Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Half Pint adds to my collection of ‘forwards’

Published:Thursday | January 21, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Half Pint performing at Rebel Salute 2016.

On Sunday morning, starting at about 7:30, Half Pint added to my treasury of dancehall 'forwards'. While I have seen many moments of strong, positive crowd response to a Jamaican popular-music performance, there is a special mental place reserved for instances when what I have seen and been part of goes past, rousing the audience to a deep response from the collective gut.

It is a moment where the atavistic need for reflection of self is satisfied in a setting conducive to an appreciation of what is taking place. Audience members have to possess a knowledge of music history, the sound has to be right, the preceding performances have to build up to the ultimate conflagration, the performance has to be without gimmicks.

Gimmicks cannot dig the forward out of the audience in the early-morning stage show hours like when Half Pint performed on Sunday, when it is the faithful who were left, the people who are dedicated to this thing of live performance and just have to be there to the gritty - or who don't have a ride and need to hold a bus when they start to run in daylight.

After Beres had put on 90 standout minutes; David Brooks had done snatches of songs and, in the most part, the backup man did the rest; then Junior Reid closed with One Blood in Spanish, it was Half Pint's turn. Though some members of the very large audience had left, a large number remained and, from Greetings to Winsome, he soaked them with rockers. It was transcendental.


It was not only the performer who made the moment. There was the man who brought Half Pint water and made the process part of the performance by flinging legs coming on stage, while waiting for Half Pint to return the bottle and leaving the stage. There was the stage management personnel at the side of the stage who were saluting the songs like they had not been through over 24 hours of live performance over two days. There was singer Paul Elliot, who had performed earlier, on the other side of the stage from that crew, dancing in wild abandon. There was the MC Mutabaruka, bawling out about ankle pain when Half Pint put on the music, presumably because he had been dancing so much.

And when Half Pint was finished, Mutabaruka remarked that he did not know how he had got to a particular point on the stage. Music just moved him, as it did the audience.

Half Pint's Rebel Salute 2016 performance is up on YouTube, so I can relive the moments (and you can check if I am overstating his impact. Some of the other phenomenal forwards I keep in the Jamaican popular music section of my brain (as in most of it) are not as easily accessible to the general public. For my pleasure, and possibly yours, I am going to relive a few.

There is Silverhawk sound system during a dance at the Students' Union, UWI, somewhere between 1990 and 1994. Silverhawk was not the most popular sound system, but it had a fanatic, almost cult-like following and I had Silverhawk fever. August Town was its stamping ground, so with the Union close by, the Silverhawk fanatics came out in droves.

It was a four-sound dance. Two of them could have been Exodus Nuclear and Metromedia (or maybe it was Heatwave), but Gemini definitely played before Silverhawk came in at midnight, each sound system building the intensity.

The Silverhawk selector made a speech and started out with Shabba's Love Punaany Bad. I was right beside a column and, apart from when Shabba said "yu see day likkle piece a renking meat", I only heard the bassline. The howling of the crowd drowned out the vocals.

Silverhawk mixed to their signature Lecturer dub plate "many man nowadays dem love man, many, many, many ..." and there was a gun salute. "Legal!" the selector shouted. He changed to a Supercat dub, the massive screamed and there was another gunshot. The selector said he was going to change the songs, because if he did not, police would lock down the session and the moment was over.

Rebel Salute 2005 is remembered mainly for Jimmy Cliff's performance, a rarity in Jamaica. However, Buju Banton gave me one of my precious 'forward' moments that night at the Port Kaiser Sports Club, St Elizabeth. He came on after Cliff, facilitating the transition between generations and put on a strong show. Then, he deejayed How Masa God World a Run on the General rhythm, from directly in front of the stage to the slope at the back of the audience area, six inches below the grass to many feet in the air, everything moved.


Again on the sound system side, during a World Clash at Pier 1, Montego Bay, David Rodigan played a round that I can never forget. In a crunch situation - it was the round where a final sound was to be eliminated before the dub for dub - Rodigan put on a round that included Tenor Saw (the Golden Hen with Ring The Alarm intro) and Supercat dubs. Pier 1 was on fire.

Then there was Baby Cham at East Fest, doing Ghetto Story in Morant Bay, St Thomas, in about 2007 (or it could have been 2005). He was on form from the get-go, then the bassline came in after he had been deejaying for a little and the crowd howled. He kept going to the "Rah! Rah!" part and it was pandemonium.

Somewhere between 2002 and about 2007, I went to a dance in the community of Martha Brae, Trelawny. There were a number of performers, Bounty Killer being the headline act. The car he was in drove through a part of the crowd and the people stood on both sides, making a path and cheering as he went by. When Bounty went on stage for about a minute, I could not hear anything that he said - the crowd drowned out the vocals.

These are the kinds of memories that I have added Sunday morning at Rebel Salute 2016 to. Thank you, Half Pint. Sir.