Who needs Sting anyway?
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
For those who read the headline and started reading gleefully, thinking that this would be a Sting-bashing piece, you would do well to stop now. For, far from being a dismissal of the Boxing Day event which, in its 31 continuous years, has come to represent dancehall to a large extent, it is literally a reasoning on who needs Sting starting with myself.
And I will not even take the obvious cop out of saying the most recent staging was chaotic for maybe 95 per cent of its 10 or 11 hours, which it was, or pointing out how much of that crucial stageshow time, between 1 , and 5 a.m., was entrusted to reggae performers whom the audience appreciated thoroughly.
No. I liked that part as well, but the fact is that I can get that sort of line-up in many places. What I need Sting for, is the combative moments, when two artistes, each with a microphone, do musical battle and the only determinant of who has the upper hand is the crowd. Some people will be biased, of course, but is so clash thing go,
And I cannot get that sort of artiste clash anywhere else. Sure, there is Magnum Kings and Queens of Dancehall but, as we saw with Hurricane and Specialist one year, and then Candy K in her losing effort against Sashae last week, the corporate-sponsored, televised battle is one thing, but squaring off in a setting where the only regulation is no physical contact, is another.
THRILL OF THE BATTLE
The spontaneity involved in the clash, the adjustment required when a plan is derailed by an opponents response, the split second when the tide turns and one person gains the ascendancy it has to be experienced by someone who is deeply engaged with dancehall to be understood.
So that takes care of my need for Sting. Who else needs it? Quite a few persons and organisations. For one, there is the organising entity, Supreme Promotions, of which Isaiah Laing is the best-known face. Whether it is for the cash, the clash, the love, or any combination thereof, they have to need it in order to keep going for 31 consecutive years, through clash and criticism, bottle throwing and stampede.
So do some corporate sponsors, like this year and last years title sponsor, Magnum. Despite the uproar in 2013, when Sizzla and DAngel were banned, after an attempt to take Sting into the realms of increased respectability with live satellite broadcast and the rules associated with mainstream media, fell flat. But, despite a marked decrease in the level of corporate branding, Magnum was there with its name on the digital backdrop and bar areas.
Obviously, many members of the crowd also need Sting. Just like me. For while there are those who attend or not, depending on the lead-up in a particular year, Sting has a hardcore following which will be there, no matter what. Call them what you will, they are certainly loyal.
Then there are the artistes who need Sting. It is the show that they count on to give them that big break or, in some cases, a return to the limelight. Among the former are those who went head to head at the most recent staging, from the lesser lights of Maestro Don to the defending $3-million champion Ryno. Among the latter is the man being hailed as a good performer for all of eight or so minutes on stage, Gully Bop (although, truth be told) I do not remember him from two decades ago. I must have missed that initial iteration.
However, that naturally leads me to those who do not need Sting (at least not anymore). Chief among them are Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Ninja Man and Sizzla, who were at GTs Christmas Extravaganza in Black River the night before. It must be noted that while many an artiste about whom much was made at Sting did not do many if any other notable shows over the period, the big four which were missing in action at Jamworld this time around had a slew of appearances over the busy entertainment period.
So Sizzla was part of a road block event in Half-Way Tree on New Years Eve. Bounty and Beenie made joint appearances at Chug It in Portmore and Yush at the National Arena, with Bounty slated to go it alone at Puls8, New Kingston, last night. Bernie Man was at Blue Lagoon in Portland for New Years Eve.
Whether or not they will go Stinging again at some future point, is anybody's guess.
REGGAE REVIVAL, A HIT
Which brings me to the Sting 2014 format, which worked very well. It was not quite the two different shows reggae and dancehall as had been publicised, but the combination of genres was clearly there. It was striking that reggae was entrusted with those critical early morning stage show hours and Tarrus Riley, Exco Levi, Ikaya, Droop Lion, Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr did an excellent job, with Capleton spanning dancehall and reggae as expected.
With the encounter between Kiprich and Ryno inconclusive (though I believe Ryno would have won handsomely) and Tommy Lee and Gage adjusting their planned face-off, somewhat, there is at least one major clash that Supreme Promotions can look forward to next year. Add in a number of smaller encounters, making sure to bring back Sashae who ripped up Candy K and Reggae Queen, get some more reggae artistes like Nature and Jah Cure, maybe, and the show is set again with or without Gully Bop.
It is left to be seen, though, if the deejays who have developed a set of recordings and were not at Sting, need the event. Aidonia, Popcaan, Konshens and Busy Signal have all been on Sting before, but were not on the mic this year. They may not need Sting, not at this point where so many youngsters determined to make a name are taking potshots at almost anything that moves.
But, for those of us who need Sting, we shall gather in almost 12 months time, same place.