Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Varied dancehall styles on Norwegian Pearl

Published:Friday | December 4, 2015 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Elephant Man (left) and King Jammys during the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise.
It was good vibe all around during the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae cruise.
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Dancehall was the order of Wednesday night on the Norwegian Pearl as the 2015 Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise sailed along the North Coast en route to Ocho Rios, St Ann, after arriving in Montego Bay, St James, that morning.

Dancehall did not mean monotony, though, as the five performers infused some variety into their sets. Opener Busy Signal included a healthy serving of R&B, the ladies especially in the audience on the open-air Tahitian Pool Deck level 12 singing along to Night Shift. Elephant Man was a blast of energy, clambering on a speaker box to urge everyone to signal the plane, his call answered with a mass criss-crossing of hands. Super Cat did lyrics at length in between songs such as Vineyard Style and Dem No Worry Me (although Ghetto Red Hot and Don Dada did not make the set list).

Jah Cure's Unconditional Love was an R&B touch in a predominantly roots reggae set; Popcaan showed the growing strength of his repertoire by opening with Raving; and Bounty Killer capped off the concert segment with an excellent extended set, mixing commentary and song (the singing coming on It's Okay), uncompromising on the stance that he has taken publicly on various issues.

Still, at the end, Bounty Killer seemed irritated that his set was being rushed (the deejay had said previously that he was the last performer and as such had some leeway). He ended after chanting the line "Before dem seek God, dem seek the devil", the combination Khaki Suit with Damian Marley a notable exclusion from his set.

Ruff Kut and Kaushon bands were among those that did music duties.

It took some time for sound system operator-engineer- producer King Jammy, accompanied by his son Jam 2, to set up, which naturally caused some of those who remained to see him mix live to leave. In addition, Renaissance was in the Atrium on the ship's level seven, pulling in a number of party enthusiasts. Those who stayed for the King Jammy experience (and he wrung some extra bass and better balance out of an already excellent sound set-up) got an exceptional treat.

 

Fluid freestyles

 

Not only did Jammy drop classics like Johnny Osbourne's Rock You Tonight on dub, but the father and son team was joined by Shinehead, who rode the rhythms with fluid freestyles and intense pace changes, at points the music seeming to get him into a trance. Added to that was Jr Gong joining the action, putting in freestyles to the audience's delight.

It was cut short by rain, Shinehead calling out "Hazard!" and requesting "plastic" from the technical team to cover up the equipment. Though disappointed, the audience members cheered what they had experienced.

Still, although they diverged from the strict dancehall script, there was no mistaking the night's core genre. Busy Signal did Dreams of Brighter Days, which he wrote while in prison, as well as the uptempo Watch Out Fe Dis (Bumaye). He honoured Toots and the Maytals with Bam Bam, as well as Chaka Demus and Pliers with Murder She Wrote. From Higher Level and Gully Creeper through Pon de River and Willie Bounce, Elephant Man whipped up the crowd, which seemed impressed when he invited a larger lady on stage to run and jump up on the anaconda, handling her heft with ease.

Super Cat kept the commentary short and at points somewhat cryptic, riding the opening Answer riddim at length to close on the well-known history of Jamaica. Mud Up hit home, and on recall to the stage, Super Cat delivered Under Pressure to good effect.

Jah Cure appealed successfully to what he claimed as his core audience, the women, whose screams when Cure sang "when I find that girl" prompted a restart. However, the remake of All of Me fell far short of the strong positive effect songs such as Only You, Love Is, and Longing For had on the reggae cruisers.

At points it was also difficult to hear Popcaan's lyrics, and a slower track showed up room for vocal improvement. But those moments were in the minority, and when he declared, "so me tan bad", hailed a shoe and a mentor with a Clarke's track, reflected on a place of origin where "dog eat dog" and gave thanks in a situation where so many youth are under the earth or behind bars, the message was clear.

Bounty Killer delved into an extensive catalogue, declaring before Mystery that "from me come out 93", the whole game had changed. I Am Who I Am, Look, Eagle and the Hawk, Anytime, and Wukless Bway, were among the songs that made the cut in a performance enhanced by a rhyming pattern (in an early one Bounty said he was on the Norwegian Pearl and had hopes of getting a Norwegian girl) and the inclusion of singer Angel Doolas.

Last night's Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise concert was scheduled to include Third World, Cham, Barrington Levy, and Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley, a three-way clash featuring Mighty Crown, Bass Odyssey, and Metro Media ending the main stage action. Foota Hype, ZJ Liquid and Rassarella were slated for the Atrium. Tonight, the cruise performances end with Shinehead, TOK, Mykal Rose (featuring Sly and Robbie), Julian 'Juju Royal' Marley, and Capleton, followed by Black Scorpio sound system before the cruise reaches Miami tomorrow morning.

The second leg of the 2015 Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise then sets off for Jamaica that afternoon.