With reggae as the vanguard, Jamaica is getting ‘nuff love, nuff big up’ as it celebrates its 50th Independence this August.
Concerts featuring some of the island’s best known artistes are slated to take place throughout the summer across the vast expanse of the United States. In every quarter, Reggae will be pumping.
Standing tall in his own right next to the legendary Bob Marley is Jimmy Cliff, another elder statesman of the music who kicked off the celebration of Jamaica 50 abroad recently, with an energetic performance in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park where he opened the 2012 season of the long-running Celebrate Brook-lyn! summer concert series.
The organizers gave Jamaica a place of honour in observance of its Golden Jubilee and thought it appropriate to lead off festivities with Cliff, whose music reflects the social consciousness spirit endemic in early reggae.
It also happens that Cliff is celebrating the 40th anniversary of two of his landmark songs, You Can Get It If You Really Want and Harder They Come this year and is currently on a tour of the U.S., before moving on to Europe later this summer.
BRIC Arts/Media/Bklyn, the force behind the Brooklyn festival, says Cliff’s music has a universal appeal that transcends genre and that his voice remains one of the wonders of the musical world.
To hear Jamaica on the tongues of the huge multiethnic throng crowding the park was special and spoke volumes about the largeness of this small island on the world stage.
The concert held at the park’s Band Shell was a jam-packed reggae loving affair. Even before the programme started, people were being drawn to the event space by the sounds of early Jamaican music that were blaring throughout the park. Most could not dance the Ska but bobbed their heads and did their own non-Ska jigs in enjoyment.
Among the patrons were some of the true appreciators of roots Reggae, namely, the many heavy-haired dreadlocked, original Rastafarians dressed in their Jah Jah colours who gave the gathering a colourful splash and an ‘Irie’ flair. Also in the crowd was another group of Reggae lovers, the Japanese.
When Cliff decked in his own blaze of Rasta colors took to the stage, it was to a ferocious roar of appreciation with the hard-pumping crowd singing his lyrics right along with him, demonstrating how much the man is well-known and well loved by his followers.
SKIPPED AND DANCED
It is hard to believe that Brother Jimmy is over 60 as he skipped and danced with amazing alacrity across the stage.
He performed songs that not only traced the arc of his own career but Jamaica’s musical evolution as well.
Opening with You Can Get It If You Really Want he segued into Hard Road to Travel, Treat The Youths Right, Rub-A-Dub Partner, Wild World, Save Our Planet Earth, Vietnam, Let Your Yeah Be Yeah, Wonderful World, Beautiful People, Sitting In Limbo, I Can See Clearly Now, One More, among others.
Introducing his Ska hit, Miss Jamaica Cliff demonstrated the ska move for the audience before shouting out, “How you feeling? When in Jamaica, you feel great, you say IRIE! Big up Jamaica on our 50th Independence Anniversary. IRIE!”
As if time had not touched his voice at all, Cliff gave an evocative performance of his reverent ballad, Many Rivers To Cross that sounded almost sacred in its delivery.
He continued the spiritual tone with his take on Rivers of Babylon accompanied by drumming, chanting and a psalm.
Updating his protest song, Vietnam to reflect the current war landscape, he reworded the lyrics to address the situation in Afhganistan and gave another powerful and prayerful performance of the environmentally conscious song, Save Our Planet Earth.
His exhaustive catalogue that really are songs of conscience on a wide range of world themes, underscores the reason for Cliff’s international appeal and his influence on global culture. That has been the trademark appeal of reggae, and in the truest sense, Cliff is one of Jamaica’s global Reggae ambassadors.
He has been one of the earliest exponents of Jamaican music, exposing it to listeners beyond our shores. Today, Reggae is a universal sound that has massaged the entry for the island as a true mover and shaker in the cultural sphere.
The worldwide love for reggae is celebrated annually with July 1 recognized as International Reggae Day. Jimmy Cliff’s involvement with music is as old as Jamaica itself.
Like his native land, he has traveled a hard road and both have many more miles to go. But 50 years on, they are both standing strong. The lyrics from his song, Hard Road To Travel could well read as an anthem of the time for our nation.
I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough rough way to go/Said it’s a hard road to travel and a rough rough way to go/But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed/My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop/ My faith will see, see me through. So says Jamaica as we face 50 years and beyond. Thanks for the journey, Brother Jimmy.