Glitches, but virtual Reggae Sunsplash delivered
It was not the grand return many expected as it had to be executed via livestream, nonetheless, this year’s staging of Reggae Sunsplash served up some sizzling performances. With scorching sets from some of Jamaica’s top acts scattered across two nights, organisers delivered on their promise of a unique online experience. Though it was not without a few hiccups, the show’s executive producer, Tyrone Wilson, is today reporting that the online event was a huge success.
“I think it was a great show. Even though I was a part of the production, I am still blown away by the effort everyone put into this event, particularly the artistes. They delivered top-notch performances this past weekend, and I think they really did justice to the Reggae Sunsplash brand,” he said. “We had a few technical glitches, but the performances that came out carried the show right to the end and we’re very happy about that. The difficulties did not take away from the quality of the show and we’re very happy with the comeback. We connected with so many persons, over 100 thousand people across the world from countries like Spain, Japan, Russia, and we couldn’t be happier about that,” Wilson told The Gleaner.
Acknowledging that the country’s festival scene will undoubtedly get more competitive with the return of this event, Wilson made it clear that he and his team are more into complementing the reggae shows that already exist, rather than competing. “We are in a competitive world, but I think as it relates to reggae music and festivals in Jamaica, we have maintained that it’s a lot more than individual goals for everyone. The aim for all of us in this business is to foster cultural development and so the more festivals we have, the closer we are to achieving that goal. We are undoubtedly proud of the work Reggae Sumfest has been doing in the absence of Reggae Sunsplash over the past 14 years. They have kept the festival spirit alive in Jamaica and we are just coming to fuel that even more,” he said. “We have been taking notes from Reggae Sunsplash and we are just here now to complement the space and add more value to the festival scene. We’re creating yet another space for artistes to earn and grow and to just build the creative economy, which is very important to me.”
Wilson said that with this year’s comeback show now behind them, the team has already begun putting plans in place to improve on next year’s event, which he revealed could also very well be virtual. They are looking to build the momentum of the brand even further with another online staging before returning to a physical stage.
PHENOMENAL FIRST NIGHT
Night one, which aired on Friday via the festival’s YouTube page, focused mainly on showcasing the musical talent prior to the 2000s. With big named acts such as Richie Spice, Tanya Stephens and Capleton billed, the stage was set for a phenomenal first night. And the veterans did not disappoint. But even before the musical bigwigs graced the stage, the night was shaping up to be a memorable one from the moment the opening act, Ras I, walked on. The fast-rising reggae singer delivered a performance so ‘cool and deadly’, it set a precedent of quality for the rest of the night. Backed by his Revelationz Band, the young singer delivered songs such as Crazy Over You and Know Herb. He made way for the lone female on the festival’s line-up, Tanya Stephens. And in true Tanya Stephens fashion, the entertainer kicked things up a few notches. Making it clear that she came to enjoy herself, the singer served up a scorching set that was as unfiltered as it could get. A few expletives escaped her lips and she didn’t seem to mind (neither did the viewers, who lit up the comments section with fire emojis) as she delivered one of her most recent tracks, which talks about having regrets about an intimate relationship. It was a favourite among the female viewers. Digging into her extensive catalogue, Stephens also served up other favourites, including These Streets, What’s Your Story, Can’t Breathe, Can’t Touch Me No More, Good Ride, Bum Wuk and of course, It’s A Pity.
Stephens made way for Richie Spice, who delivered timeless classics such as Earth A Run Red, Ghetto Girl, Blood Again, Youth Dem Cold and Brown Skin. He did well to build on the momentum left by Stephens and set the stage for the night’s closing act, Capleton. In true ‘fireman’ style, Capleton ignited the stage, blazing the consummate fire from beginning to end. He earned a great deal of support from the virtual audience when he ‘burned a fire’ on almost every disease known to man, from SARS to AIDS to swine flu to COVID-19. The entertainer said it would be remiss of him if he didn’t come to ‘dash a fire pan medical oppression’.
Saturday night, the final show of the 2020 virtual staging of Reggae Sunsplash, closed the curtains on a return that has undoubtedly sent a clear message. In case night one left one bewildered on what to expect from Sunsplash organisers going forward, night two put those concerns to rest as acts such as Jesse Royal, Agent Sasco, Romain Virgo, Masicka and Dexta Daps delivered another round of impressive performances. Each act in their own way helped to cement the fact that Reggae Sunsplash is back with a vengeance. As they churned out hit after hit, the artistes showed that Sunsplash organisers have every intention of staying the course this time around, as they make their mark once more as a force to reckon with in the festival arena.