Jamaican Music

Irie Jamboree Was Irie Vibes, Then…

New York/Maryland :Jamboree 2k9, the annual Labor Day weekend music festival had all the elements lined up for an auspicious debut of it 7th staging at York College in Queens, NY (also the new home of the IRAWMA Awards). The stars and Mother Nature lined up for what was going to be a perfect Jamboree debut at the new home.
The weather cooperated it was a perfect day, with a crisp breeze, and cool temperatures and a slightly overcast sky one could feel the homely difference from Roy Wilkins Park. Performance wise, Jamboree for the first three quarters of the show was marked by auspiciously execution and stellar production, and the performances were superb. Then … more of that later.

There were new features added to this year’s show; a three tributes to the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson, (two live impersonators and a video) a video tape performance from JahCure (who cannot travel to the US because of his rape conviction) and Life Time Achievements Awards was given to Jamaican/Brooklyn based DJ Mikey ‘Mac-Daddy’ Jarrett, reggae icon Freddie McGregor, dance hall first hybrid crossover act Shinehead and Ska/Rocksteady Legend Ken Boothe.  

According to Jamboree 2k9 Executive Director Bobby Clarke, “Our theme for this year’s event was the history of the music” … (we) wanted to showcase as many performers from each era.” This ambitious agenda, proved to be the only down side to the otherwise great event. The promoters fell victim to the major problem that plagues reggae productions, poor time management. They overbooked too many acts and not having enough time for the artists to either showcase or perform. An angry patron was over heard complaining ‘this happen with Stephen and Damian Marley on 06, so many years, why can’t they manage the time better.” The result was major acts, despite being backstage, like Natural Black, Frankie Paul, Mr Vegas and Tifa, were dropped from line-up and major stars like Freddie McGregor, Tony Rebel, Queen Ifrica, headliner Tarrus Riley were forced to giving truncated performances much to the dissatisfaction of the loyal audience. Unscheduled acts like Jahvinci, Black Ryno, Barbie, Briggy Benz, and Charlie Black used the time scheduled for the main acts

The show started on schedule when I arrived at the venue at approximately 2:20pm the “Give the Youth a Buss” segment, another Jamboree unique feature, was in session.  The “Give the Youth a Buss” featured the Canadian contingent anchored by Tasha T with Steele, and Humble. Working the moderate but growing New York audience Tasha T, on her Jamboree debut, had me asking where this lady has been hiding. Her mastery of stage was evident. The skill of engaging the audience and worked the band was infectious. She demonstrated a deft touch paying tribute to the Irie Jam family in specially written song for the event. She is definitely a lady watch out for.

Queen Ifrika’ much anticipated Jamboree debut was both hurried and proved especially frustrating for both her and the audience. Dressed regally she roared onstage like the lioness but was forced to give a cub-like set. Doing a few hits from her latest CD ‘Montego Bay“Keep it to yourself,” Far Away and older ones like “Below the Waist” and the controversial anti-incest song “Daddy (Don’t Touch Me There)” Ifrika impatience with Jamboree stage mangers effort to interrupt her already truncated set showed. “Yes bredren, mi hear you,” she defiantly retorted as she tried to complete her song and her fans were clamouring for her go on.

After her scintillating Sumfest performance where, according to published report upstaged international acts like Toni Braxton, she no doubt expected to blaze at her Jamboree debut in NYC. This must have been a big disappointment.

The Big Ship Family of Freddy McGregor, Chino, Stephen & Laden gave a short performance of less than 10 minutes altogether.Tarrus Riley got about seven minutes on stage that he shared with DJ Konshens on their hit single “Good Girl Gone Bad.” perform with Freddie McGregor’s band, a band he never rehearsed with.

Patrons were heard grumbling that the time should have been better allotted so that the more entertaining acts would have been given a chance to really represent the reggae genre.

Ras Penco debut proved to be disappointment. He showed his inexperience as performer by talking too much instead letting his music do the talking and complaining about the band. His big hit 1,000 miles didn’t impacted because spent too much time talking for the audience to appreciate it. In contrast Prestige positive message connected with the appreciative audience

Next up was Ras Shiloh. His long awaited return to his native New was worthwhile. From his first song” Are You Satisfied” to his Garnet Silk memory lane tour he connected with the audience. He closed his set with nice rendition of Sam Cooke’s ‘ Change Gonna Come’. Anthony Cruz came and went.

The “80-90’ dancehall segment kicked of with the duo Flourgon and Daddy Lizard. They brought the “80-90’ dancehall vibes on Queens College and took the show to another level. Female deejay Lady G, a veteran of stage craft was in fine form despite, as she told me “me not even buss a sweat.’ Her hit songs ‘Bad Man’Ease off’ ‘Me or You Gun’ Nuff Respect was well received and the new anti Pedophilia track earned the respect of the crowd. Sugar Minott (w/daughter Passion in tow) gave an A- Class performance with hit like “Never Give Jah Up” ‘Good Thing Going’ Herbman Hustling.’ When he drew his medley of hit ‘Dance Hall We dey’Turn Me Loose’ Pon de level’ he had the audience in an uproar. When he did his push ups, the crowd roared. He close with ‘I am Just A Guy’ in tribute to the late the God father of Rock Steady, Alton Ellis.

The “Roots and Culture” segment moved from veterans to reggae’s rising star Gramps Morgan of the Morgan Heritage group. Just coming of the road with India Arie and John Legend, his solo debut saw him promoting tracks from his new album “2 Sides Of My Heart.” He set was with an eclectic mix of jazz, R&B, ballads and Rockaz. New tracks like ‘Wash The Tears’” and ‘Don’t Cry For Jamaica’ gave way to jazz/R&B arrangements of ‘Down By the River’ and ‘She’s Still Loving Me.’  Gramps’ layed back stage persona could have been more energetic, he is however an emerging powerhouse as new vocalist.  
Next up was Bush Man; an act that is rarely seen on major shows on the East Coast, debut spectacular. He opened with blistering and intensely contemptuous attack on the evils of Babylon system. He received thunderous applause as the New York audience that clearly agreed with him. His hits ‘Jah Sent His Light out for Me’ ‘Call the Hearse’ raise the audience reaction to a crescendo, but his high note exit tune ‘Fire Bun a Weak Heart’ forced an encore. With his conscious lyrics he delivered ‘teck de show performance.’
Ken Boothe, Mr Excitement was superb, especially on his tribute to Jamaica ‘Land of the Black Gold and Green’ ‘Puppet on a String’ ‘Silver Words’ ‘Everything I Own’ and ‘Song of the Sparrow’. Boothe received his Lifetime Achievement award onstage.

Next up was the ‘minister of argument and reasoning’ the right honorable Mr. Shinehead. The New York bred La based dancehall/hip-hop master, who had just come in from France reminded us why his place is secure in reggae music history. Reeling of his hits From ‘Ruff and Roughed’, ‘Strive’’ to covers like ‘Never been in Love’ ‘Promise I Can’t Keep’Billie Jean’ ‘Golden Touch’ ‘Jamaican In New York’ (rework of Sting’s Englishman in New York) and British rocker Junior’ 80’s hit to ‘Mama Use to Say’ shines was refreshing. After his performance he was taken by surprise when Irie Jam’ Dub-master presented him with his Lifetime Achievement award onstage. Shine said to the audience “Daddy Ken Boothe haffi get piece a dis (the award). Dis a nuh fi mi one.” he said.

                                                                                                                           
The dapperly-dressed Pinchers, ‘Bandelero’, who did a memorable set received a rousing welcome, he sauntered through his hits ‘ Lift it Up Again’ Siddung Pon It’’100% of Love’ ‘Agony ‘For Your Eyes Only’ closing out with ‘ Bandelero.’ I wondered why he had not been the anchor performer for Diddy Lizard and Flourgon segment.
Next up was Etana, who seem to be emerging as the standard bearing for the younger generation of totally well rounded female singers. Her second stint at Irie Jamboree, the classy and elegant lady was positively amazing. Her acoustic ambience set brought a mellow vibe in the venue. She showed smarts, in her song selection, given her limited time. She opened with ‘Wrong Address’ then mellowed the vibe on ‘Warrior Love’ and I am not Afraid’ with a Congo/acoustic guitar renditions. Etana segued to Roots, and then closed with ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.” She said before the show “I wanna make sure that my performances are up to par.” It was par excellence.

At this point in the interest of time, the three tributes to Michael Jackson and the JahCure Video presentations should have been scrapped. Assassin was a crowd winner. However as a performer I have seen him much better. Flossing King, Flippa Mafia made a cameo appreance.

Despite a rousing welcome and a high energy set, dancehall quartet TOK set couldn’t quite connect with the audience.

Platinum-selling artiste Sean Paul did his big hit tunes, Get Busy, Like Glue, Gimme the Light, Infiltrate and Deport Dem,Hot Gal, Right Temperature. Despite a kick-ass backing band, some sexy body dancers, two hype men and calling Charley Black on stage Paul failed to even connect much less excite the crowd for 30 minutes he was on stage. 
                                                                                                                                                                                          
DJ Spice was in fine form and at her best as she did No Fight Ova Man. She reeled of  a single in which she boasts about all the artistes who are demanding her body Beenie, Bounty, Mavado, Kartel and the Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs. She chanted opening line of Romping Shop teasing the audience, but unlike 08 when Matterhorn insulted the family and children with his vulgar slackness, Spice, reluctantly adhered to the “Family friendly” theme of no slackness rule and declared that she was leaving.
Then the show began it downward slide as several artists had to race against time to avoid city authorities shutting down the festival if it exceeded the deadline time.  The elder statesman of Roots & Culture DJ Tony Rebel was the first victim. Rebel could only grace the stage for a few songs. He openly complained during his set about being brought from Jamaica and not being given enough time to give the audience their money’s worth. 

Queen Ifrika’ much anticipated Jamboree debut was both hurried and proved especially frustrating for both her and the audience. Dressed regally she roared onstage like the lioness but was forced to give a cub-like set. Doing a few hits from her latest CD ‘Montego Bay“Keep it to yourself,” Far Away and older ones like “Below the Waist” and the controversial anti-incest song “Daddy (Don’t Touch Me There)” Ifrika impatience with Jamboree stage mangers effort to interrupt her already truncated set showed. “Yes bredren, mi hear you,” she defiantly retorted as she tried to complete her song and her fans were clamouring for her go on.

After her scintillating Sumfest performance where, according to published report upstaged international acts like Toni Braxton, she no doubt expected to blaze at her Jamboree debut in NYC. This must have been a big disappointment.

The Big Ship Family of Freddy McGregor, Chino, Stephen & Laden gave a short performance of less than 10 minutes altogether.Tarrus Riley got about seven minutes on stage that he shared with DJ Konshens on their hit single “Good Girl Gone Bad.” perform with Freddie McGregor’s band, a band he never rehearsed with.

Patrons were heard grumbling that the time should have been better allotted so that the more entertaining acts would have been given a chance to really represent the reggae genre.

                                                                                                                                                 

About the author

Stan Evan Smith

Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator for Jamaicans.com