Sun | Dec 8, 2019

Toots and the Maytals takes Half Moon by storm - Has audience dancing in the rain at 65th anniversary celebrations

Published:Friday | November 22, 2019 | 12:28 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Toots Hibbert performing at the Half Moon 65th Anniversary party.
Toots Hibbert performing at the Half Moon 65th Anniversary party.

WESTERN BUREAU:

With a stage size reminiscent of a Reggae Sumfest and lights that could rival those at Rebel Salute, Half Moon welcomed Fredrick ‘Toots’ Hibbert to its 65th anniversary celebration last Saturday night in Montego Bay. Toots not only brought his signature semi-Rastafarian-looking outfit, but he seemed to have carried some unexpected showers of blessings, which saw the majority of the 150 guests dancing in the rain.

Sheltering under elegant black-and-white umbrellas, the Sweet and Dandy rainproof audience was prepared for any storm the What a Bam Bam artiste created on the lawns of the new East Cove, which the resort’s chairman, Guy Steuart III, announced will officially open in weeks.

Toots and the Maytals unleashed a sound evocative of yesteryear, representing the era being celebrated. There was no mistaking that this icon had played an integral role in sustaining Jamaica’s music on the world stage.

TIMELESS MUSICIAN

Declaring that he does not usually rehearse with his band, Toots took the audience down memory lane, confirming the claim made by Jamaica Hotel and Tourist and Association President Omar Robinson that artistes like the maestro Jimmy Cliff and Gregory Isaacs were all excellent but were overshadowed by reggae’s king, Bob Marley.

“They are all equally deserving of their recognition,” stated Robinson as Toots commandeered a discerning audience oblivious to the rains that threatened to disrupt their party.

“Toots has been going since Half Moon has been around, and both are getting better with time,” said Caribbean Producers Jamaica’s Mark Hart, noting that the veteran “never gets weary”.

Unaware of the praises being bestowed on him by persons in the audience, Toots quipped, “We are a good, crazy people by doing our music so well. When I tell people I am Toots and the Maytals, they ask me where the others are. I tell them I am two in one.”

For Steuart, Toots is enigmatic and soulful. His uplifting message spans generations. “I have never heard a voice so melodic,” he admitted in admiration of the man he tagged charismatic and indefatigable.

Steuart and his sister, Elizabeth Kret, grew up on Toots’ music, having spent much of their youthful years on the grounds of Half Moon during holidays from school.

“Toots and the Maytals have been performing around the world nearly as long as Half Moon has been welcoming guests from those same horizons. What might have started as boys with soul, harmonies, and rhythm and a desire to make a few dollars and be popular … they lifted their standard of living and our spirits, perhaps beyond their wildest dreams, contributing to the cultural landscape of the country by spreading gospel of rocksteady and reggae around the globe,” stated Steuart.

The hotelier said that hundreds of thousands of visitors have been enticed to Jamaica because of its music – be the favoured genre ska, rocksteady, country, calypso, dancehall, jazz, or reggae.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com