Rap, roots reggae engage audience
Friday's International Night One of Reggae Sumfest 2015 was a crowd-pleaser, with Jesse Royal, Kabaka Pyramid and Raging Fyah leading the way for roots rock reggae. The two American invitees on the line-up, T.I. and Common, also stood tall in Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, St James.
Kingston-based Raging Fyah performed an impressive set, treating the audience to several hits from their growing repertoire. Among them were Jah Glory, Peace Reigns and Judgement Day, which enthralled the mainly Jamaican audience, a demonstration that creatively written authentic reggae music is still highly appreciated. The band's performance elicited enthusiastic comments from MC Elise Kelly of Irie FM.
"This is the kind of music that makes you proud to be associated with reggae music," Kelly said.
Raging Fyah was followed by Keznamdi, who put on a decent showing with songs such as Grade and 10 Pound, at one point inviting his sister Kelissa on stage for a duet.
Jesse Royal appeared to be in a celebratory mood, as opposed to the militancy for which he has become known, dancing like King David throughout his performance. Slow-marching on to the stage to the instrumental of The Wailers' Small Axe, the self-proclaimed 'King's Offspring' chanted the popular refrain "so long Rastafari a call", followed by the songs Hotter The Battle, Wadada, Greedy Babylon, Preying on the Weak and Modern Day Judas. He paid tribute to Sizzla Kalonji with the artiste's Humble Thought - minus the expletives in the song.
Midway Jesse Royal's performance he declared, "You know how long I waan smoke some ganja inna peace?" He ran to the edge of the stage to take a puff of a spliff, then ran back to centre stage to sing. Finally, his recent song which celebrates the relaxation of marijuana laws. It was a demand which Royal had regularly made during his performances, including his Sumfest debut last year and the last two stagings of Rebel Salute in St Ann.
Free to smoke
"Finally, ganja can puff inna di breeze... Finally, natty dread can smoke inna peace, and wi don't haffi run from police... Herb must be burned like your herb must be cleaned," he sang. Jesse Royal later declared that he is a "ganja baby", just ahead of doing This Morning.
He did not exit the stage without taking a jab at the Government's running of the country. "Oonu born fi rich, oonu born fi healthy and wealthy. No mek no (political) party tell oonu seh oonu can't be nutten widdout dem. Who is dem widdout us? Mind who oonu a trust, iyah!" he warned, before continuing his apparent celebration with Ghetto Girl, during which he repeatedly skipped merrily from one end of the stage to the other.
From the moment Kabaka Pyramid took centre stage, it was obvious he meant business. Taking the reins from his friend Jesse Royal, he gave a riveting and interactive performance.
Pyramid did not mince words as he issued lyrical reprimands to the Government, whose policies he takes objection to as they are seen to be not in the interest of the Jamaican people. He also issued instructions to government ministries, departments and agencies, particularly the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), about how to improve their performance and urged them to give restorative justice to Rastafari members who have been abused by the state.
"Kabaka Pyramid represent Rastafari and Rastafari represent fi di people... The JTB is a sponsor (of Sumfest) and mi have dis fi say. Oonu (JTB) need to promote Rasta, because Rasta mek di world know 'bout Jamaica. Everywhere we go, from wi have locks pon wi head, before we even open wi mout dem seh, 'you from Jamaica?' Because Rastafari put Jamaica pon di map," he stated.
"And you see when you promote Rasta, oonu need fi spend money inna di Rasta community, mek di Rasta people dem benefit, because little bit from yah so, inna di '50s, dem kill off Rasta people inna Coral Gardens, Back o' Wall and all dem something deh. And all now we no see nothing fi it as Rasta," Pyramid added.
No Capitalist, Warrior and Well Done were some of the hits he did as well as a tribute to his friend Chronixx with Spirulina and Like A Whistle.
American hip-hop artiste Common followed in the wake of Kabaka Pyramid and gave a good account of himself. He declared that he has been in the music industry for more than 20 years and is happy to be still able to hold his own. "Wha a gwaan?" Common said in his best Patois minutes after appearing on s stage. "I have been doing hip hop for more than 20 years and I feel blessed to be here in Jamaica."
T.I. also came to please and connect with his Jamaican audience. He not only touched the palms of women at the front of the stage who were screaming at him, but was pleasant throughout, telling the audience how much he appreciated them. He punctuated his performance with words of encouragement, which appeared to endear Sumfest patrons to T.I. and also gain him some new fans.
"I want to tell you that I have so much respect for your culture," he told the audience, shortly before inviting Beenie Man to join him for approximately a minute, to the crowd's delight.
Earlier performances came from Kareen and Oriel, from Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean. He performed several of his singles, but it was Live Your Life, towards the end of his performance, which had the entire grounds singing along, rocking and waving as requested.
Diminutive reggae veteran Cocoa Tea, the final act, took fans back to yesteryear with Holy Mount Zion, Hurry Up and Come, Rikers Island, Good Life and Sonia, among other popular songs, bringing a very fulfilling night to a close.