Reggae Festivals are always an experience for the mind body and soul. This correspondent’s journey started with an early flight from Chilly New York to 80 degrees in sunny Montego Bay. As I waited at the airport for my right from Mobay to Ochi, an elder sat next to me, I had never seen him before but we started a conversation, he asked if I was Jamaican, I told him yes by heritage, I was born in the UK, but my mother was from Portland and my father was from Trelawny, he asked my father’s surname and it turns out he is my father’s cousin and my granny is his aunt. Small world. This was the start of my sojourn to Grizzly’s Plantation St Ann for the 24th production of Rebel Salute which celebrates Tony Rebel‘s birthday. It is a two day music festival which celebrates food, cultural roots reggae music, and the herb. This is a special concert in that it is alcohol and meat free, but venders walk around freely selling the “erb”. In the spacious grounds with the Caribbean sea to our backs we listened to the best of the best in new and upcoming performers, vintage reggae artist reggae gospel artists like Marian Hall, the former lady Saw and burning sensation Andre Sullivan (who) aka Popcaan. This festival consists of 2 nights of reggae music from 8pm to 8 am. On the last morning it ended closer to 10 am. There were so many performances, I saw the majority of them but this review would be fifty pages if I reviewed every performance. I will list all the artists I saw and encourage to watch the performances on you tube. The Tony Rebel production team did a great job in terms of band changes but the weather which was windy and rainy, delayed the concert by more than an hour. this was a causal factor in the ruckus between Anthony B and Tarus Riley, more on that later.
I appreciate the fact that Tony Rebel gives young performers a chance I was very impressed with the all girl reggae band Adahzeh. The up and coming performers on Friday were Chevaughn, Shakespear, Ras I. The other Performers on Friday night were Ed Robinson, Knocking on Heaven’s door Astronauts from the Sixties who sang Born Jamaican, Lone Ranger, Love Bump, Sister Nancy , Bam Bam, Brigadier Jerry’s sister gave an excellent 20 minute set. I am pleased that women are always represented at this Reggae show. General Trees, Negril, The birthday man of the hour Tony Rebel, Man fi know Jah, Nazarine Vow, Jamaica, Fresh Vegetable. In one of his songs he said he is running for Prime Minister in 2020 and the his MC Mutabaruka, he of the bare feet (it tickled me to see him walking gingerly on the stones at the concert and it was so cold) and the first order of business was to legalize Ganja, of course, this received loud applause. The Rebel has been presenting these shows for 24 years, it started of in St Elizabeth as a one day show, I much prefer the St Ann location and it’s a wonderful two day festival which as I stated earlier celebrates food, music, culture and the herb, by the way I have been travelling to Jamaica since the age of 9, ergo many many moons and I have never experienced such old as I did on Friday night into Saturday morning. It was freezing, luckily I had my scarf and coat from NY. It was so wonderful to get a cup of Gunga peas soup at 4AM and then ackee and saltfish and bammy and festival for breakfast at 8 am.
I have to single out Marian Hall, the former Lady Saw’s performance she was on fire, she took the attendees to church that cold Saturday morning. She is saved now and sang songs like There’s a room in my house and I’ll pay it back. She gave the same energy maybe even more and was as lively and vibrant and commanded the full stage as when she used to sing her raunchy dancehall songs.
The Abbysinnians featuring Bernard Collings Forward a Zion, brilliant harmony. Warrior King, Iba Mahr, I spoke with his and asked him the meaning of his name he said Iba means humble and calm and Mahr means Mario (his given name) of Harar a small town in Ethiopia.
Other acts on first night included Wayne Wonder, Half Pint, I Wayne, Fantan Mojah , Tarrus Riley and Anthony B, who closed the show . He sang many of his songs including Best of the best where he mentioned Hallie Berry, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady /saw, Tanya Stephens, Marcia Griffiths, I have not seen Anthony B in many years and he was very entertaining and woke up the audience when he came on stage aT 7 15 AM.
As to the fracas between Anthony B and Tarrus Riley, this is what I saw, heard and gleaned from the Youtube and Onstage interview. When Tarrus Riley bounced on stage during Fantan Mojah’s set, I was in the media tent and ran to get to the front of the stage area to take photos of Tarrus Riley, the media were refused entry to the front of the stage we all showed our wristband asked why and was informed by security that the front stage area was closed until further notice, at which point Tony Rebel came out and asked that all remain calm and that this this show had been going for 24 years and he wanted it to remain. We were later told (not by Tony Rebel) that things got heated back stage because Tarrus Riley had taken the stage when it was not his time to perform and Anthony B alleged made a disparaging remark about his mother. Apparently egos were at play here, . Tarrus videotaped himself stating that the reason he went on stage at that time was because he had another engagement. Now he was supposed to take the stage at 4 30am but because the show was delayed due to the rain and winds, everyone was delayed by more that 90 mins. Even with the quick band changes (Rebel productions are to be commended) most artists went on stage later than their scheduled time. I saw a video where Anthony B stated he did not see Tarrus Riley all night and did not make any comments to him. I invite you all to go on line and judge for yourself the veracity of Anthony B’s statements.
Saturday night January 14, 2017, Night 2 of Rebel Salute had Duane Stephenson singing songs from his Dangerously Roots album. It was great to see Bushman and hear his smooth baritone voice. I love Bun a fyah pon a weakheart His back up singers did not sound good and he explained one had a cold. I had not seen him in many years, nice performance. Next came Leroy Sibbles, I stepped on his toes some years ago and after I said sorry I told him my claim to fame was I had mashed his corn( he smiled). He did not have enough time to perform, the former member of the Heptones, sang We’ve got to live some life, Sea of love , he is also donned the a bass guitar and informed us that he wrote the pass the Kutchie baseline, as well as Morgan Heritage Down by the river . The next Leroy to hi the stage was Leroy Gibbons, he had many hits in the 80s, four seasons liver, lovers question, even though he appeared to be breathing hard, he sounded good and was the best dressed with a burgundy blazer and shoes and belt to match, a Trilby hat and suspenders.
The man of the moment was Tony Rebel and his team brought out a birthday cake onstage for him to cut, he gave some to people in the front of the stage. Next came Junior Kelley , If Love so nice. Stranger Cole sang his no 1 hit from 1968 Woman no want no bangarang. (that is true to this day)Then came Errol Dunkly one of my all time favourites, he sang Black Cinderella and other songs, but he never sings my favourite which is Everyman do his ting a little way different. Next came Derrick Morgan Queen Ifrica’s father, King of Ska, who sang Mule train. He sang with his grandson Queen Ifrica’s son and he was calling her on stage, but she never came, I would have like to see all three generations on stage. She was in the back preparing for her own performance later on. This was a long night and I did not see all her performance, I think I slept through part of it , but I did hear her sing In times like these, Daddy don’t touch me there and a Good man from her latest album Climb. Other artists included the Smooth Smooth Cocoa T, Jesse Royal, Third World, Junior Jazz, love him is filling in for Third World Lead singer AJ Brown, I asked Cat Coore where he was and he informed me that he was taking care of business but would soon be back on the road with them.
The always excellent Sanchez took the stage and delivered a smooth set with raga, lovers and gospel music, Mutabaruka introduced his wife on stage and shared that she and Sanchez have been together for 30 years and married for twenty. Assassin aka Agent Sasco is one of my all time favourite djs, he is such a talented lyricist. Tanto Metro and Devante , Spragga Benz and Andrae Sullivan ended the night. Who on earth is Andrae Sullivan? Better known as Popcaan, fairly new voice in reggae who has crossover hits in Hip Hop with Drake. He came on stage after 9am. The crowd certainly loved him, especially the young people.
I always enjoy this concert touted as the best in Jamaica, the line up is always stellar and every performer brings their A game. I will be back next year God willing.