Patria-Kaye Aarons | Buju and the 50,000 strong
Long live live music. On Saturday, March 16, I spent my night in the National Stadium satisfying my soul. The Buju concert was everything! If you never joined the other 50,000 of us who converged in that one place, let me give you the rundown.
No hype round here, I couldn’t afford the US$200 ticket for the infield. I have bills. I purchased the category my pocket could afford this time around. Bleachers! What an awesome experience. Those sitting around me became fast friends. Something about being under the open sky in close quarters encourages camaraderie. We shared jokes, jelly doughnuts and second-hand weed smoke without complaint.
Here’s my summary of what happened.
The show started at eight on the dot, as was advertised. Wayne Marshall came out first and blessed up the place with the Nexus choir singing Lord I Pray.
The outfits artistes chose to wear were a carnival of colours. Delly Ranks came out in a full red suit. Ghost topped him in a bright, canary yellow tux (and jet black hair). He came on singing Life After Love and then made his way through his catalogue of covers. I half-expected Celine Dion to join him on stage to do a duet. Since it appeared every other foreign celebrity was in the house to see Buju’s first show in a decade, why not Celine?
Many a woman lusted after Lust … all clad in tight white pants. Their voices were pure lust.
The biggest crowd response up until that point was to come for veteran crooner Cocoa Tea. He delivered a remix of his Holy Mount Zion, penned specifically for the show and the release of Buju.
The crowd erupted at his mention of ‘The Second Coming of Mark Myrie’. He transitioned to a Rastaman chant, Fly Away Home, and made me feel like wrapping my head.
And then he introduced Koffee! Woi. Though she only did one song, it was one more than we expected. He closed his set with 18 and Over.
Next came the singalong segment. We happily became the backing vocals for both Etana and Christopher Martin (who looked like a sexy pirate in a white ruffle-front shirt and a maroon velvet jacket.)
If I thought the loudest cheers would come for Cocoa Tea, when Chris ushered on Romain Virgo for their duet Leave People Business Alone, the decibels went up even more. Romain stepped on the stage dressed in a neon pink chevron blazer and his voice outdid his jacket.
When Romain started singing Dutty Heart, you knew Sasco was coming next. We screamed so loud, Long Mountain heard us. Lyrics are his thing (and clearly ours as well), because the audience rode the rhythm right along with Sasco. The sound in bleachers wasn’t the best … but audience members made up for what couldn’t be heard from the stage.
All this transpired before 10 o’clock, yet I had already gotten more than $4,000 worth of show.
The first half of the show closed out with Chronixx. Like a Whistle flicked the switch of every cell phone camera. It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen in that stadium.
He ended his segment with the first verse of Likes, and dancers and non-dancers alike threw away their inhibitions and were flinging their shoulders far. When he exited, bleachers broke out in a chant of “We want more”.
11:20 was the moment. Instrumentalists on the stage took their final tune-up and there were last-minute mic checks.
Elise Kelly announced that “history was in the making” and that “the wait was over”.
And Buju appeared.
The moment felt almost religious. Dressed in white, singing Have Mercy On Me, the prodigal son returned and fell to his knees, as if repentant and asking forgiveness from his fans.
And we gave it to him; 50,000 strong.
We got conscious Buju with songs like Not an Easy Road and Close One Yesterday. After zero mic issues, in the first 10 minutes of his set, Gargamel’s mic went dead. The discomfort on stage and in the audience was palpable. Buju held his head.
It ruffled his feathers and he took about two more songs to find his stage legs. But then Buju was back. On his back and bubbling to some serious ’90s Buju girl tunes, complete with Rider and Haffi Get you Tonight.
By now Buju’s shirt may as well have been made of paper, made 100 per cent translucent by sweat.
And then the surprises rolled in for the unbilled duos. Regal Marcia Griffiths, fatherly Beres Hammond, Wayne Wonder and Gramps Morgan in a gold, bedazzling blazer straight out of Black Panther.
My heart was happy.
A few nights later, I went to Tastees and the lady who handed me my order could hardly croak “Thanks and come again”.
I asked her what happened to her voice.
All she could get out was a raspy whisper, “Buju”.
I’m already excited for Sumfest. Buju, Beres and Chronixx; BBC! Cannot miss me!