Stellar performances at Groovin' In The Park
The Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, New York, was filled with members of the Caribbean diaspora and reggae lovers from all over the state on Sunday, awaiting the entertainers billed to perform at 'Groovin' In The Park 2018'. The festival has had a history of showcasing female reggae acts such as Queen Ifrica, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffiths, who always deliver a satisfying set.
According to Groovin' co-founder Joan Lewis, based on the catalogues of JC Lodge, Marcia Aitken, and Pam Hall, the team felt that a segment to spread the message of female empowerment within the industry was fitting this year. "We are extremely proud to have these three ladies perform in a special segment billed Women of Reggae and it was expected that it would be a major success," Lewis said.
Marcia Aitken, who started her set with I'm Not A Queen, was booked based on I'm Still in Love, With You Boy, written by Alton Ellis and produced by Joe Gibbs in 1977. However, throughout her delivery of recital of another song, My Man, the entertainer was almost forced to exit the stage before performing the hit single. The issue, for yet another year, was time-keeping. JC Lodge, who on approaching the stairs to enter the stage was told that she would only be able to sing two of her singles. While the performances did not kick off at the stipulated 1 p.m., patrons still did not expect ladies' times to be cut short.
Groovin' regular, United States resident Coreen Watson, told The Gleaner that while women were out to see Babyface perform, many more women were in the audience in support of their gender and, specifically, Aitken, Hall, and Lodge. "People did not come here to hear that the performances of the women were cut short," said Watson.
As a group of persons sitting close by on fold-out chairs chorused in with similar views, she continued: "I have been coming here since the show was at least US$25 and mi just pay over US$80 to enter the park and the artiste that I really wanted to see only gets to perform two songs. I do not plan to come back to another one, because it is the same cutting of performances I experienced in 2017."
Telephone Love singer Lodge said that the question of time was asked via mobile contact while she was in the United Kingdom, but that it was not confirmed until arriving that it would have been 18 minutes. JC Lodge said: "First it was 18 minutes, then at the rehearsal, it was mentioned that the set could go to half-hour and then at the foot of the stage, it is said that I can only perform two songs - it is a big 'diss'. The message it sent is that the promoters can't even entertain an artiste for 18 minutes as they aren't that important."
The singer stepped out in an eye-dazzling off-white and black brocade pants suit with a hint of skin showing - an outfit she designed and made with a removable piece to maintain visual interest. Immediately, the patrons went wild, singing songs from the champagne-coloured hair entertainer.
She said that the initial rehearsal plan was to have the females interchange between individual tracks for the 'Women of Reggae' segment, which was a more exciting concept for the singers, who might have had the chance to not only do wardrobe changes but a final song together. "What happens is that you get lots of words that sound right, but its action that is more powerful. All this was just for 'show', that another event is highlighting women, but I don't feel respected at all. I just keep asking, why bother to bring someone all this way or have them rehearse for an entire set," Lodge said.
Not only was Lodge expecting to share the stage with her female colleagues, but also surprise the patrons with a mother-daughter duo on her single Destiny, which was affected by the cut. Her daughter Gia Re added to the backing vocals.
Pam Hall, who is claimed to have one of the best voices in reggae having performed with the likes of Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, did not allow the production team to dictate her time. She delivered a lengthy set before Lodge, her daughter Tafina Wilson played the role of back-up singer.