Soulful Reggae Wednesdays in the Park
There is soul music, and then there is music with soul. Reggae falls in the latter category, and this was exposed, expressed and enjoyed at this week’s staging of Reggae Wednesdays, the weekly Reggae Month concert at Emancipation Park in New Kingston. The artistes chosen by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) to represent the soul of reggae clearly understood the theme ‘Reggae Got Soul’, and their mission.
Freeway singer, Droop Lion – whose voice is the very definition of reggae soul – stated that he was on the JaRIA stage to represent a very important part of the culture.
“I hope the people understand the significance of why we are here,” he told the gathering of locals and foreigners at the park, before segueing into a song that is seeped in history, Hello Carol, and which had the park rocking.
Lymie Murray was up next and he did a performance that surprised. It’s not that Lymie isn’t a good artiste, it was simply the fact that, on this occasion, he connected all too easily with the audience and maintained it throughout. His selections, which included Soul Rebel, Night Nurse and Cruisin, were performed in a soulful dubwise kind of fusion, which went across well.
Shuga, the only female on the soul stage, represented. With her producer, Donovan Germain, watching eagle-eyed from the sidelines, Shuga threw herself into her performance, bringing her positive message across. Black Liberati on, a cover of a Dennis Brown song, a tribute to the I-Threes and a new song, Cease and Settle, which she recorded this week and performed for the first time, made up her song list. She told The Gleaner post-performance that she was pleased with her delivery, and so, too, was Germain, who mumbled ‘good show’ as she exited the stage. “This is the type of show I like doing, because of the type of message I have. I am happy with how I executed on stage. I talked to them [the audience] and they talked back,” she said laughing.
A DIFFERENT VIBE
The Messenger Luciano brought soul and something else. Dressed in camoflague pants, with soldier boots, Luciano not only swept over the soul with well-known selections from his catalogue, his cartwheel mid-performance was something to behold. Luciano definitely got soul. This singer who grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist church injected a gospel segment comprising choruses which he must have learnt as a child in Sabbath School. Study War No More and When The Saints Go Marching In created a different vibe at Reggae Got Soul. Of course, his able flagman was on stage with a huge flag, and so, too, was Mikey General, Luciano’s long-time sidekick, who can always be depended on to open for the singer.
Bringing his ‘stop the violence against women’ message to Emancipation Park was Chris Martin. But, Chris also told the women that they should forgive their men if they cheat one time. “Straight talk. Di world nuh level. If you gimme bun it done,” he said. It was not clear if he was serious or he was just trying a new way to intro his big ‘chune’, Cheater’s Anthem, but it didn’t matter, the women still showed him all the love when he did the song.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange was in the house and she took to the stage to praise the “fantastic team” for the work they have been doing to make this the best Reggae Month ever.
The closing act for the evening was Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert of legendary reggae group Toots and the Maytals. It may sound clichéd, but Toots does not age; his voice has remained the same, and he still has the energy which has set him apart.
Earlier in the evening, worthy performances came from talented up-and-coming singer Ras I, whose set included separate cameos from Blvk H3ro, with the collab Mek It Grow, and Royal Blu with Crazy Over You. Marley scion, Julian, has been out and about enjoying Reggae Month activities and stayed for all the performances, chatting with industry people and holding a vibe.