Ephraim Martin, a Jamaican-Chicagoan, this Sunday, October 2nd, at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, Fort Lauderdale, Florida will accomplished a record setting 100th Annual Entertainment Production. The entertainment milestone will be official, at the conclusion of the 35th Anniversary of the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA).
It is believed that no individual has ever produced 100 annual entertainment (festival and awards) events, consecutively. That is just what Ephraim Martin will achieve in South Florida, October2nd.
Beginning in 1982, Ephraim consistently produced the annual Chicago Music Awards (CMA- 35 years), the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA- 35 years), the International Festival of Life (IFOL- 24 years) and the Caribbean Festival (CAF- 6 years), which after the six consecutive years in Chicago, now merged with the IFOL. That’s four special events per year for 35 years for a total of one hundred events.
In 1982 when there was no recognition for Reggae, world music or Chicago-land entertainers, at a time when reggae music was used as a voice to end Apartheid, Ephraim decided to do something about it. Hence the Chicago Music Awards and the International Reggae Awards came into being.
ABOUT THE HISTORY MAKER: In the mid 1970s, young Ephraim Martin (Johnny Walker as he was called by his Editor and colleagues), was a hardworking, roving photo-journalist for the western hemisphere’s oldest newspapers, the Daily Gleaner and Daily Star newspapers in Jamaica. He was popular for his special columns in the Star newspapers namely: The Public Says, The Golden Agers, Sweet Sixteen, Voting 18 and Scanning the Scene. He was one of the most dependable persons in the media and one to whom reggae entertainers could look to for news coverage.
Entertainers and producers, such as Tommy Cowan, Clancy Eccles, Jacob Miller and Inner Circle, Rita and Bob Marley, Copeland Forbes and Peter Tosh, to name a few, depended on Ephraim for entertainment coverage.
On March 21, 1980, at about 7:00 pm Rita Marley called the Gleaner office and asked Ephraim to go to the Norman Manley Airport to meet and cover Bob Marley, Jacob Miller, Junior Mervin and Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records. They flew in on Blackwell’s private Jet from Brazil where they had won a trophy in a soccer contest.
On that night, both Bob Marley and Jacob Miller strongly encouraged Ephraim to get more involved with the music and to travel with them, but Ephraim said he could not.
The following Saturday, Jacob spoke with Ephraim to get some of the photographs. A meeting was set for the Zinc Fence Theater, where the group Third World was having the official opening of the theater. At about 3:00 pm that Sunday, when Ephraim went to the Zinc Fence, Jacob left a message that he was going to get Sugar Cane and would be right back. Ephraim likewise left a message for Jacob that he was going to the Gleaner office to turn in his assignment for the next morning’s newspaper and would be back shortly.
In less than an hour while in his office, the news editor Ivoral Davis walked over to Ephraim’s desk and demanded that he immediately rush to Half Way Tree, because Jacob Miller was dead. Ephraim refused, saying “Jacob is waiting on me at the Zinc Fence.” Mr. Davis, striking the desk told Ephraim “If you don’t leave now, you are fired!” Martin got up jumped in his VW on his to Half Way Tree. And, yes! Jacob Miller was dead in a car accident!
The dead of Miller compelled Martin to do more for the reggae industry through the media.
In 1981, arriving in Chicago, Martin worked with the Chicago Daily Defender as a Photo-Journalist, where he dabbles with a little reggae entertainment. While working at the Chicago Defender, he wrote an article that was somewhat, controversial with the Chicago reggae community; but after a discussion with reggae superstar Peter Tosh was on tour performing with Jimmy Cliff at the Parkwest Night club in Chicago. The seed for a Music Awards for Chicago and reggae entertainers that would address Apartheid was planted.
By 1982, Ephraim Martin established the Chicago Music Awards (CMA) and the International Reggae Awards, (IRAWMA) with no intention of doing it for a long time.
They were inaugurated with multiple objectives. Part of the objectives were to honor Chicago entertainers and reggae entertainers at the global level, as there were no forms of recognition for Reggae, Chicago artists and other world music entertainers. However, knowing that reggae music speaks to world crisis, love, equal rights and justice, Martin dedicated the reggae awards to “End Apartheid and to the Freedom of Nelson Mandela” while at the same time honoring the best in the music industry.
Ephraim later in 1993 added the African/Caribbean International Festival of Life (IFOL), and then a Chicago Caribbean Festival, which is now combined with the Festival of Life. The IFOL objectives are “Living Together As One” and “Bringing Nations Together”.
Now 35 years later, on October 2, 2016, Ephraim Martin is doing something that no other Entertainment Producer has done, producing his 100th ANNUAL ENTERTAINMENT EVENT, OVER A 35 YEAR PERIOD.