Celebration time as Sacaj wins Festival Song Competition

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The moment that Sacaj’s Nuh Weh Nice Like Yard was announced as the winner of the 2022 Festival Song Competition last Thursday night, the entire National Indoor Sports Centre erupted in celebration. The audience was out of their seats and jostling for space as close as possible to the stage, even as the confetti rained down inside the venue, which, by then, was transformed into a throbbing hub of sound effects, glitter and fireworks.

For Sacaj, that was the moment when “mi heart drop … right down the bottom of mi foot”.

“It was really overwhelming,” a breathless Sacaj, the only woman in the competition, told The Gleaner.

It was a night on which the 10 finalists brought their ‘A’ game and thrilled with performances that reminded everybody of the absolute joy of “outside”. From Orkid’s performing Beres Hammond’s Standing in my Way to Inspyre’s twist on Redemption Song and Nazzleman’s Play di Music, the first segment went all too quickly. And then, it was time for the finalists to impress the judges with their festival songs. They did just that.

When the dust settled, the top-three were third-place-winner Nitty Kutchie, with the song, Defend Jamaica; Magic Flute with I’m A Proud Jamaican and the winner, Sacaj. Kutchie, who rose to fame in the ‘90s as a member of the now defunct Scare Dem Crew, also won the prize for Best Performer. Both he and Magic Flute were among the top contenders for first place.

Sacaj admitted that when she heard their names called for third and second, she wondered if it could be her night to shine.

“I had a slight feeling that it was going to be me … I was hoping that it would be me. But I was a bag of nerves waiting to hear the announcement,” she said.

Making history as the fifth female to win the Festival Song Competition in its 56-year history has made the young woman from Sandside in St Mary humble. She was effusive in her praise for the event organiser, the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission; Minister of Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange; her family; her manager, Newell Morgan and her fans.

“It has been a brief and enjoyable journey. It’s the first time that I have been performing so much and in front of so many people. But it helped me to build my confidence. Minister Grange congratulated me and told me that she’s looking forward to working with me and that I have a lot of potential. It feels good,” said an excited Sacaj, whose real name is Danece Alia Jácas.

Declaring that she is “doing this for the girls,” the St Mary High School graduate took a quick stroll down memory lane and shared that a young Danece would never have imagined winning such a competition because she was just too shy to even consider entering.

“Although I loved singing and writing, the idea of going up in front of all those people and performing would have made my younger self run and go hide unda di bed. So I’m glad about winning. I feel like I made my inner child proud,” Sacaj said.

She shared that her portion of the $3 million prize money will be invested wisely. “Plus, I have to pay back the people dem who mi fi pay back. Everybody soon tell me that mi need to pay dem back fi dem whole heap a credit,” she said with a laugh.

Chairman of the Festival Song Committee, Orville Hill, said that if he were to rate this year’s competition, he would give it nine and a half out of 10, “only because usually in everything there is room for improvement”.

“I think all the contestants came with a different slant in terms of their songs; they came together well, and they performed well. The songs were nice songs that formulated a good competition and everything that unfolded here tonight,” Hill said.

This year, the new voting rules saw a judging panel awarding 50 per cent of the points. Last year, the winner was decided by public voting only.

“We recognise the importance of having the input from the public, which is the public votes, but we also thought that it was important to have professional judges who would come in and make their contribution to selecting the winning song. So we now have this year a 50/50 split in terms of the votes. I think that is the way that we will go forward,” Hill said as he offered congratulations to all the contestants.

Source: The Gleaner