Thu | Oct 17, 2019

Stars shine at Westchester Music Festival

Published:Saturday | September 7, 2019 | 12:07 AMAnthony Turner/Gleaner Writer
Ken Boothe
Ken Boothe

New York:

A huge magnet for the near-capacity crowd at the inaugural Westchester Music Festival that took place at the Capitol Theatre in upstate Portchester, NY was reggae icon Marcia Griffiths. Currently celebrating 56 years in the music industry, Griffiths showcased a powerful arsenal of hit songs to help her mark the musical milestone. Among the other stars on parade were Judy Mowatt, the International Women of Reggae (IWR) and the legendary Ken Boothe, backed by the versatile Derrick Barnett and his Statement band.

Rose Williams, who attended the concert with her husband Frank, raced off an email to the promoter the following morning to express her gratitude for the wonderful presentation.

“WOW!, WOW!, WOW! Is all we can say. Frank and I had a fantastic time at the concert last night at the Capitol Theatre. Outside of Groovin in the Park, this was by far the best event we’ve attended recently. The venue was perfect. Ken Boothe was on point...Fantastic! Sister Judy sure enough did her thing... amazing! And of course sister Marcia brought the house down. What an electrifying performance! Not only did she sing superbly, she looked amazingly royal, like the queen she is.”

The mostly female concert opened early on Labour Day Saturday evening with a ‘rising stars’ section that featured the International Women of Reggae band, who delivered a stellar performance. The Brooklyn-based ensemble did not disappoint as they raced through favourites like You Don’t Know My Name, The Way, Sleng Teng, Not Your Child and Rocksteady, with Keisha Martin on lead vocals. The women were followed by a dazzling performance by Mr. Kool, who truly brought Gregory Isaacs back to life.

Brightest star

Ken Boothe, one of the soulful singers of the rocksteady era in Jamaica was, however, the brightest star of the night. From his opening song, Boothe got patrons on their feet and in the groove as he meandered through his impressive catalogue of hits, offering Artibella, Moving Away, Sounds of The Summer and Everything I Own. When he segued into The Train Is Coming, with its haunting, captivating and blissfully bouncy beat that first captured the imagination of music lovers in Jamaica in the early ‘60s, the excitement peaked. The man’s voice is truly a national treasure. He encored with Freedom Street, much to the delight of all.

Sister Judy Mowatt, who toured the world as a member of Bob Marley’s backing vocal trio, the I-Threes, kicked off her set with Unconditional Love. The hits flowed with Thank You Lord, Slave Queen, Black Woman and I Shall Be Released.

Between songs, Mowatt called out the young brothers and sisters in Jamaica who have lost their way and are bleaching. She spoke candidly about her own journey and the many trials she has encountered along the way. “I give God thanks because I am still standing today” she asserted before doing an encore of Many Are Called.

Reggae queen Marcia Griffiths blew the audience away with an unending catalogue of popular and cherished classics including Mellow Mood, Dreamland, Land Of Love, Everywhere, I Shall Sing and a plethora of other hits. Excitement erupted when she invited Mowatt and Boothe on stage for No Woman No Cry, Three Little Birds and Buffalo Soldier. She encored, giving thanks with Truly, from her Timeless album and the closer, her international hit Electric Slide which featured fans dancing with her on stage.