Story and photo by Jason Storbakken

New York’s reggae community held an award show called Reggae Red Carpet on July 25th at the swank Spirit Night Club on Manhattan’s west side. Reggae Red Carpet was the inaugural dancehall party at Spirit, which plans to showcase new dancehall and reggae artists live every Monday night.

Tuxedoed security guards, noble Rastas and the scent of burning herbs welcomed the guests as they walked the red carpet. The event honored several personalities and media including Kingsley Cooper and Pulse Models, dancer John Hype, VP Records, Irie Jam FM, Vibe magazine and music journalist Rob Kenner. The show also featured a live performance by Beenie Man.

Reggae promoter Anthony Turner said in an email that the weekly event at Spirit “hopes to become an arena for stamping the American seal of approval on Jamaican entertainment industry players who have contributed to and impacted positively on the growth and the development of various genres of reggae music and reggae lifestyles stateside.” Reggae Red Carpet will also be a weekly taping for the first season of a global magazine television show that will put a face to the people who have created and influenced this eclectic music and its worldwide lifestyle. The TV show will be packaged for broadcast in New York, Miami, London, Tokyo and Jamaica.

In typical West Indian fashion, the show didn’t get started until late but then it was blazing. The main honor of the night went to chairman of Pulse Entertainment Kingsley Cooper who accepted his honor with cool grace. “Thank you for this award,” he said as he held the star-shaped plaque. “I’ve been twenty-five years in the industry and it all started in the Caribbean.” He then asked supermodel Nadine Willis to join him on stage.

She excused herself from our conversation to take the stage with Mr. Cooper. I was taken aback. Could it be that I had been idly chatting with former Gucci girl and Kenneth Cole model Nadine Willis? Sure enough I had been. When she took the stage with Mr. Cooper he told the gathered audience “Nadine is on the cover of this month’s Esquire and French Vogue.” Willis started her modeling career as a dancer in Kingston before earning her place among the ranks of supermodels.

After the honorees were inducted, shock jock diva Wendy Williams interviewed promoter Junior Burton about the upcoming Irie Jam music festival, which Sizzla, Beenie Man and Damian “Jr. Gong “ Marley are headlining. It promises to be a highly conscious event.

The place was a buzz of activity. Press, artists and VIP mingled upstairs until the legendary Stone Love sound system roused everyone to their feet with penetrating beats and shouts to “Raise your lion’s paw!” The club was jumping.

People danced for hours and then at about 3 am Beenie Man, the final honoree of the night, exploded on the stage. Beenie Man was sporting a white leather jacket with the word “Hardcore” emblazoned on it. He grabbed the mic and sang, “Just give me a light and pass the joint.” Stone love rocked the system and Beenie deejayed a performance packing the crackle of unpredictability and sweet jolts of non-stop excitement that he’s known for. He finished the show by chatting up the models on stage with his raw, yet romantic lyrical styling.

It was a lively night honoring the contemporary artists, producers and promoters that are impacting the reggae scene in America. The inaugural Reggae Red Carpet honored those who are shaping the reggae industry today and promises to continue showcasing new artists like Rik Rok, Assassin, and Bushman every Monday at Spirit.