Reggae crooner Beres Hammond flipped the script on this year’s UWI, Mona Graduation ceremonies, much to the delight of numerous fans in the audience.
Hammond, who was conferred with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) at the final of four ceremonies on Saturday, November 4, did what he does best when it was his turn to address the graduating class of 2023.
Within the first couple of minutes, it became clear that the Reggae icon was not “gonna talk“, but would Show it Off. In fact, Hammond threw out his original speech, quipping: “Them actually write something fi mi talk about mi life eh nuh, but mi nuh can say it without reading?”
He gave the audience a cursory glimpse into his early life, telling them that he began singing at age 11. He said his father was not thrilled with the idea of him working in the music industry, but his mother gave him her blessings. “She help mi fi run weh from country come ah town,” said Hammond, who recalled that he had a rough time of it before finally finding a place of his own.
“Long story cut short, I was inspired by Alton Ellis, Stevie Wonder, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and folks like that,” he continued. Hammond said listening to their genre of music and style of singing helped him to find his own voice.
Hammond told the gathering that he started out with “a little song” called, One Step Ahead. This solo ballad, released in 1976, was a hit in Jamaica. Last Saturday night it was Double Trouble when he sang the first line, “One step ahead and you’re down…”. Some members of the audience chimed in, and then begged him to “play some more”. Hammond obliged, and his message was succinctly reflected in the few lines he belted out thereafter.
Hammond teased the audience with the line, ‘Every time I think of saying goodbye…”, and they erupted into applause and collectively held their breath. He usually opens his shows with No Goodbye, a hit from his 2008 A Moment in Time album. He belted another line, “I feel a shiver running up my spine”. Incidentally, this line is from Doctor’s Orders (1996), perhaps a subtle reference to his new honorary doctorate. By the time he sang a few lines from Rock Away (2001), people were swaying in their seats and singing along. In Rock Away, Hammond pays tribute to several artistes who had influenced his musical journey.
Hammond also thanked his fans for their continued support. “I make good songs and you turn them into hits for me. I want to thank all of you for that,” Hammond told the gathering. “I love you all. Thanks for your years of support, thank you for letting me into your homes, and thank you for letting me into your hearts,” he said.
As Hammond sat down, The University Singers performed Rock Away, and now it was his turn to “feel good”. He smiled, nodded and did his Groovy Little Thing on the platform, basking in the tribute from his new UWI, Mona family.
In fact, from the moment Hammond exited the car last Saturday outside the Undercroft on the Mona Campus he appeared at home. He smiled and acknowledged fans, who shouted his name as he made his way to the Council Room to prepare for the graduation ceremony for the faculty of Engineering, the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), and the Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM). Here, he chatted easily with members of the UWI Leadership and readily posed for photographs with staff members. And as the curtain came down on the tributes and good vibes that flowed inside the graduation tent last Saturday, Hammond now knows that he is always welcome to Come Back Home to the Mona Campus.
About The University of the West Indies
The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region for the past 75 years.
From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Global Campus, and global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.
The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and wider world.
The UWI has been consistently ranked among the top universities globally by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education (THE). The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists since its debut in the rankings in 2018. In addition to its leading position in the Caribbean in the World University Rankings, it is also in the top 25 for Latin America and the Caribbean and the top 100 global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old). The UWI is also featured among the leading universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.
2023 marks The UWI’s 75th anniversary. The Diamond jubilee milestone themed “UWI at 75. Rooted. Ready. Rising.” features initiatives purposely designed and aligned to reflect on the past, confront the present, and articulate plans for the future of the regional University.