Zeena Banks winner Song 4 Jamaica competition

Jamaica 55 song contest winner announced
The seven finalists represented a diverse group from across the UK and the judges were blown away by the high standards.

ALL TOGETHER NOW: Jamaica’s High Commissioner Mr. Seth George Ramocan (centre) addresses the contestants and the audience at the finals of the Song 4 Jamaica competition at the Tabernacle in west London

ZEENA BANKS was crowned winner of the inaugural Jamaica 55 Song 4 Jamaica competition after her winning song Who run de world wowed the ecstatic audience at the grand finale inside the Tabernacle, west London on Sunday, July 2.

Banks had to hold-off a strong challenge from second place Camara Fearon and third place runner-up TeeJah Prayze in taking the top prize. The other finalists were Emil Chambers, Ash I (Garfield Walker), Ronan Saddler and Nicci Marbles.

The Song 4 Jamaica competition began with regional heats earlier in the year with the goal of uncovering fresh singing talent and ended with a grand finale on Sunday.

Contestants had to write and perform a song in any reggae sub-genre and were competing for an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica, an opportunity to perform at the launch of Jamaica’s 55th Festival for Independence celebrations ‘Standing Ovation’ on July 29th and invitations to perform at celebratory events in Jamaica and the UK.

The seven finalists represented a diverse group from across the UK.

Judges Lorna Gee, Roy Medallion and Leroy Wilson were blown away by the high standards this year proving that the artistes were among the very best.

WINNING: Zeena Banks (left) the winner of the Song 4 Jamaica competition with chief judge Lorna Gee

Reflecting on her win, Banks said:

“I cried on stage when it was announced that I had won. I was so humbled by the recognition that I would get for all of my hard work but mostly because of the opportunity I now have to represent Jamaica – a country that is so close to my heart. In fact, I wear it on my sleeves.

“All the songs that I write, my style, my whole aura are a reflection of my Jamaican influences. This competition means more to me than any other out there. It means so much to know that people really believe in me.”

Born in the parish of St. Mary, Jamaica, Banks grew up listening to reggae. She moved to the UK in 2002 but still has fond memories of the live sound systems she listened to most weekends when international artists would perform.

Hosted in previous years by UKUnsigned a successful partnership was launched for 2017 with Jamaicans Inspired UK/EU (JAMIN) and this year the Song 4 Jamaica competition was endorsed as an official Jamaica 55 event.

Special guest at the finals was Jamaica’s High Commissioner His Excellency Seth George Ramocan who had high praise for the contestants. He said:

“The Jamaica High Commission is pleased to acknowledge this event as one of the sponsored events of the Jamaica 55 celebrations. I can’t express enough how much we appreciate the work that has been done to make this event happen. It is the first of its kind and I am extremely proud that the contestants are so deeply steeped in the country of Jamaica.”

Chair of JAMIN, Nathaniel Peat, said:

“Competition was strong and all seven finalists should be very proud of what they have achieved. They all really impressed the judges but Zeena is a formidable singer and although it was an extremely difficult decision she was the deserving winner. She has set the bar high and we are now excitedly planning the 2018 Song for Jamaica competition, which promises to be an even bigger event.”

Supporters of the event include Grace Foods, Luxury Events Group, MediaNet and Victoria Mutual Building Society.