Thu | Dec 13, 2018

No compromise in name changes - Rebel Salute takes inclusive approach to selecting line-up

Published:Monday | January 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Moses Davis, aka Beenie Man.
Agent Sasco, aka Assassin.
Minister Marion Hall, formerly Lady Saw.

Marion Hall has preformed on Rebel Salute in 2010, when the event was held at the Port Kaiser sports field in St Elizabeth. Then, Lady Saw was presenting an alternative - specific to the performance - to her well-established ultra-raunchy performing personality.

She returns to Rebel Salute on Friday as Marion Hall yet again, but this time around, there is no Lady Saw - a persona the deejay shed with her conversion to Christianity in 2015 - for a few fans to want a flash of. There is even an addition to her name, as she is listed as Minister Marion Hall.

Other performers identified by their 'passport names' on the poster for Rebel Salute 2017, slated for this Friday and Saturday at Grizzly's Plantation Cove, Priory, St Ann, are Andre Hugh Sutherland (much more widely known as Popcaan) and Moses Davis (Beenie Man). It is a more accustomed role for Beenie Man, whose Rastafari stage presence was established at the Western Consciousness event held in Westmoreland.

Agent Sasco is listed for Saturday night, as he was in 2010, but even as Assassin, the deejay's lyrical content tends not to be material which would be out of place at Rebel Salute.


Knowing artistes' abilities


Tony Rebel, whose birthday Rebel Salute celebrates, says that in selecting performers to show a different side of themselves from what is accustomed at the festival, "you listen to their songs, first of all, and you assess their careers. I am Jamaican, I listen to every artiste, so it would be automatic for me to know who has the product that can fit the Rebel Salute criteria. I personally try to have a conversation with them and get a verbal consent that they will do what they are supposed to do at Rebel Salute. The question is not if they can, because I would have already known that they can."

Within that context, Tony Rebel positioned the stance as being inclusionary and not a compromise - which he sees as happening if the festival automatically excluded some Jamaican performers.


A consistent show


"Rebel Salute is consistent with the kind of music that we try to display on a yearly basis. We display the healthier aspect of reggae and dancehall and we are an inclusive company, where we don't want to make it to look like you are a Jamaican artiste and you not supposed to be on Rebel Salute. Yes, you are supposed to be on it, once you meet the criteria.

"We would be compromising our basic ethics if we think that only certain people should be on the show. It would be discriminating, and that is what we don't do. If we invite someone who will come on Rebel Salute and do the opposite of what is required and do the opposite of what we always do, then that would be a problem. But once they can conform to what we do, we are always delightful for them ... It is more about we showing that we are inclusive. It is all about we embracing everyone "

Jayudah Barrett, Tony Rebel's daughter and co-organiser of Rebel Salute, said "even if we selected a person who is seen to the general public as a conflict, I think that when you check the crowd at Rebel Salute, you still see these people coming to the event. So the positive energy, and what we are trying to do, attracts everybody, not just one set of people. So they come, they enjoy the vibe, the energy, just like anyone else. And I think these artistes also see it as a kind of challenge to be in this kind of space, and be an artiste that can fit into this kind of space."

Beenie Man was given as an example of a performer who attends Rebel Salute as a patron regularly.

"So it is not a compromise on our part. It is more of a challenge on their part to be a part of what we are doing," Barrett said.

Tony Rebel also said that respect for a performer rises when they show their versatility, giving the example of Mavado performing at Port Kaiser under his 'birth paper' name in 2011.

"When we had David Brooks the first time, a lot of people were bewildered, because they were saying, 'What is he going to sing?' But I who suited his music, knew he could have handled Rebel Salute, and he did well. He was the person that everybody was talking about and I am sure that the respect for him was doubled," Rebel said.


Repeat faces


David Brooks performed last year and there are some repeat faces among the numerous performers over the 2017 festival's two days. Among them are Tarrus Riley, Sanchez (who had a standout showing on the Friday night last year, but is placed on Saturday night this time around), Queen Ifrica (a perennial Rebel Salute favourite), Third World and Half Pint (who put on a superb Sunday daylight show last year, and is performing on Friday for this staging).

But there are also the performers who are not recently seen Rebel Salute faces. Among them Wayne Wonder, Anthony B, Sister Nancy, No-Maddz, Warrior King, Tanto Metro and Devonte, Junior Kelly, Ras Shiloh and Duane Stephenson. Added to that are the rarely seen - counted among those are Yvad, Groundation (a recent addition to Friday night) Ed Robinson and Chuck Turner.

The Gleaner asked if there could come a time when there is a shortage of preferred artistes for Rebel Salute and performers have to be repeated quickly. Tony Rebel said "we do that all the time" in repeating some performers in short order, as "sometimes, some artistes are very good and people want them every year".


Standout showing


He gave the example of many people asking if Beres Hammond is on this year again, after a standout showing in 2016. "People are happy to have some artistes every year, because these artistes are versatile and they always come with a new style that people will accept," he said.

And in sourcing performers, he said "there are a lot of artistes in Jamaica. Some, people don't know their names, they just know their songs".

He gave the examples of past performers The Congos and The Viceroys, as well as this year's Chuck Turner.

"That is what Rebel Salute does. We find people who have the hits. That is what Rebel Salute does - we bring people to the fore that you do not know or do not remember," Tony Rebel said, citing Junior Byles performing at Port Kaiser as an example.

He added that the festival also presents new artistes, with Notis Heavyweight Rockaz and Rockers Element, two bands in that bracket this year.