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    South Floridians Find ‘Godly’ Groove in Gospel Reggae

    by: General | 2 Comments »

    Air Jamaica hosts a half-day music festival to highlight the genre and benefit a children’s project.
    Elizabeth Baier | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    Posted December 18, 2006
    FORT LAUDERDALE — As a child growing up in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Lt. Stitchie had his share of trying times.

    "We were so poor, we couldn’t afford textbooks for school," said Stitchie, the stage name of vocalist Cleve Laing. "I had to sell food products in the market for money. But I was so determined to get out of that condition."

    Stitchie got what he wanted, eventually becoming an award-winning gospel reggae artist. Now, he dedicates himself to high-energy reggae and dancehall gospel music.

    Saturday, beneath the vaulted ceiling of the New Testament Church of God in Fort Lauderdale, about 300 worshippers and fans joined him at Air Jamaica’s inaugural Gospel Fest. The concert was organized by a South Florida radio station.

    Audience members jumped when Lt. Stitchie got on stage. He sang two songs from his album Gospel Reggae and Real Life Story before dedicating a song to Gerald Levert, the American R&B singer who died in November.

    Lt. Stitchie sang:

    He was my father, my brother, my master, my friend.

    Gerald I miss you, but you taught me well.

    Many people sang along and waived Jamaican flags during Lt. Stitchie’s performance. They cheered him off the stage when he finished.

    Proceeds from the half-day event will benefit the Lovebird Kids’ Club, a nonprofit organization created by Air Jamaica to help children in the Caribbean and the United States, according to Kaye Chong, manager of community and special markets.

    The Kids’ Club has completed special projects in 25 classrooms in the United States and 11 schools throughout the Caribbean, Chong said.

    "We really try to spread [the program] to as many schools as possible," Chong said. "In the Caribbean, we create learning centers with books, a library and computers at the schools. It really is a beautiful thing."

    Other artists at the Gospel Fest included Claudelle Clarke, called "the Queen of Jamaican gospel;" jHoy, a trio from Coral Springs; and the Grace Thrillers, a Jamaican praise group.

    Saturday’s concert came as gospel entertainer Bobby Jones is preparing a $45 million complex in Fort Lauderdale, which could make the city a destination for spiritual entertainment.

    Throughout the afternoon, Amy Robotham, 56, and Hope Miller, 48, sat in the back of the church, dancing and singing along to their favorite songs.

    "We are here to mold our children in a godly environment," Robotham of Delray Beach said.

    The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

    Full story here:

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