‘Fyah Wayne’ as he’s also affectionately called, said he wholeheartedly embraced this aim and pointed out some of the overall benefits that can be achieved through this type of ‘ital is vital’ lifestyle.
“Healthwise and knowledge and yuh know dem thing deh very important. [The festival] also highlight a whole lot more because it has to do with nature; it’s just a good and positive vibe…” He commented.
However, the “Life Seed I Sew” artiste, in his response to the question of whether or not he thinks the government along with the other Agricultural agencies are doing enough to make it affordable for Jamaicans to live and embrace the kind of lifestyle that the festival is promoting, replied:
“No not really, that’s why you have to have people like these [Ital Food Fest organizers) to keep it dah way deh and set it. So, we can’t ever wait pon dem [government] an’ mek everything go down di drain. So, we have to get up, make an effort and set an example. So although they [the government] are supposed to be doing what they are to be doing as government, we have to set it and mek dem see it yuh nuh and dem see seh a action and anuh jus’ talking;” the ever positive and conscious Ras explained.
In an exclusive revelation to Mckoy’s News, I-Wayne also revealed that he has a huge upcoming project in the pipeline as he is currently working with some young artistes and producers to make this a hit.
The cultural icon could not have ended his interview without a few positive words of encouragement and upliftment to the aspiring artistes and youths in general of Jamaica.
“Dem affi just be resilient dat addi first thing and as mi seh, rough and tough… You have to go through certain things to know how to go about fixing a situation;” said I-Wayne as he concluded with very fitting lyrics from one of his songs which summed up his exact words of empowerment he expressed earlier.
All the guests, special invitees and patrons who spoke directly to our Mckoy’s News team, shared the same positive opinions and pure energy about the concept of the event. Some of these interviewees included the co-producer of Ital Food Fest, who is also one of the event’s main headliner chefs from ‘Taste of Ital’ restaurant, Chef Troy Levy. His company’s tagline, “Continuing The Healing With Food,” captures the overall essence and concept of the food festival. We also spoke with one of the main partners of the event, Ms. Paula Hurlock, CEO of ‘Wellness for Jamaica,’ who brought to the table the overall direct health benefits, physical lifestyle activities and educational punch to the event; thus, adding to the holistic appeal that Ital Food Fest is promoting.
The intimate session of the night’s proceedings was concluded by the specially invited Keynote Speaker, Dr. Carey Wallace, Executive Director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund. He was very integral in highlighting the major boost this event will have on the tourism industry in Jamaica as he also emphasized on the direct magnetic linkage that the Jamaican cuisine, music and culture possess in joining together people from across the globe.
As the crowd slowly dispersed on Mr. Wallace’s last word, many made their way to the area where the tables were decorated with fine ital cuisines of various colours, textures and the natural herb floats through the atmosphere. This was the deejay’s cue to bring the curtains down with some roots rocking reggae music to which the patrons vibe, sat and ate while others bounced as they made their way home.
The first official staging of Ital Food Fest, a one-day celebration of Jamaican Ital cuisine and Rastafari’s role as pioneers of what has now become the global plant-based movement, is set for July 15, 2023 at the renowned Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in St Ann.
Mckoy’s News Staff Reporter | Natasha Williams