Strange Scratch, majestic Marley
Saturday's High Vibes Jamaica concert was a night of dazzling roots, rock, reggae with a generous injection of hip-hop at the Aqueduct, Rose Hall, Montego Bay. The Dancehall Doctor, a dazzling Beenie Man, stole the spotlight with a clinical display in which he spared very few hits from his amazing catalogue.
Against a backdrop of sweet-smelling Jamaican ganja, which was in generous supply, the appreciative audience also got a taste of the eccentric magic of the legendary Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Ky-Mani Marley and Cash Money Records' Rick Ross, among other acts.
The audience was dominated by participants in the CanEx Jamaica conference, for which High Vibes served as a sort of closing ceremony,
If one could describe a performance as 'extremely strange', then Lee 'Scratch' Perry's one-hour-plus set would have easily mastered that category. Yet Perry had the full attention of the audience as he combined singing with rambling and off-the-cuff remarks to pounding dub-style music from New York-based Subatomic Sound System.
With an assortment of mirrors, indicators and globes on his clothes and shoes and hat serving as visual reminders of his 'strangeness', the veteran, who is considered a legend in reggae music, worked his way through Zion's Blood, Soul Fire, Sun Is Shining, Crazy Baldhead and Happy Birthday, skilfully injecting a bit of social commentary into some of the songs.
Scratch also created what seemed to be a number of on-the-spot lyrics, such as Bless up ganja, which he did while lighting and smoking a spliff, and six foot six remix had a kind of newness about them. When Perry left the stage, it was clear that he had enjoyed the performance - possibly more than the audience.
Performing with a full band in Montego Bay for the first time, a majestic Ky-Mani Marley put meaning to the words of his legendary father, Bob Marley, who proclaimed in Bad Card: "dem a go tired fe see me face". Ky-Mani's stage movement not only evoked memories of his father's trademark skanking, but the vocal styling left no doubt that 'chip don't fall far off the block'.
In an impressive display, Ky-Mani started out bang on target with an exceptional cover of his father's Roots Rock Reggae. He then effortlessly strolled into Rolling Paper, Concrete Jungle and Be Smart, the fantastic vocals of one of his two female back-up singers complementing the songs.
Ky-Mani then went into overdrive as, after informing the audience that he was not romantic, he delivered a groovy rendition of Rasmantic. He then drove the excitement even higher when he proclaimed that "me want a big b***y gal", and the ladies went wild. He then proceeded to unleash the song with that lyric, all the time asking the audience if they saw anything wrong with the song's content.
When the young Marley returned to his father's catalogue and picked out Is This Love and the universal classic, One Love, it was clear he had fully accomplished his musical mission for the night.
Among the earlier acts, Kassiano was brilliant in delivering a number of popular Jamaican hits. Zia Benjamin seems poised to strike it big internationally, and Person of Interest, a vocal duo, show the potential to go places globally.
- A. F.