Gospel takes the lead in Reggae Month celebrations
Pulling in the largest turnout to date for the 2015 celebration of Reggae Month, the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA's)-organised Reggae Praise was a success. This was due to Christians and non-Christians alike braving intermittent showers to attend the inaugural staging.
There were energised performances from some of Jamaica's most popular gospel acts, who used their songs to minister and entertain.
The approximately four-hour show was held on Sunday at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road, and despite several band changes, the programme, under the stewardship of emcees Nadine Blair and Markland Edwards, flowed smoothly from beginning to end.
The opening prayer aside, Joan Richards was first to the stage, and opened the floodgates of perpetual praise and worship. She was backed by the One Touch Band.
Levy's Heritage was next, and had the audience in a frenzy, as they delivered song after song, among them, their popular One Touch.
Their father, Lubert Levy, followed and declared, "We ah goh rejoice in Jesus," before fervently delivering Jesus Rescue Me All Over Again and Roll Jordon Roll.
Ministry through music
Following the first band changes, Ryan Mark and Omari were called to minister in music. They were backed by On The Shout Band. Ryan Mark, who performed first, included songs such as Right with You, and Already Done, in his musical sermon. He concluded his set with the spoken word. "At the end of the day, I am not an entertainer, but a minister. Let's put God first ... let's live for Jesus," he said.
Omari, in his set, delivered songs like Send Away, Jehovah Guide Me and Sweet Gospel Reggae. He ended with a tribute to Bob Marley by having the audience join him in singing One Love.
The announcement of Kevin Downswell's name was greeted with much applause, but it was his entrance which was even more dramatic. Allowing his back-up singers to open, he emerged from stage right singing I Got Jesus and Goodbye World. He also performed his hit, Stronger. Downswell later brought on his mother, Miriam, to join him in singing.
Many will agree that the show-stoppers, however, were Rondell Positive and Jermaine Edwards. Positive gave a dazzling performance. He entered the stage singing Protect Me from Myself, and followed up with I'm a Vessel. He also had a strong message for Christian men, as he asked, "How can you treat your wife bad and expect to live good?"
He then proceeded to sing a love song for his wife, whom he invited to the stage. Perhaps energised by this song, he made circles around the stage as he pelted the words of Sticks nor Stones.
Edwards was even more amazing, and the reduction in audience size by the time he entered the stage at 10 p.m. was no deterrent. Instead, he gave an optimum performance. With vigor, he ministered with songs such as Don't Count Me Out, Alleluia to our King and It's a Beautiful Day.
Reggae Praise concluded with another prayer.
After the show, a satisfied Ibo Cooper provided some background information on the event. He explained that when Reggae Month started, the JaRIA signature show, Reggae Wednesdays, opened with gospel music. It grew to be popular and people began asking for one of the Wednesday nights to be dedicated to gospel music. A decision was taken to instead have it on a separate night, as the Wednesday was already heavily subscribed, thus the first staging of Reggae Praise this year.
Cooper also observed that the show was a success and promised that it would remain on the itinerary for Reggae Month in subsequent years.
Reggae Month celebrations continue at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, with daily lunch hour concerts and weekly Wednesday shows. Tonight will see performances by established and up-and-coming musical bands. The headliner is the Third World Band.