“A king can be honoured in his own country.” That is the sentiment expressed by music insider DiMario McDowell, who was among the small gathering at the National Heroes’ Park in Kingston on Sunday morning as music icon Toots Hibbert was finally laid to rest.
For McDowell, the fact that Hibbert was ultimately able to be interred in the section of the national park reserved for cultural icons was a fitting tribute to the life of a man who he described as a friend, mentor, and great musical ambassador.
“This is a telling time for all of us. The activity inside the park was absolutely fitting for a man of his stature. The tributes paid to him and Rev Al Miller’s message were on point and spoke to the nature of the man. Just to see him buried in Heroes’ Park shows that one can be honoured in their own country,” McDowell told the Jamaica Observer.
From a personal perspective, McDowell noted that he has had a long association with the late musical icon, who is credited with naming the genre of reggae music following the 1968 release of his song Do The Reggay.
“My association with his goes back over 30 years. It started with my association with the promotion of events such as Sting, Dennis Brown and Friends, and Hot Shots. Whenever we met up, it was always a good vibration. He was like a big brother offering that voice of encouragement. ‘You need to continue with the singing,’ he would tell me.
“The last time I saw him was in March, just before the lockdown. We had a great conversation in the parking lot up in Manor Park plaza. We had a great conversation about so many things. Little did I know it would have been the last time I was seeing him. I feel the loss deeply. Toots was a man for the music. Every form of the music mattered to him… he wanted Jamaican music to win. He was always on the road promoting Jamaica and the music. He was a winner man for the music.”
Sunday’s interment follows an aborted burial at the Dovecot Memorial Park in St Catherine on October 15, after the burial order, a legal document required before a body can be interred, could not be produced by the family.
Following this mishap, Minister of Entertainment and Culture Olivia “Babsy” Grange announced that the Government has stepped in and decided to accord reggae legend Toots Hibbert a place at National Heroes’ Park in Kingston, in the section reserved for cultural icons.
Grange noted that interment in National Heroes’ Park will suitably memorialise his contribution to Jamaica and reignite the unity in his family, among his peers, and his fans, which is required at this time.
She shared that this had become possible thanks to the generosity of the family of the late Charles Hyatt — actor, broadcaster, director and author – whose remains were due to be reinterred in the last burial spot for cultural icons at National Heroes’ Park.