Songs ’til sunlight
The many thousands who turned out for the second night of Rebel Salute 2015 displayed stamina, musical savvy and endless enthusiasm for a marathon performance of Jamaican musical output at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, Priory, St Ann, which ended a few minutes before 9 a.m. yesterday.
Most persons stayed up to midway a fiery closing by a yellow jacket-clad Sizzla, in which he interspersed song with strident speech and the crowd punctuated both with cheers and vuvuzela toots. There had been a similar, though less tumultuous, response nearly 12 hours before for Dalton Harris' Pauper, the singer telling the then already large audience that he has 10 subjects and intends to do law.
In between the two, there was appreciation for performances as diverse as No Lazy Body singer Echo Minott's surprise inclusion of Lionel Richie's Hello (done in much rawer tones than the ultra-romantic original, but taking the house down), and Dr Michael Abrahams' poem requesting more Heroes at close to 4 a.m., as well as Queen Ifrica doing vocals on a jazz rhythm.
However, even the remarkably gentle Salute
audience's patience was worn to the point of fraying by Leroy 'Don' Smart's treatment of the band. Striding on to the stage with swagger, Smart declared himself the don musically, quickly pointing out that he had not rehearsed with the band but he had been assured they knew his tracks. It was soon downhill from there, at one point the band taking a long time to play when instructed by Smart.
Still, even with Smart's haranguing, which he couched in purported sympathy with the musicians and encouragement for the crowd to go easy on them, when singer and band did somehow connect on tracks such as What's The Meaning Of Life, the cheers went up. But it was never enough to create anything remotely resembling a momentum and it reached the point of Smart patronising the band by asking them to play the Hypocrite rhythm as they 'must' be able to do that.
Eventually Smart, who said "me a icon, me a legend", after singing Ballistic Affair told the audience, "You see them seven song me sing, hol' on to that 'til we have a better band." That should have been that, except as the MC began to speak, Smart returned to the stage and attempted to speak again. Even the Rebel Salute audience had enough and the boos were loud.
Smart wised up instantly and left.
A substandard Sophia Brown got the stand and stare treatment and one of the night's highlights, Inner Circle's tribute to their late lead singer Jacob Miller fell flat up to the point of Chronixx's introduction. After 5:30 a.m. the band plugged away with Chapter a Day, Forward Jah Jah Children and All Night Till Daylight, but it was only when Chronixx was introduced for News Carrying Dread, the recently released Tenement Yard remix, that the crowd was roused to positive response.
Those moments apart, the night was a repeat to various degrees of a cycle of song and cheer, as even for what would be lesser known material in another setting, there was sufficient Jamaican popular music knowledge and willingness to listen among the audience to create a critical mass of 'forwards'.
Abatau relied on extended lyrics, and Prodi used God and Jah interchangeably, in addition to Jesus repeatedly, saying at one point, "People a talk all kind a things bout me, but make me represent for myself", going on to outline his personal traits in song.
Shuga was an absolute delight, paying sterling tribute to the ladies of the I-Threes with their individual songs, beginning with Black Woman (Judy Mowatt),with the bulk of her performance original material, a declaration of strength ("I am ebony") making an especially good impression.
Exco Levi was in a no-nonsense mood, distancing himself from criminality with "when dem a boas' say dem a hit man/I a make another hit song". He criticised Gage's Throat (as did Fantan Mojah later) and the police who close off dances with "2 o'clock him turn up inna de jeep/While Joe Grin' dung a him yard a tear sheet". There were chuckles when the MC paid respects to the police officers at the event keeping the people safe.
Cornel Campbell's falsetto, Leroy Gibbon's precise enunciation, the Mighty Diamonds' harmony, Fantan Mojah's intensity, Richie Spice's rendition of complete songs, Queen Ifrica's combination of commentary and superbly delivered song from Born Free to Keep It To Yourself, Raging Fyah's
chemistry, Freddie McGregor's professional smoothness in an extended early morning set (for which he got a well deserved encore) and Luciano's pacing (he said the great Sly Dunbar advised him not to rush his songs) and Cocoa Tea's exquisite ad libs kept the Rebel Salute happy to varied degrees of expressed enthusiasm.
And then came the closing blaze of Sizzla for almost an hour, in which there was a repeated stance against homosexuality, paedophilia, criminality and corruption along with songs such as Black Woman and Child and Thank You Mama.
The night's hosts also included Ron Muschette and Mutabaruka, Yaadcore dropping rub-a-dub tunes during band changes.