The Gleaner: KINGSTON, Jamaica, By Yasmine Peru –

A fusion of rum and reggae is how Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett described the 2024 iteration of the Jamaica Rum Festival, which had its launch at The Ruins, UWI, Mona on Wednesday, with the big announcement that the event has forged a partnership with Reggae Sumfest.

The festival, which had its inaugural staging in 2019 as a two-day event in Kingston, was last held in 2022 at the Harmony Beach Park in Montego Bay. Returning after the one-year hiatus, Montego Bay is again the city of choice for the July 18 event, which will be held at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex.

There were lots of smiles and laughter all around at the launch, as the collaborators enthusiastically posed for pictures and readily spoke with the media.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Minister Bartlett briefly spoke about the origins of the Jamaica Rum Festival and his passion of “bringing heads to beds”.

Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett (left) and Marketing Director at J Wray and Nephew, Stefano Furini, share a light moment at Wednesday’s launch of the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum Festival.

Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett (left) and Marketing Director at J Wray and Nephew, Stefano Furini, share a light moment at Wednesday’s launch of the Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum Festival.

“The Jamaica Rum Festival is a creation of the Tourism Linkages Network in collaboration with J Wray & Nephew. We have been doing this for a number of years. We had a break in COVID, of course, and then we came back in 2021 and the renewal of the festival has done very well indeed. And, we are looking forward to this new iteration of it in Montego Bay with Reggae Sumfest … and that’s really strengthening … so what we have is this fusion of rum and reggae, so it will be a rum reggae rock,” the tourism minster stated.

This fusion, he said, was natural “because the spirit of Jamaica is in the rum, and the heart of Jamaica is in the music”.

“But also, it is a means of driving economic activity in the ‘Second city’. These festivals bring a number of players together and a number of commercial artistes, as well as entrepreneurs. And it is good for the economy … and then it brings visitors … it brings heads to beds, and that’s how I come in,” Bartlett said, adding that this linkage network has the synergies of the entertainment ministry, the culture ministry and the agriculture ministry, whose minister was present.



Bartlett shared that rum is the third most consumed liquid on planet Earth, next to water and coffee, which rate numbers one and two respectively, and since Jamaica, the land of wood and water, has the best coffee and rum in the world “it’s fair that we should celebrate these wonderful assets of ours”. He noted that Wray & Nephew is one of the iconic brands globally, in terms of rum, therefore “we had to ensure that partnership of Destination Jamaica, Brand Jamaica and Appleton Rum were related and that symbiotic relationship was ensured forever”.

Stefano Furini, marketing director at J Wray and Nephew, noted that the festival’s partnership with Reggae Sumfest was important, strategic and critical, and emphasised that the event is a celebration of rum, music, culture and the vibrant community of Montego Bay.

“Reggae Sumfest provides us with an even greater opportunity to share Jamaica’s entertainment culture globally through a stage that allows us to promote brand Jamaica through our joint synergies in terms of execution excellence and to take a value and product to attract locals and visitors alike. It will be a daytime into evening event and Blitz will be held as a joint event feature … one ticket, one price, same venue, double the entertainment value,” Furini said.

Reggae Sumfest and Downsound Records boss, Joe Bogdanovich, hailed the partnership as “a celebration of Jamaican culture, unity and excellence” and promised an unforgettable week of events which will culminate with Jamaica Rum Festival Blitz on July 18 and Festival Nights I and II on July 19 and 20.

“For years, Reggae Sumfest has been a beacon of our island’s musical heritage, captivating audiences around the globe, and now the support of J Wray & Nephew is poised to take our festival to even greater heights and I expect to see more sponsors jump onboard,” Bogdanovich said.

With a fierce marketing strategy in place, Sumfest, which will unfold during the week of July 14-19 has already partially revealed its line-up. American singer Babyface, legendary reggae crooner Beres Hammond and dancehall veteran Bounty Killer, who will be honoured through a special musical tribute, will be joined by Aidonia, Capleton, 450, Luciano, Nigy Boy, Kraff, Valiant, Ras-I and Sevana, just to name a few.