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Beenie entertained, Cham was truly brilliant

Posted by Dresonic on July 23, 2007

Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest’s Dancehall Night on Thursday attracted the largest audience since its 15-year inception – perhaps an indication that dancehall is not entirely dead but has merely evolved, becoming more mainstream.

Cham gets into his act. (Photos: Joseph Wellington)

“We cannot fight dancehall,” said MC Richard ‘Richie B’ Burgess, “it’s relevant. It’s gonna be around a long time to come,” he added, noting that show organisers had declared the gathering “the largest crowd in the festival’s 15-year run”.

The at least 20,000-strong throng consisted of both Jamaican and international dancehall aficionados who went to the Catherine Hall venue to see their favourite acts at the height of their game. And what a game it was since several top acts managed to thoroughly entertain even as they indicted the island’s politicians and lobbied for peace during the weeks leading up to elections.

Ever the consummate performer, top act Beenie Man, proved to Jamaica, once again, why he was worthy of his self-professed title ‘King of the Dancehall’. Donned in his trademark trench and matching black, green and gold suit, Beenie was a picture of patriotic perfection, rendering hit after hit punctuated by his political opinions.

“All who bun dutty JLP and dutty PNP put up oonu hand,” the deejay said, the audience readily and unanimously responding. The audience showed their appreciation for the artiste’s comment with mock gun salutes, raised lighters and blow torches even as he continued to speak of the nation’s leaders. The artiste, who was the last act for the morning, exited with his latest hit Back It Up.

But if Beenie Man is ‘King of the Dancehall’, then, judging from crowd response, Mavado must be its prince.
The turbulent, vocally gripping character that is Mavado entered the stage on the brink of daybreak to celebratory screams and fireworks. Seeming totally at ease, he delivered with precision his brutally chilling discourse Weh Dem A Say, Gangsta for Life and Badman Place, et al.

Backed by fast-rising production house Daseca, the artiste who recently released his debut album Gangsta for Life: The Symphony of David Brooks rendered the sexually explicit track Trigger before justifying the nature of his material.
“Me waan sing a song fe de poor people dem. if me come from the gully me haffi talk bout weh mi see, mi cyaan’ talk bout big house and Bentley,” he shared before inviting a gospel choir to join him on stage for an emotional rendition of Born and Raised (in the ghetto). He concluded his segment with Shotta No Miss, Pon De Gullyside and Dying.

Mavado mentor and Alliance boss Bounty Killer was another crowd favourite, though not as commanding as his usual self. Still, his fans delighted themselves in the offerings, pointing ‘gun fingers’ upwards in approval of his anti-homosexual and gun-slinging rhetoric. He brought on stage three fresh acts – twins K Queens, Dada and Bugle – each getting a chance to prove their worth. It then became easy to understand why he is often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Dancehall’.

Though the war of words between ‘The General’ and Beenie Man that prevailed at last year’s staging has somewhat fizzled, the lyrical duel between himself and Ninja Man is far from over.

“Ninja, yuh fe stop hype,” Bounty chided, adding that during Ninja’s time in prison and his battle with drugs, he had been one of the few to defend the deejay’s integrity. Hours before, however, Ninja had challenged Bounty to a lyrical face-off. Though he insisted that he had no feud with the deejay, he commented on his relationship with Beenie Man’s wife. The degenerate banter aside, the ‘Don Gorgan’, wearing white satin and a ponytail entered the stage in the wee hours of the morning, much to the delight of the Catherine Hall mass. He, like Bounty, called on stage child acts 11-year-old ‘Mumzel’ and four-year-old ‘Baby Trishna’.

It seems, in fact, that introducing child acts to the Sumfest audience was the common thread at this year’s staging since Mr Vegas, among others, also did. Recovering from a variety of ailments that hospitalised him for weeks, Vegas could not deliver his usual high-energy routine, nevertheless, he enlisted dancer Over Mars, et al to illustrate the dance that accompanies his chart topper Raging Bull. His set, which featured an all-white-wearing chorus line, thoroughly entertained.

Most surprisingly, nearly all the artistes sang edited versions of their tracks, excepting Elephant Man, whose fast-paced, over-the-top fiasco made for an entertaining half-an-hour punctuated with expletives.

Cursing aside, the ‘Court Jester of Dancehall’ entered the stage wearing a Darth Vader costume, prancing, climbing speakers and screaming at the top of his lungs. The dance classes became more intriguing when he called on stage a European journalist and instructed him to lie on his back. Going into his recent track Hot Wuk, the Energy God instructed Montego Bay street-dancers Deyma, Oila and Mumma to demonstrate the dance on their newly found model.

Needless to say, it was absolutely disastrous!
The dancers, by way of the newly signed Bad Bwoy artiste’s most familiar tracks, continued to show their skills, showing the latest dance, aptly titled Handicap, that mocks the disabled.

But the trappings of Ele’s performance were far from comparable to the brilliance of ‘ghetto rock star’ Cham. The artiste was simply the epitome of poignancy and discipline. Each piece was perfectly crafted to segue into the other, telling a story that most know as ghetto livity.
The hard-hitting radio favourite and his latest track Conscience and Ghetto Story spoke to the brutality of Jamaica’s criminal gangs, while Vitamin S, Joy Ride and This Is Why I’m Hot Remix appeased those who preferred something less piercing.

Showing his growth as an artiste since collaborating with a cornucopia of international artiste, Cham came full circle with a pop-rock-infused version of Conscience.
Lady Saw, too, showed growth as an artiste, rendering the emotional balladesque No Less Than a Woman and Silly. Still, she had to maintain her hold on the throne by performing the classics Belly-Rub-A-Dub, Stab Up the Meat and her new single Chat To Mi Back from her album Walk Out.

Though not an entirely poor performance, Munga Honourable – the artiste who in a Splash interview weeks ago declared his tunes “the soundtrack of the summer” – managed to entertain the audience but lagged half-way through his set with unfamiliar, inaudible lyrics. He made up for it though, with an expert delivery of Bad From Mi Born, Bad Like I and Wine Pon It.

Other noteworthy performances came from hand-cart-tooting-money-goddess-turned-bad-gyal Macka Diamond, the promising Busy Signal and trio Voice Mail who brought fresh spunk and creativity with a cadre of street dancers who performed death-defying leaps to the strains of Dancin’ Fever, Get Crazy and Bembe.

The dancehall showcase ended around 8:30 am.

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