New York City: Irie Jamboree, the largest reggae music festival held Labor Day in Roy Wilkins Park in New York City closed out the summer in spectacular fashion. The 6th staging of Jamboree 2k7 had Mother Nature’s blessing weather-wise; it was a perfect day, a slight breeze and warm temperatures. The show’s line-up was well balanced, a nice fit between the past and present. Jamboree is always more than a just stage a show it’s an event. And as an event it was both memorable and historic.
Revisiting Jamboree’ thematic format of 06 when the event celebrated the Caribbean Immigrants contributions to American society; paid tributes fallen icons of Jamaican culture like Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett, reggae pioneer, Bob Marley, Culture’s Joseph Hill, dancehall dance pioneer ‘Bogle’ and ‘Desmond ‘Poor me Israelite’ Dekker, Pan Africanist Marcus Garvey, memorialized the Caribbean nationals who perished in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 and recognized Caribbean nationals in the military serving in the Iraq war. The thematic element of year’s event, the sixth staging, focused its emphasis on celebrating the glory of Caribbean athletes and their domination of the recently concluded Beijing summer Olympics.
A special VIP/Media tent backstage (named for triple world word holder Olympic champion Usain Bolt and 200 meter Olympic champion Veronica Campbell) erected early in the day to honor the athletes and the ribbon cutting ceremony officiated by Irie Jam Media’s CEO Bobby Clarke, which according VP Louis Grant was planned after Bolt’s record-breaking performance in May at the Reebok (Irie Jam Media is a sponsor) Games in May, the Olympic success of Caribbean athletes proved fortuitous. Several Jamaican Olympians including Aileen Bailey, whose brother DJ Capleton was in the house, along with Chelsea Hammond and Bert Cameron were on hand to represent the athletes. At intermission the 20,000 strong Jamboree fans were treated to a replay on two 50 foot wide video screens of Jamaica’s 100, 200, and 400 meters hurdle gold medal wining world record setting performances at the Beijing summer Olympic.
Irie Jamboree’s hall mark of since its inception is the up grade of the event each succeeding year. Jamboree, the most accessible and media friendly Caribbean festivals in the USA where the promoters are unusually accessible to the press and demonstrate their willingness solve problems on the spot continues to improve. This year, according publicist Anthony Turner, the non attending public were offered live broadcast of the event on several radio stations both in Jamaica and across the USA.There was WGFS AM in Atlanta, Hot 102 FM’ Ritchie B did duties to Jamaica, WAVES 1170AM in Florida and live online streaming on website URwatching.com. According to Turner, there are plans to extent Jamboree global reach to England (BBC 1Xtra) and Japan and the organizers are looking at moved the festival to bigger, better and audience friendly venue for 09
When I entered the park the Canadian reggae song bird Tanya Mullings was on the stage, Reggaephiles please, do not sleep on Lady Mullings for though she’s a veteran, she’s part of the female wave sweeping reggae music. Her performance showed why she’s a fourteen time Reggae Female of the Year winner in her native Canada. Next up was Konshens, confident and cool he delivered his hits ‘Winner’ and “Rasta Imposter’ to the appreciative crowd. Under the guidance of Natural Bridge Record CEO Mark Pinnock, Konshen is going to be forced in dancehall. The first intermission saw an unnamed Rasta from the Sight & Sound crew narrating a nice tribute, on the two wide screens, to the Jamaican Olympians, accompanied by the appropriate music.
It was dancehall veterans time and the Admiral, aka Missa Bailey, who can do no wrong when comes to the stage, took us on dance tour with ‘Della Move’ then it was ‘Olo Time Sumting’ ‘Big Belly Man’ and ‘Punany.’ His comedic skills were on display as he had the crowd laughing but not his Soca music skills due time limit. The problem of time constrains is a one problem that the promoter are going to have address. This was Bailey’s first appearance on Jamboree and he told me in an interview after his performance that he felt it was special because of the celebrations of the athletes.
I missed a few performers doing interview duties for NYJA TV. The new dancehall sensation Serani laid back cool was evident the moment hit the stage. In typical fashion he reeled of his hits ‘Stinking Rich’, ‘Mama no Hungry’, Den Nuh like We’ and ‘She loves Me.’
Having made a one-song cameo appearance at Jamboree 07, Soca Queen, Allison Hinds, said she eagerly awaited her debut performance on this year show, well, it was well worth it. The former Square One lead singer delivered in a big way and left fans begging for more. Her high energy set was delivered with powerful vocals, nuff ‘whining skill’ which set the 20, 000 reggae fans on fire. She closed her set with her massive hit “Roll It Gal’ and with her well endowed derriere and sexy female dancers in tow, did she ever roll it.
Next up was the King of the Dancehall, (the peoples choice) King Yellowman. Ever fit and always ready to deliver, he was in his usual form and he was the only act to get an encore for the night. Yellow reeled of hits ‘Zungu Zungu Zeng’ ‘Nobody Move’ ‘Mad Over Me’ and ‘I am Getting Married’ Yellowman showed why he is still a force to be recon with in the dance hall.
The man from Rocky Point, Clarendon once told me there nothing more invigorating than hot cup of Cocoa Tea in the morning, well, it was under the 6 pm evening sun that Cocoa Tea, as a headliner delivered his top performer of Jamboree 30 minute set. To put bluntly despite an abbreviated set he delivered a “Teck Di Show” performance. Given its impact had it come at the close of the show it would have been a perfect night. Casually dressed in knitted sleeveless cardigan, white striped shirt, grey slacks over his slender frame and Jamaican flag in tow he strolled center stage. Opening with hit ‘Sonia’ which elicited a massive wave of screams, with his brand of roots reality and lovers rock reggae coupled with excellent showmanship Cocoa Tea reeled hits catalogue of hits, first in lovers’ rock fashion with ‘Rocking Dolly, “Love Me’ ‘Good Life’ ‘She loves me Now” then the diminutive powerhouse from Clarendon changed gear and segued to his roots segment. The crowd erupted when he dropped “Riker’s Island ‘Israel’s King’ Holy Mt Zion’ Chant Down Babylon/Rivers of Babylon, he then castigated the Rent a Dreads’ then finally closing with his with current tribute to Democratic presidential candidate ‘Barack Obama’ to continued ovations from the audience.
Bobo Rasta Sizzla, the Gun, Slackness and God ginnigog, entered the stage to thunderous applause and he didn’t disappoint. From his opening number he simply kept the energy level ridiculously high as he reeled of ‘Black Woman and Child’ ‘Taking Over’ and “Rise to the Occasion” ‘Good Ways’ Woman I Need You’ ‘One of these Day.’ Noticily absent from his set was the gun and slackness lyrics. He too concluded on a high note. New comer Duane Stephenson made nice cameo with ‘Cottage in Negril’ ‘Ghetto Pain’ and ‘August Town’
It was now time for the second headliner, the male singer who’s dominated reggae’s vocal landscape since 06 and had the biggest and most enduring hit for the last two years. Tarrus Riley, who single-handedly brought vocals to the forefront dancehall and reggae, entered to much anticipation and roaring applause. His brief set was expertly delivered and the improvement in his stage craft was obvious. Riley opened with ‘Stay with You’ segued to ‘Faraway’ then gave the females ‘Something Strong’ as he paid tribute to Garnet Silk w/No one can stop me from loving You.’ Riley then moved to ‘Lion Paw’ a crowd favorite after which he exhorted the crowd to elect a black president, Barack Obama. Finally he sent the crowd into an overdrive eruption with his monster hit “She’s Royal’ and just like that he was gone.
The dance hall segment featured the highly anticipated and much awaited New York performance of Mavado and as well the debut of several of the genre other hot acts including Bugle, Demarco, Serani, Prestige, I-Octane, and Konshen. It also seems to epitomize an endemic flaw with a lot of the current dance hall acts, which is, after 10-15 minutes on stage their set loses energy as Movado did. Though the Gully Gadd, delivered his popular hits, ‘Gully Side’ ‘Gangsta for Life’ ‘On the Rock’ and ‘On the Go’ for his loyal yard-core fans who railed to his hype others watched bored. To be fair Mavado’s set was short and he had problems with the Ruff Cutt band, forcing him to castigate them saying, “You are not amateurs, you are a professional band, play like it.” The contrast between dancehall acts from 80’ and 90’s pioneers like Admiral Bailey and King Yellow Man, who always seem to be able to deliver for more than 60 minutes on stage, was especially glaring because the newer acts looked ill-prepared when compared to their elders, or as the 20something dancehall fan who traveled from Canada noted “these newbies can’t compete with the seasoned professionals who buss dance in the 80’s and 90’s.” During Mavado’s set a brief stampede broke out much to the displeasure of fans who were having a wonderful time. Mavado is special and unique talent but he needs to develop his act.
Demarco’s debut was soiled by his use profanity none the less as his delivery on ‘Duppy Know a who Fi Frighten’ and ‘Fallen Soldiers’ was on point. Beenie Man, the Doctor, who seldom fails to deliver, energized the audience with his set. While closer Elephant Man, dressed in a outfit, part US flag and part Jamaican flag once again proved he’s earned the title ‘Energy God for good reason. With his impressive array of dance moves and tunes like ‘Signal the Plane’ his agility and style was impressive. However, when he brought a little boy to do demonstrate, Usain ‘Lighting” Bolt signature celebration dances at the Beijing Olympics, the Gully Creepa, and to the ever the popular ‘Nuh Linga’ to the delight of the audience, then revved up a notch when he was joined by Assassin and Adonia, and Aleen Bailey and Chelsea Hammond. Ele rocked. And for the first time in recent memory Irie Jamboree ended on time.