KOTE goes to Hope Gardens
Before introducing one of the unfamiliar, but talented, performers on Saturday's leg of the Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) urban arts festival, Maxine Walters spoke about the festival's mandate. It is to bring together "as many artistes from as many places as possible, to get us out of that zone, Kingston, and to bring more people to enjoy the beauty of what we have and the beauty of what we can do," Walters said.
What better place to confirm and show this commitment to beauty, freshness and relaxation than at the Shell Bandstand, Hope Botanic Gardens? Each performer dipped into the bowl of the disciplines of the performing arts to create mosaic items matched only by the serenity of the setting.
It was vaudeville in its pure form.
The first presentation of this image of beauty came from the 11-year-old Grupo Catigiero Capoeira, a martial arts group that incorporates dancing and music. Another way to describe the group's approach is "the ballet of fighter and the dance of a gladiator," explained member Perninha. With musical support, the young gladiators, students from a few inner-city communities all fully costumed in white, entertained the steadily growing audience with the quick steps of the maculele, a stick dance from Brazil. The group also performed the papawere and the samba.
Vocalists and musicians GG and Wayne McGregor brought another dimension to the programme. They arrived on the stage in succession, armed with guitars. McGregor was first. The audience members seemed to have felt the first note he strummed as they burst into cheers. He continued to take them on the musical journey with the blues of Hootchy Kootchy Man and Life is Somewhere to be Found. Throughout his act, McGregor gave his guitar rock-band-like treatment. He closed his set with Baltimore.
McGregor, and the three musicians who accompanied him, remained on stage for GG's set. While she sorted out technical issues, as programmed, the audience was entertained with wide genres of music from DJ Mutabaruka. Once satisfied, the Barcelona, Spain, resident commenced. Alas, the young vocalist remained seated throughout her act. However, she compensated for her poor use of the stage by singing popular songs such as Jolene, Tina Turner's What's Love Got to Do with It and Tracy Chapman's Fast Car. In some cases, the songs were rearranged to reggae beats. She also threw in an original song for good measure.
Then it was on to spoken words, with Ali Matalon opening the segment. She promised to bring on a surprise guest, but the maturity and thoughtfulness of her poems were also surprising. She commenced with Human. The poem presented a kaleidoscope of the beauty and ugliness, the pain and joy of being a human. Then the conscious poet moved on to the stunner Mama Africa. "Each race is a collection of cultures and we need to honour that... I know that we do mostly honour that here [in Jamaica]," she said and then proceeded with the opening lines of the poem:
"They call it the Dark Continent / their hands are glistened from blood diamonds and patterned wristlet beat on the drum like they knew the rhythm ... I could swear it was a religion / to take what is not yours and call it given / And then wonder why children holding guns at civilians / When children were not given the right to know villains from heroes..."
Matalon followed up with two more pieces, the recently composed For Mental Illness then For Feminism, and then made way for her surprise guest, her cousin Miranda. Miranda, no doubt, has a beautiful voice, as was demonstrated in her doing justice to Maroon 5's Sunday Morning, but she may want to work on her stage presence also.
Poets Michael Edwards, Rohan Entoun and Skripture also performed. The last was the pick of the three. He bounced on to the stage and declared that the event was a treat for him and hoped it was the same for the audience. He then proceeded with Hosana Obama, then shifted to the humorously written Chikungunya and closed with The Ganja Song. Edwards did not quite make the connection he hoped for. In part, that was due to the rather risquÈ Once was a Matador. Rohan fared well, especially with a strong support group in the audience.
The informal show was very relaxing and relatively entertaining. And those who stayed after the 7:30 p.m. closing would have seen performances from Papiumba Big Band and Tribe Sankofa, as well as 20 short animated films.