Reggae to Rio showcases Ja
Friday's Reggae to Rio concert, organised by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), was designed as a tribute to the Jamaican athletes competing in the 2016 Olympic Games. However, it coincided with the live transmission of the Olympic Opening Ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a likely contributor to the modest sized crowd at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, Hope Road, St Andrew.
There was much room to move about and many seats to choose from.
Regardless the concert, which was also designed to pay tribute to some of Jamaica's popular music icons, namely Bob Marley, the I-Threes, Alton Ellis, Garnet Silk, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown and Buju Banton, was well-oiled and, in some cases, perfectly cast. Punctuated with Jamaican designed and manufactured fashion modelled by the finalists in Miss Universe Jamaica 2016 and with the venue bordered by tents showcasing locally made products and locally owned businesses, Reggae to Rio was a well-rounded conceptual success.
The Belmont Park Dance Troupe took the stage first, performing to Damian Marley's take on Exodus. This was quickly followed by Jon Williams, accompanied by his son Jovani, performing a violin rendition of Redemption Song with quick-fingered, impassioned flair.
Similarly passionate was Duane Stephenson, whose covers of Tyrone Taylor's Cottage in Negril and Bob Marley's Iron Lion Zion had the seated audience bobbing, jigging and singing along. Stephenson delivered a solid performance which closed with a glowing introduction of Judy Mowatt, who he labelled "legendary".
As Stephenson handed over to the ladies who paid tribute to the I-Threes, Gem Myers sang songs by Rita Marley and Georgia Grey sang songs by Marcia Griffiths, Pam Hall in the quartet.. "I am representing myself," Mowatt said with a hearty laugh when her time to sing came and she did Black Woman.
Following the energetic tag-team effort of the accomplished ladies Garnett Silk Jr. delivered tepid covers of his father's songs, which incited only polite acknowledgement from the audience.
Andrew Cassanova brought life back into show with a Dennis Brown set, having audience members raising their arms and their moving once again. Bushman and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari drummers took turns in paying tribute to Peter Tosh and rising reggae star and television personality DBurnz closed the show with Buju Banton classics like Hills and Valleys and Not an Easy Road.
Indubitably, the most sensational performance of the evening happened after the tribute to the I-Threes and just before Silk Jr's politely consumed performance. Romain Virgo paid tribute to champion of rocksteady, Alton Ellis. "I'm tired, but I still wanna sing tonight," he said. The 26 year-old Virgo sang with sweat on his brow and a practised, convincing wince on his face. Virgo delivered hit after hit from Ellis' catalogue and then his own.
MC for the event, Krystal Tomlinson, surmised as Virgo exited the stage "in a few decades we're going to be paying tribute to him."