The competition has attracted some of the best amateur talent in the country since its start in 1966 but this year saw some more seasoned entrants in the country.
With the competition being left wholly to a public vote once the top ten was determined, many argued that it left the lesser known entrants at a distinct disadvantage.
Veteran artiste Freddie McGregor was also shortlisted for the top 10 which saw more than half its numbers being established names in entertainment.
One entrant, in a letter to a local newspaper, said there were four auditions which saw none of the more popular acts performing. “They have all eliminated those Jamaicans who have entered and spent their precious time and monies preparing their songs. These thousands of Jamaicans must get a voice. By any stretch of the imagination this is wrong, very wrong,” Patrice Taylor said.
Taylor further said she spent J$100,000 to produce her song, adding that it’s a sacrifice that many other entrants would have made. “All these atrocities were done for some fairly affluent practitioners at the expense of those who could barely find the requisite monies to get their packages together. Subsequently, the rich will get richer and the poor get poorer!”
In addition to Banton, the top 10 included veteran acts Freddie McGregor, Toots and the Maytals, LUST, Rising Stars winner Shuga, and television personality and host Sakina Deer.
However, the Festival Song Committee last month said it is not an “amateur competition”.
The committee’s chairperson, Orville Hill, last month told JIS News that, “It is not an amateur competition. It is a competition that attracts entrants from across the spectrum, young upcoming talents as well as established artistes in the industry.”
Jamaica’s Minister of Culture Olivia “Babsy” Grange
Donovan Germain, a long-time producer for Buju agreed with Hill in an interview with the Jamaica Observer, saying, “The festival song contest is not an amateur contest. It is open to everybody. This years influx of known acts came out of a consultation with Minister [Olivia] ‘Babsy’ Grange. She invited all the stakeholders to a meeting some time ago as she wanted to see how we could make this thing better.”
Germain added, “By not doing all we can to elevate the contest we are watering down ourselves. Buju is not doing this for the money, he is just doing his part to raise the bar. He has already declared, should he win, his prize package will go toward a boys’ home.”
But, that perspective was not enough to convince some who thought the raised profile of some entrants was a shortcoming to others having a fair shot at the J$3 million prize.