For the first time in the 128-year-history of the annual Penn Relays Carnival, reggae music will take center stage on Saturday at the Franklin Field Stadium, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Reggae singer Chris Martin — who has scored with hit singles “Cheaters Prayer,” “Big Deal,” “Let Her Go,” “Mama,” “Is It Love,” and “Goodness of God” — will perform before more than 100,000 athletic fans on the final day of the three-day event at the “TJB30 Pop Up Vibes”.

Jamaican Irwine Clare on IrieJam Radio. Photo courtesy Irwine Clare Sr.

“This achievement represents our continuity in raising the bar for Brand Jamaica and the Caribbean. It is a fitting tribute to 60 years of school participation and 30 years of Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) participation at the Penn Relays. It’s a big deal!” Irwine Clare, Sr., CEO of TJB, told Caribbean Life on Monday.

Clare said Martin’s performance will take place immediately after the running of the Championships of America High School Boys 4×400-metres final.

Scott Ward, executive associate AD, chief operations officer, University of Pennsylvania, told Caribbean Life he was thrilled to celebrate with Jamaica and Team Jamaica Bickle at the Penn Relays Carnival this year.

“It is a big year for Penn Relays — 128 years for us, 60 years for Jamaica participating at Penn Relays and 30 years for TJB. It is just amazing that all of this comes together all at the same time,” he said.

Jamaica Consul General to New York Alsion Wilson said she, too, was delighted with the inclusion of reggae at the Penn Relays Carnival.

“The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as this year we also celebrate the global success of ‘One Love the Movie,’ which has shone a spotlight on Jamaica’s vibrant culture and spirit,” she said. “Reggae music, along with our outstanding athletes, stand as some of our finest ambassadors, showcasing the strength and appeal of Brand Jamaica on the world stage.

“This synergy at such a prestigious event not only entertains but also deepens the appreciation of our rich cultural heritage,” Wilson added.

Prior to Martin’s performance, New York’s own DJ Roy of Road International, will “vibes up di stadium” with a selection of reggae, dancehall and soca hit songs.

Jamaica first participated in the annual Penn Relay Carnival in 1964, with a Kingston College (KC) relay team that won gold in the 440-yard relay final.

Since then, Penns has been a magnet for high school and collegiate athletes from Jamaica.

In 1999, TJB became the first Jamaican organization to be a participating sponsor at the Penn Relays, which resulted in the Jamaican flag also becoming the first foreign flag to be flown at the Penn Relays, “a distinction unmatched”, Clare said.

The 2024 Penn Relay Carnival is expected to attract more than 15,000 athletes to Philadelphia from April 25-27.

Among the prominent Jamaican high schools expected to dominate the relays are: Kingston College, Jamaica College, Calabar, Edwin Allen High, Hydel High School, Holmwood Technical, Vere Technical and St. Jago.

“I am a huge fan of what TJB does,” Ward said. “The support service they offer to the student athletes, they will always be welcomed here. We appreciate what they do and we are just excited to celebrate with them.”

Clare said: “We say thanks and appreciation to support from Scott Ward, of the University of Penn; Reggae Sumfest; VP Records, Consulate General Alsion Wilson; Jamaican Dave; and HypaSounds.”

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