July 23, 2012
Sumfest 'locals' shine
Foreigners fail to topple massive popularity of big-name Jamaicans
Shabba Ranks, Tommy Lee, R Kelly, Junior Gong are the names that stand out the most after Reggae Sumfest 2012, the 20th edition, came to its conclusion on Sunday morning.
As Bunny Wailer belted classics to the few who could still muster enthusiasm after three days of intense music loving, the memories of what was a brilliant festival were almost physically visible.
The field at the Catherine Hall Sports and Entertainment Complex was littered with the remains of a long night of partying, "Shabba tek di t'ree day dem," said a patron as he exited with three animated friends.
He was right. Shabba, on Friday night produced a performance that will be remembered for generations.
Though he got raunchy, the police were not moved to get him to stop, so commanding was his performance.
At the end of his performance, which included massive hits like Oil Up All A Di Gun Dem, Peenie Peenie and Womb Turner, Shabba was presented with two plaques, one which was given to all the artistes at Reggae Sumfest, and another for his contribution to music over the lifetime of his career.
That plaque should have been for managing to commandeer an audience which may have, at more than one point during his 11-year absence, thought him irrelevant in today's high-paced dancehall scene.
Shabba put those thoughts to shame.
Shabba went on to explain that he had been away building a strong family environment for his children.
The audience, as it felt throughout his performance, was moved.
Wicked Inna Bed, Gal Yu Good, and Love P ... ny Bad went down well with the audience, so much more that Shabba needed not just one, but two encores. The Dancehall Emperor is not about to relinquish his crown.
Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley is an artiste of immense stature. That is well known, but nobody is sure how much higher in the estimation of the Sumfest crowd he has grown since his gargantuan performance yesterday morning.
After the powerful vocals of R Kelly, though late, had caressed the minds of a willing female audience, it was difficult to see Jr Gong getting more than a so-so response.
That difficulty was thrown in the bin very early into his set however, and by the time he got to Affairs of the Heart, the crowd was his, R. Kelly long forgotten.
A lovely touch came when Jr Gong paid tribute to the original Gong, Could You Be Loved resonating with an audience which had been singing his songs word for word.
an immense talent
Afterward, during a quiet interview, a modest Jr Gong thanked his audience and said he was always happy to perform before the people who made him what he is today. And today, he is an immense talent, grabbing the music world by the scruff of the neck and squeezing all he wants from it.
There is not much to be said of R. Kelly. Though his vocal ability cannot be denied and he was as clear as he has ever been, his performance was lazy.
The artiste sauntered into Sumfest an hour and a half late and didn't even bother to change the shirt he had arrived in 12 hours earlier.
However, all was forgiven, as the women, as if suffering from a mild case of 'battered wife syndrome', embraced the R&B legend (for that he is), and even went as far as to do the work for him, belting out the lyrics of I Believe I can Fly, much to R Kelly's amazement. "Wow," he said after letting the audience complete an entire verse of the monster hit.
Tommy Lee, without quite knowing how he did it, was the toast of Dancehall Night.
Many would say his Montegonian roots were at work, but whatever the case, he certainly didn't disappoint his adoring fans.
Afterwards, Tommy Lee was surprisingly candid about his performance, saying this was his first time on the big stage and that he knew he had more work to do.
He promised to make his next effort in front of a Sumfest crowd, and he should have more, special.