Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Sumfest: A rich history of stellar performances

Published:Tuesday | July 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Shabba Ranks
The R&B trio, Boys II Men in concert at Reggae Sumfest

While primarily a reggae festival, Reggae Sumfest has had a long history of showcasing the megastars of other genres. In fact, fans still argue that the greatest performance in the annals of the festival was given by a non-reggae act.

The performance in question was the smashing set played in 1998 by the incredible R&B trio, Boyz II Men, who answered the call of the promoter to add a fresh flavour to the event by delivering a blockbuster one-hour-plus set, which not only had the fans dazzled, if not totally mesmerised, but also made on indelible mark on the history of the event.

Despite seeing stellar performances from the likes of Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Burning Spear, Coco Tea, Super Cat, Shaggy and Lady Saw over the years, Sharon Williams, a perennial Reggae Sumfest fan, is adamant that the honour of the 'greatest performance' of all times belongs to the incredible Boys II Men for that 1998 set.

"Who could ever forget that amazing Boys II Men performance? ... . It was out of this world ... the crisp vocals, the dance moves, the stage presence," said Williams, whose satisfied smile has lasted almost two decades. "I have seen the reggae great and the R&B acts like Usher, Joe and Lionel Richie ... but Boys II Men were just awesome."

For others, like Reggae Sumfest director Robert Russell, seeing Destiny's Child in full cry with Beyonce at the helm back in 2003 was an 'out of this world' experience. In fact, after watching the performance, which saw Jamaican superstar Sean Paul teaming up with BeyoncÈ for their hit single, Baby Boy, he gave the performance a perfect score.

"The dancing ... the vocals ... the commanding presence ... what more could you ask for ... I would give them a perfect 10 out of 10," Russell told The Gleaner at the time. "These are the kind of performances which will linger on in the memories of the fans for a long time."

Among the other foreign acts that have graced the Reggae Sumfest stage with memorable performances were the likes of Chris Brown, Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Akon, Ashanti and Nicki Minaj.



Insofar as reggae/dancehall performances, acts such as I-Octane, Damian Marley, Bounty Killa, Sizzla, Beres Hammond, Capleton and Jah Cure, have made major marks on Reggae Sumfest with exceptional performances. However, in terms raw power and impact, Shabba Ranks 2012 display was perhaps a cut above the rest.

In a phenomenal two-hour set, in which he spared none of his hits, it was a case of vintage Shabba Ranks in all his glory, leaving no doubt as to why he is the holder of two cherished Grammy Awards.

With no foreign acts to compete with this year, it will be interesting to see how the likes of Super Cat, Barrington Levy, Luciano, Sanchez, Tarrus Riley, Busy Signal, Christopher Martin, Spice, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Popcaan, I-Octane and Agent Sasco stack up when the dust is settled.