Jamaican Music

Protoje Live at the Highline Ballroom NYC

Protoje– Who Knew – Sending Love to his friends and foes!
by Cathy Kleinhans
Meeting Protoje – Oje Ken Ollivierre –  for my first interview I could see in his demeanor and eyes a truly humble man who is not full of himself.  Almost shy in answering questions which belie his presence on stage, Protoje is disciplined, looked at his watch and told us to go ahead and ask our questions but he needed time to get ready for his show.  In every answer he gave thanks and praise to Jah and his team – especially his Manager, his mom, Lorna Bennett of “Breakfast In Bed” reggae fame.  He fully understands that the brand Protoje is team work.  Also, another facet of teamwork – his collaborations to date with Chronixx – Who Knows and Jessie Royal and Sevanna – to name a few.  The English meaning of the word protégé – a person under the patronage, protection, or care of someone interested in his or her career or welfare.  In the line of giving thanks to the reggae dynasty of past especially influenced by Black Uhuru, I can see that Protoje’s career is in excellent hands! First of all, his own! 
“Who Knows, who knows…. I just go where the tradewinds blows, sending love to my friends and foes….. and I’m pleased to be chilling in the West Indies…Jah provides all my wants and needs”… Protoje Chrooning to a crowd in NYC who just finished a winter and a cold spring on the eve of summer solstice – so Protoje’s  love and warmth  of sunshine, river and trees was palpable in the Highline Ballroom on Sunday, June 19 – so it’s truly an Ancient Future, his current BlxxdCLXXT Tour.   Reggae rhythms familiar enough but with a new twist that is all Protoje.
The Highline Ballroom was a conduit for a true Reggae High – no pun intended – Hands were flaying high… brap brap, rhythmically waving from side to side, the Lion Paw,  two hands up for the callouts of Jamaicans in the crowd, smoke swirling to the rooftop, hopefully from green leaves.  The audience was just mesmerized with the message by this young reggae star more popularly referenced as part of the “Reggae Revival”. Yes – it was just love and a praise to whoever your Most High is… a sentiment voiced by Protoje.  But, he declared he give thanks only to Jah Rastafari, Ever Living, Ever Loving, Jah!
Yaardcore, the DJ started the evening off and rightly so with conscious lyrics after conscious lyrics from the likes of Bob, Sizzla, Buju… the stage was set for the upcoming artiste, Fari DiFuture, who gave a good account of himself.
The diminutive, well-toned figure of Lorna Bennett, belies this proud motherly love and business acumen of a woman who accepted the job of managing her son when he asked her to.  She attested to the struggles and was not quite sure if her son was going in the right direction.  But, that’s all behind them now as evidenced by a crowd and an audience that he was able to pull into a venue on a Sunday night with work the next day.
Kudos also to Dutty Bookman, his tour Manager who was happy to let us know of his recent teaming up with Protoje of a show that was organized, got started a bit late but explained that Protoje was meditating to come on stage.  Protoje’s  showmanship, working of the stage, rapport with the audience… mentioning at one time that our energy measured 7.5.. was that the Richter Scale or Protoje’s own energy scale? … and he said it’s time to amp that up and the crowd danced into a frenzy with woots coming from all sides.  Tributes to Buju – Free Buju!
Earlier I had asked Protoje if any surprise artistes with him and he said no just him alone but his backup singer did a good rendition of Sevanna another bright Jamaican female rising artiste on Sudden Flight
In his trademark look of retro Reggae –  the hat, the glasses, the militant long-sleeve buttoned-up shirts, the skank yes we have another star in our reggae galaxy and packing with quite an arsenal of conscious reggae music.  Protoje  did an acoustic set, danced to to ska, skanked over parts of his music,  and pulled back for his band, Indiggnation to do their thing. 
Protoje speaks of the artwork on his album covers, his… peeps from Edna Manley School of the Performing Arts who are all a part of team Protoje.  His aura is definitively Bob’s, One Love, however, make no mistake his lyrics of social inequality and the rights and struggle for justice is ever present in his lyrics, performance and chats in-between songs with his audience.
A young crowd of mixed races – blacks, whites and all shades of brown in-between and hair lengths were evidenced to this star’s pull.  Some sang word for word – others jumped in as they w….
Protoje is set on a trajectory in the reggae stratosphere and cannot be missed if you are a true fan of reggae music.  Once again, I’m a proud Jamaican in NYC to see our musical vibes and culture on display at it’s highest heights to match the old trains of the Highline – Who Knew?

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Ustinov Luke