Fri | Feb 22, 2019

Junior Byles’ family humbled by benefit and celebratory concert

Published:Tuesday | February 12, 2019 | 12:06 AM
The ‘Fire Man’.
The ‘Fire Man’.

The wind chill Saturday evening was no match for the warmth from the outpouring of love at the benefit concert for Junior ‘Chubby’ Byles.

“We all came together to honour a true icon, a true and living hero,” Claude ‘Stone Man’ Sinclair told the audience that gathered at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. Sinclair was instrumental in the staging of the show, titled the Junior Byles Benefit Concert and 71st Birthday Celebration.

Except for the reggae connoisseur, the name Junior ‘Chubby’ Byles may not ring a bell. This was not the case in the ‘70s, when the songs of this iconic Jamaican were a must-play at parties. These includeCurly Locks,Vanity andFade Away. “When Byles touched the stage, the place turn up. Byles’ music was as powerful as Bob Marley and Dennis Brown’s in them days.” Entertainer Devon Strachan noted.

His daughter, Christine, described her father as gentle giant. “He is the calmest and most peaceful person. He is very kind, very family oriented,” she recalled him rocking her to sleep as a child

Today, he is a far cry from that man. He is diagnosed with mental illness and has an enlarged prostate. The concert was listed on the official Reggae Month calendar, marked with performances by artistes from Jamaica to Africa, and the presentation of a Life Time Achievement Award. Flanked by members of his family, Byles accepted the award from South African vocalist Jessica MBangemi. Byles said “thank you”, and then waved to the audience.

In the absence of the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Olivia Grange, the citation was done by Byles’ daughter. After the reading, she told the audience that the family was deeply humbled by the turnout. Proceeds from the concert are to go towards Byles treatment.

Late Start

The concert, however, started two and a half hours later than scheduled. Artistes, who came from far and wide, to honour the living icon, were instructed to reduce their set to two songs each. But all were professionals, and in so doing, most delivered exciting performances.

Things got going with a warm up from emcee Devon ‘Krab Walking’ Strachan. He was followed by Bingi Strong – a contingent of assorted musicians and instruments. Their set was a good repertoire of some of Byles’ songs includingBeat Down Babylon and the timeless I Don’t Know.

Jamaica’s Bongo Herman, in his usual style, gave an entertaining performance. Asanti A-Men and Nature Ellis were effective, too. MBangemi adhered to the rule, delivering her performance in her native tongue.

Fire Man’s performance was also dramatic and spectacular. Other performances included Half Pint, Dakeye Marshall, Nature Ellis, Ra Deal, Natty King and Turbulence.