Whether as a 10-year-old DJ “toasting” over popular records or a photojournalist for the Kingston Daily Gleaner covering the rise of “rebel” sound in the 70s, Ephraim Martin has always championed reggae music. Ever since he arrived in Chicago in 1982, he’s organized and run two annual reggae events, the Chicago Reggae Awards held each February and Saturday’s International Reggae Music Awards, a four-hour gathering of reggae royalty featuring superstar DJ Buju Banton, crooner Junior Tucker, Shaggy, of the international smash “Oh Carolina,” and legendary singer Marcia Griffiths.

“We’ve been fighting for a long time,” says Martin of his push for more reggae recognition. “The academy [the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences] needs to do more and radio stations need to do more. They still don’t make reggae presentations onstage [at the Grammys]. They’re underestimating the music and the community.”

About 50 judges around the world nominated artists based on performance, social relevance, and record sales. Jamaican “rudebwoy” Buju Banton, infamous for the antigay hit “Boom Bye Bye,” tops the list with eight nominations, including best song, best album, best male DJ, and entertainer of the year. Inner Circle, the band with the crossover hit “Bad Boys,” follows with seven. “We get people from all over, Africans, Asians, whites,” says Martin. “It’s the kind of music that brings nations together.”

The International Reggae Music Awards will be held Saturday at 7 PM at the auditorium of the Field Museum, East Roosevelt Road and South Lake Shore Drive. Advance tickets are $19 at Ticketmaster. Call 427-0266 for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yael Routtenberg.