Luciano on-stage at 'Rebel Salute' at Port Kaiser Sports Club in St. Elizabeth - Carlington Wilmot /Freelance Photographer
THERE WAS a natural mystic blowing through the air as day gave way to the star-filled sky that blessed the grounds of Port Kaiser Sports Club in St. Elizabeth on the 17th of January 2004, the 11th staging of 'Rebel Salute'. I was early, fresh and ready, filled with excitement in anticipation of what was to come.
I headed straight to the 'Livity Restaurant' stall, where I nourished my physical self with a veggie wrap and a natural june plum juice. There I 'cotched' and watched as the crowd thickened and swelled into a sea of red, green and gold. I knew that soon I would receive nourishment for my spirit and my soul.
The power of the spoken word came across strong and clear as 'Marsha' with her 100 per cent natural body, asked if these 'dreadlocks' that pose as Rastafarians even knew date of the coronation of His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie 1 or had ever read the Kebre Negast (the book of Kings). Then there was Cherry Natural there with her daughter, bellowing "No more blood nuh fi run!"
The Mighty Diamonds, Nasio, Gentleman, Fifth Element, to name a few, had the crowd mesmerised.
The highlight of the night for me, however, was the performance given by the reggae veteran Junior Byles. I don't know how many of the others there were able to recognise what an unfathomable blessing it was for him to have graced the stage, but I did. It must have been a tremendous challenge for him to stand up in front of 25,000 people after being away from the spotlight for so long.
I knew that I was about to be a part of history in the making, so much so that I got as close to the stage as I could (without actually jumping up on it) and stared straight up into his reflective glasses. It was when he eventually rose from kneeling and belted out "He who seeks for only vanity and no love for humanity shall fade away" that all who may have previously been wondering who he was, then were enlightened that, yes this was in fact 'The Great' Junior Byles. He then serenaded us with hit after hit after hit and then humbly departed, leaving behind an awe-struck audience.
It was fantastic.
So it flowed and so our reggae ambassadors glowed as the message that was sent through the music filled us with hope for a better future and encouraged us to have faith and to persevere in times of trial and tribulation. It was heartening to see The Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Delano Franklin, there and it is a giant step forward for Tony Rebel's show to have garnered the endorsement of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).
One step forward!
Little did I know it wasn't only the morning dew that would put a damper on the occasion. When the 'Fireman' Capelton was beckoned to the stage by Singer Jay, I wondered to myself, isn't it 'Kalanji' who should be next? How could a performer call another artiste on stage without consulting a stage manager?
But I couldn't even see the stage manager. Maybe he or she was trampled by the 'Fireman' and his entourage of hooligans, because as fast as you could say "A-wha-dis?" he emerged out of nowhere, with them right behind him and commandeered Tony Rebel's stage!
To add fuel to the fire up jumped Sizzla Kalanji (with some more men), chanting "Mi nah beg no fren' from none a dem!" and then it turned into an egotistical barking match instead of the two separate performances the people were there to see. To think I stayed for 12 hours with sleep in my eyes just to see 'my artiste' Sizzla Kalanji perform, to then be met by this pathetic display of unprofessional behaviour.
Two steps backward.
The worst thing is to be born sighted and lack vision. It should be a sin for them to be so influential and use this influence to destroy order rather than to restore it. It is a shame that these two men who are so loved by us cannot respect and honour us with a stage performance befitting their popularity. Still, we should not lose sight of the message just because the messenger has fallen short of the glory.
Speaking of messengers, the 'real' messenger saved the day and was as usual and as expected a diplomat and a healer. To the true roots, rock, reggae lovers that remained in the sports complex in the aftermath of the short-lived confusion, he restored hope that somehow, some way, we will eventually move forward through the music.
Sattamassagana. (Give thanks and praise)
I am, etc.,