From the plethora of talent contests which have graced Jamaica’s entertainment landscape only the ‘Vare Johns Opportunity Knocks’ that ran through the late 50’s to the early 60s can compare with the Tastee Talent Contest when it comes to the quality of acts unearthed.
None however, can match Tastee’s record of longevity with thirty four (34) years (1979-2013) of
unbroken searches across the length and breadth of Jamaica, spawning the gamut of talents and
hundreds of millions of dollars.
From the first final on that second Thursday of December 1979 when little Nadine Sutherland edged
Paul Blake, the Kingston College (KC) student for the top spot, the Tastee Contest as it was then, has
remained Jamaica’s premier talent contest, unmatched by any before or since. Yellow Man came in
third place that same year.
The Tastee Contest was the brainchild of the late Sonny Bradshaw which was enthusiastically embraced
by founder Mr. Vincent Chang, for which he was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Government
of Jamaica IN 2002.
Here is a look to some of the winners/entrants and their achievements over the decades which is further
testimony to the impact of the Tastee Talent Contest.
It was during the late 80’s when the world was in the throes of the AIDS epidemic that Henry Brown
displayed his fantastic skills as a make-up artist when he made himself up as a skeleton, the face of
death as he delivered his piece en route to taking first place. Subsequent to that, he migrated to
California and quickly established himself as one of the most sought after and celebrated make-up artist
in Hollywood winning several accolades for his work.
Winston “Yellow Man” Foster
Who would have thought when he did his song ‘Barnabas Killing’ to take third place in the 1979 finals
Winston Foster would go on to be named King Yellow Man. Along the way Yellow Man became the first
DJ to sign a major overseas contract, this was with the United States entity CBS Records. He did not stop
there, Yellow Man is the first Jamaican DJ to be nominated for a Grammy and it was following his
spectacular marathon display at Reggae Sunsplash in 1984 that the Thursday night became known as
Beenie Man’s exploits speak for themselves as the Grammy winning DJ has remained a favourite from
the 80’s until present. He is still very visible locally and tours consistently. Toss in a number of
collaborations he has done with international acts and one can appreciate the reach of Beenie Man and
why he is the proclaimed ‘King of the Dancehall.’
Claudette Pious became the first recipient of the Tastee scholarship to the Edna Manley School where
she honed her drama talent. A very talented and versatile actress, Claudette went on to screen success
in the 2002 movie ‘Shottas’ as well as her acclaimed role in the TV series, ‘Tiny’s Place.’ Today she is the
head of Children’s First.
Though they entered separately, Brian Thompson who won his year and Tony Gold later teamed up and
had recording success with producer Mikey Bennett before touring the world doing background vocals
for international star and platinum selling artist Shaggy.
Similarly Papa San was easily one of the most successful DJs of the 80’s / 90’s before he embraced
Christianity. Papa San now ministers to his flock in Miami.
From her first single ‘Starvation on the Land’ and follow up album, ‘Until’, both done for Bob Marley’s
Tuff Gong label, the first Tastee contest winner, Nadine Sutherland, has been a staple on the local
Mr. Vegas is still very relevant and continues to churn out dance hall hits.
As a DJ, Anthony Clarke took the 2012 title before he went on as Devin De Dakta and pulled off the
unprecedented by winning the Magnum King and Queen contest.
The Tastee Talent Contest was rebranded in 2007 and became a reality TV event as the Tastee Talent
Trail. The contest also saw entrants such as Cobra, RDX, TOK and scores more.