Dennis Brown concert the soundtrack for Reggae Month
Adding its spice to an already flavourful Reggae Month 2020 was Sunday’s Dennis Brown tribute concert on the waterfront, downtown Kingston. The legacy of Jamaica’s Boy Wonder who grew to become the acclaimed Crown Prince of Reggae was celebrated by a vibrant mix of veterans, young ’uns and a whole gamut in between.
“I’m here for Dennis,” was a refrain which echoed throughout the night from various acts on stage and was picked up by the large crowd who turned out to party for the love of D Brown. And it was quite appropriate that the backdrop to this favoured Reggae Month event was a huge picture of Dennis Emmanuel Brown, wearing his signature smile, which competed in brightness with all the stage lights combined. The Binghistra (pronounced Binghie-straw) Drummers, a set of traditional, acoustic performers, blessed the stage early out and laid the soundtrack for a night of mellow vibes. Artistes galore were marked present, whether it was just chilling backstage and indulging in glorious D Brown anecdotes, many mentioning the historic Big Yard on Orange Street, downtown, or warming up for a performance.
Veteran producer and former manager of Lady Saw, Sampalue, has been a solid supporter of Reggae Wednesdays, and he was seen at D Brown’s tribute, wearing his newly stitched artiste cape. Backed by Lloyd Parks and We the People band, he used his 15 minutes well and told The Gleaner that he loves performing. Lloyd Parks, who has the distinction of backing Dennis Brown for over 20 years, quite naturally, did his own tribute. Former Jamaica Federation of Musicians (JFM) president, Dezi Young, was also there as an artiste, rather than to socialise; songstress Althea Hewitt came out big; Written, a member of the Wailers Tribute Band, represented well for the youth; and Lymie Murray, high from his last performance at Reggae Wednesdays, thrilled the waterfront.
George Nooks, who had paid tribute to the late singer with a 2005 album of covers titled George Nooks Sings Dennis Brown, said he always has to represent at this concert.
“Dennis Brown was a great singer and exceptional human being. He and I have a lot of history. We did two collabs, Money in My Pocket and How Could I Live, with me using my deejay name, Prince Mohammed. Those were great times and the memories do live on,” Nooks told The Gleaner, after a captivating performance. Singer Richie Stephens, who has not been seen on a local stage in a minute, was well received; so too were percussionist and walking musical instrument archives, Bongo Herman; Nature Ellis and Christopher Ellis, the latter being the son of the great Alton. Julian Marley, who has been fully supporting Reggae Month activities ever since he performed at his father’s birthday concert on February 6, showed up, but this time, he took the stage to pay tribute.
“Nuff respect to di legends,” the son of Bob shouted during a performance that evoked memories of his dad. “Mi nuh know how me and dem a go work it out,” he chanted.
For French reggae singer David Cairol, who hails from the Basque Country, it was a dream come true to perform for D Brown, and his Revolution tribute went over well. Cairol is in the island promoting his latest single, Hope Road, which, incidentally, references Marley’s home, located at number 56. Dropping in the midst of what was surely a singers’ paradise was rock star toaster, Big Youth. As always, he presented an entertaining one-man act package that embodied song, dance and vocal drama. Singer Mary Isaacs continues to show support for Reggae Month, as she hailed Dennis Brown, and female singers Yeza and Maxine, who performed earlier in the evening, were no less vocal in their tributes.
Junior ‘One Blood’ Reid was militant, while Freddie McGregor was mellow. From D Brown’s over 70 albums deep catalogue, Freddie selected the soulful 1973 classic, Wichita Lineman, produced by Derrick Harriott. From the howls of approval, which must surely have travelled all the way down to Dennis Brown’s Orange Street base, Freddie chose very well.
Bringing the curtain down on another successful staging of the Dennis Brown tribute concert produced by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, long-time D Brown confidant, Trevor ‘Leggo Beast’ Douglas and the Dennis Brown Trust was the Fireman, Capleton.