The Philip Sherlock Centre was ‘lit…erally’ transformed this past Monday into the scene for a splendid evening by Elysium Events, who hosted Reggae Riot at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus. The event billed established quality acts as Sizzla, Agent Sasco, Beenie Man and included freshness with the likes of Kelissa, Dre Island, Runkus, DBurnz, Blvk H3ro, Ras I, Quada and Girl. There were some surprises which were to come but let’s get straight into it. Hosted by Debbie Bissoon who after bringing rousing greetings to patrons, announced the opening act, Quada who did a good job introducing himself to the full capacity audience.
I was impressed with the venue which offered comfortable seating arrangements in an appropriately intimate space. This was my first time attending an event on campus. It was fabulous to also be a part of an event in tribute to Beres Ford Hammond. I am all for honouring the greats while they are still here to receive it, and he is certainly a worthy icon.
Post Quada’s exit, Debbie Bissoon emphasized the importance of Jamaican’s ownership of reggae and stressed that its authenticity could not be replicated in feeling and performance because as she alluded reggae was something you lived and felt. These well said sentiments ushered the second act Girl on stage, who entered with Buju Banton’s and ‘Our Father in Zion’. She also performed selections from Tarrus Riley, ‘Lion Paw’ and Morgan Heritage’s, ‘I’ll Be Down by the River’. I found her stage presence very engaging and vocals very distinct, they made me sit up and really take notice. I made a note to investigate this newly introduced talent.
Another noteworthy point about the event was that all proceeds were being donated to the Alpha Boy’s Home. I commend Elysium for this and for also choosing a spectacular host who kept the audience occupied and entertained with stories of her days as a country girl on campus. Many of course in the audience found it easy to relate. The show continued with Blvk H3ro. His entry was high energy, and when I suppose the crowd was waiting to decide if they were intrigued or not, things got interesting. He was consistent in his delivery, improvising and showing flexibility, keeping the energy light and successfully broke the ice perfectly.
No sooner had he done this, he went in for the “kill” with ‘Final Destination’, a smooth and classy delivery of spicy and sexy lyrics which won the crowd’s heart. H3ro then segued into the popular ‘My Story’. He sampled Runkus’ ‘Move Yuh Feet’ and Protoje’s ‘Answer to Your Name’. Remember when I hinted at surprises, mid-way delivery, Protoje joined H3ro on stage to uproar from a surprised but pleased audience. They parred a little on stage, with Protoje delivering supporting lyrics from H3ro’s original ‘H3rb’, whose video is also pending. It was really brilliant to see his confidence. He certainly has a bright future ahead and you would have to be blind not to see that, and even then you would have been able to feel it through his delivery.
Palate perfectly satiated, the audience was treated to a brief video presentation on the impact of Beres Ford Hammond music. A short informative biography was also offered by a member of the Elysium team. Noteworthy comments mentioned Beres’ music as an honest reflection on the man and woman love story. He was lauded for his consistency and authenticity. This was a perfect point for The Vibe to do a musical tribute to the legendary singer.
They performed a slew of hits, from the honoured singer's catalogue including, ‘Rock Away’, ‘Feel Good’, ‘She Loves Me Now’ and ‘Tempted to Touch’. It was refreshing to see a female percussionist and drummer in the band. Later they were joined by the timeless Karen Smith who delivered a spirited rendition of ‘Putting Up Resistance’. Watching this pouring out on stage reminded me of something very real, when musicians give themselves to an audience, they spill all their emotions and sometimes parts of their very being and the audience responds in like energy exchange. Once you connect yourself to the people, you remain rooted in their hearts. It was certainly nice to witness and participate in the exchange.
The line-up continued as Runkus came on stage with the Old School Band and delivered ‘Rain Start Fall’, ‘Skin Tone’, ‘Move Yuh Feet’ and 'Kindness', Protoje returned in a show of solidarity. As usual, I was intrigued by Runkus’ lyrics and style. Certainly looking forward to seeing and hearing more from him as he grows in his craft. Ras I then introduced himself with a very warm and rootsy sampling of the classic, ‘Stepping Out’ by Steel Pulse . He also delivered ‘Shine Eye Gal’ by Black Uhuru and 'Dread inna Babylon' an original, with his Revelations Band. He closed with the Third World Band’s 'Roots with Quality' of which I was most appreciative.
His exit summoned the presence of DBurnz who gave a lively set with ‘Bet Yuh Neva Know’ pairing with 5 Star who gave us ‘Warn Dem’. DBurnz closed with crowd favourite ‘Run Babylon’. Next on stage was Dre-Island and the Jah Warriors Band whose immediately recognizable sound transformed this segment of the show. I witnessed musical growth and good stage presence and was also appreciative of his delivery of his now burgeoning catalogue, songs such as ‘Rotten Apple’, ‘On Time’ and ‘My Love’. Kelissa joined him intertwining ‘Best Kept Secret’ and later Chronixx added his melodious contribution to the duet. Surpise! Again I was not disappointed. Dre Island closed his performance with high energy, sending the audience to their feet with ‘M16’ and ‘Way Up’.
While I was not able to see the remaining acts, I was satisfied that it would have almost been impossible for it to have fallen below the quality we had experienced all night. My heart shook off the slight disappointment and reveled in the satisfaction of a high quality show, for a low cost, in an intimate space, for a good cause, in honour of one of Reggae’s finest Beres Ford Hammond. Hats off to the Elysium Production team who put on a riot of good vibes. From all reports, Sizzla, Agent Sasco and Beenie Man also delivered. Reggae Riot is definitely something I would attend again. It’s been my pleasure to share its moments with you.
Blissings till next time
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