- February 24, 2013
Having experienced Arts in the Park, in its first staging, at the famous Hope Gardens of Kingston, Jamaica, I can sincerely say I could not have chosen better use of my time. It’s only natural that where live music is playing, I should venture, this also being a free event, only would have sweetened the deal for me to attend. How fitting that the sponsors made the event free to allow as many patrons as possible to fill the venue and also to experience certainly a stellar line up of some of the best live performers of this generation of artists.
Arriving at minutes to 4pm on this very warm Sunday evening, from the gates of the prominent gardens, one could hear the sounds of Pentateuch signaling that the event had already gotten underway. Upon entry, greetings came in the form songs from their debut album, The Genesis. The hard-hitting reality of “Kingston” life was sent home in the vocals of Kevor Williams on the track of the same name. Additional tastes from the album were “Going Home” and what can be considered a favourite, “Black Face” a song about black self-acceptance.
I could tell from the energy that passed over me in gentle waves that this was going to be an easy and groovy vibe. Across the venue, attendees had already gotten comfortable some on blankets, others seated in fold out chairs, families and groups alike of all different ages and shades, united in support of the artists about to present on stage.
After Pentateuch’s set, the host for the evening, Shaggy filled the interlude for the next band with comical banter and a welcome, to those in attendance. He then invited a new artist to come on stage by the name of Ashani. He performed a cover of John Legend’s “Stay with You” before quickly making way for the Rootz Underground.
Introductory notes from the musicians and powerful vocals from the female backup vocalist opened the set with the Bob Marley’s “War”, a beautiful beginning which segued into a deeply “rootsy” performance of “Unknown Soldiers”. I could feel my soul rising to the deep vibration of the words and sounds emitted. Warming the vibe now, Rootz filtered into “Hammer”, “Time is an Illusion” and with electric energy Stephen Newland chanted to Jah children to “Live Up and don’t mek dem turn you down”. This was truly spiritual experience.
The words “Time is an illusion to hide eternity”, so we should “take a step to reality, to what is real” resonated with me and I thought what could be more real than this vibration of roots music on a nature’s grand stage. I thought “this is bliss.” Rootz continued the vibe with “Farming”, making the audience now fully ready to receive the rest of the musical feast, to have music feed our structures and give us higher meditation.
At the close of their set, Shaggy returned to introduce yet another young act, Diamond Chip who made a short but spicy contribution, next representatives from Blaze the Stage, MTV, BET, RCA and Sony were introduced to the audience. With their exit, No-Maddz began their set up to encouraging screams from the audience.
In their usual signature postures, the Bongo Band members, Sheldon Shepherd (the returning resident), Oneil Peart (Onie P), Everaldo Creary (The Homelesz Gene) and BirdEye (The-Not-for-Rent-a-Dread) opened with the jazzy upbeat “Bongo Band” then transitioned to “Mountain Lion” leaving no doubt as to their prowess. Slowing down the pace they continued with a soulful rendition of a tale of holding on to love while being away from your lover.
Their usual dynamic and epic energy was shared generously with the audience as the classic “Rise above Profanity” was supported in echoing tones and words. This closed the Bongo Band’s contribution to the Arts in the Park with the audience begging for more.
After such a beautiful beginning, Protoje and the InDiggNation made their entrance. Fresh off the resounding performance at Edna Manley the previous night and The Eighth Year Affair album launch just over a week ago, no introduction was really needed as the youth pulled to the stage, to drink in the musical blissings to come.
Protoje began his soul stirring performance with hybrid mix of “InI” and Dread” from the current and previous album. I was in awe as I watched the growth of Protoje as a performer. It was evident that the entire band was also fully united in bringing the music to the people.
This was what we were indeed longing for, he then launched into “This is Not a Marijuana Song”, and mentioned that the youth were now educated and could defend any stance taken, stressing that the herb should not be abused. Next in the seamless queue was an acapella introduction to “Who Dem a Program”.
There was no mistake, the Reggae Revival Movement is alive, and Protoje, stated unequivocally that the movement is united pointing to the roots of performances at Jamnesia alongside others such as No-maddz, Kabaka Pyramid and Chronixx. I could not have agreed more having seen first firsthand these performances before many of these artists had become “known”.
Other coveted tracks from the album performed were “Hail Ras Tafari” and “Kingston Be Wise”. The hard-hitting, blood-pumping performance ended with the assertion that it was now Ras Tafari time and the InDiggNation really did #WaketheTownandTellthePeople.
D Blue Print Band was next on stage and they delivered a rousing performance with lover’s rock songs such as “Welcome to My Heart” and “Baby Boo” of course showing everyone why they were back to back winners in the Global Battle of the Bands Competition.
Denyque then joined them on stage and performed a newly written track with one of D Blue Print guitarists as acoustic accompaniment joined them. She then launched into her performance with “Hooked on Me” and “Make Me Believe You”. Her presence along with the D Blue Print gave a nice variety to the acts that had graced the stage so far.
At this juncture VC was brought on stage and he delivered to much of the audience’s delight the memorable hit “By His Deeds”. Late evening had now set in and the full moon’s appearance ushered in the Raging Fyah. They were also welcomed by enthusiastic screams from the audience. Of note as has become quite customary, the Edna Manley College was amply represented in the supportive audience.
Raging Fyah once again delivered another consistent performance. Now seasoned, patrons rocked to the sounds of the fire band as they delivered “R.A.F (Royal African Soldiers)”, “Nah Look Back”, “Far Away”, “Judgement Day” and “Karma” in fine style. Kumar Bent, lead vocalist just impresses more and more every time I see him perform; he appears enraptured in the music as he delivers a deeply soulful performance. I must also make mention of the drummer Anthony Watson who always does an exquisite job. They are definitely one of my favourite roots band. Rocking and swaying to good music, bliss for the soul; what more could anyone ask for, Jah music.
A great vocalist then graced the stage in the person of the well-known rock reggae queen Tessanne Chin. She gave a powerhouse performance of her hit “Hide Away” and also “You got what I need”, and as brawta a cover of “The Reason” by Hoobastank. The C-Sharpe Band was up next, performing songs like “Book of Rules”, “Reggae My story”, “I’ll be there” and “The Invitation” in an unrelenting display of musical perfection. I was impressed as I was formally seeing the group for the first time. As we say here in Jamaica “everyting plug in nutten nuh plug out”. It was a noteworthy performance.
At the interlude, Dre Island entered with Zincfence Band and performed “Ras Tafari Way”, he received a warm reception from the audience. Then the self-proclaimed General Himself, Chronixx, joined his band, ZincFence opening with “Beat and a Mic”. The beats with the mic, kept coming as he unleashed his slew of now notable songs starting with “Start a Fyah”, “Modern Warefare” sandwiched by “Aint No Giving In” and referencing Kelissa’s “Keep Climbing” and Kabaka Pyramid’s “No Capitalist” as easily as if both artists were present.
Sweetly wooing the audience, Chronixx offered the soulfully reflective “They Don’t Know”. The flow then became more upbeat with “Behind Curtain”, “Here Comes Trouble”, “Warrior” and “Odd Ras” (Nah Follow Nuhbody, BUSS). The musical bus engine was now at its final destination, this performance brought down the curtains on Arts in the Park.
It was truly a beautiful investment of time and talent. It was a blessing to be there.
Let’s hope the movement to Live Music will continue to be a beacon of light and hope for the people who really appreciate it in its rawest form. Blissed Love and salute to all the performers. I am Warrior Sistren and it’s a pleasure to bring my experiences in words to you.