Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rebel Salute Chronicles - Friday Night January 13

I’d heard that Jamaica was ‘cold’ and immediately thought “what do Jamaicans know about cold?”. After arrival and meeting up with Padmore Primary School’s Principal - Keisha Hayle for a lovely Port Royal fish dinner – I knew exactly what was meant. Jamaicans were dressed for a NY autumn day, the proliferation of hoodies, sweatshirts, boots and yes even scarves took me aback – until I sat down and felt that cold breeze coming off the harbor; seeping into my bones. Traveling to Ocho Rios was no better, it rained and when I say rain – I mean Jamaican monsoon rain! I planned to curl up in bed on the Friday night as I didn’t fancy getting wet, but I’m glad I listened to Michelle Arthurton and Sandra Edwards-Smith who advised there was no rain at the venue and urged me to throw off any health fears I might have. Their enthusiasm was catching and before long I found myself changing and getting ready to make the short drive to Grizzly’s Cove in the Garden Parish for the opening night of the 24th staging of Rebel Salute in honor of the earthstrong celebration for Tony Rebel.It was a pleasure to see New York artists, Sister Nancy, Ed Robinson and Ras-T billed for the show and the performances I witnessed of Sister Nancy and Ed Robinson were more than well received with Ed Robinson garnering the first forwards of the evening. Vuvuzuela’s (that staple Rio klaxon) rang out across the large expanse bouncing back from the ocean into the crowd when Ed launched into his popular set including the evergreen ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ and ‘If I Follow my Heart’.  He also managed to throw in tribute songs to Alton Ellis and Dennis Brown too – more than amply showcasing his vocal dexterity.   

There was music from Californian Reggae artist – Harrison with his rock reggae infused set, but for the first night, I have to say the veteran artists not only brought their ‘A’ game – they put all other performers to shame! This fact shows me and others who were in attendance that respect must be given and is certainly due to those who have paved the way for Reggae to reach the plateau it has attained.  The Astronauts’ Michael Beckford and Zak Henry showed the crowd in song why Jamaica is such an island paradise with their ‘Born Jamaican’, General Trees with his brilliant comic timing in Horse Tonic, had the crowd feeling nice in the early warm up session along with Tony Rebel adding his ode to Jamaica with songs like ‘Sweet Jamaica’, ‘Teach the Children’, and ‘Nazarite Vow’.  No-Maddz – the music and art collective, now a performing duet of Everaldo Creary and Sheldon Shepherd came with their artistic expression – a distinct throwback to early Lee “Scratch” Professor with breadfruit, grater and banana ever present during their set – not to mention the funky shoes worn by Everaldo! Reggae’s creativity, ingenuity and panache are renewed and renewable in these Kingston College alumni.

Jenny Jenny MC and host of her own show on Hitz 92FM emceed the proceedings and kept things moving along quickly. The first treat of the night came with the appearance of Bernard Collins and the iconic Abysinnians with their timeless 1969 classic original Satta Massagana. With the original members recording as solo artists, it was a rare treat to witness the original founders reprising their honey-suckle harmonies on other classics like ‘Forward Back ah Yard”, which sound as sweet today as it did over 40 years ago.

  Special mention MUST be made of the stirring performance of Minister Marion Hall with her undeniably powerful testimony, she reached souls in the huge venue and ministered to a few patrons who were definitely moved and convicted by the power of her annointing. Naysayers keep quiet! Minister Hall is not averse to responding to detractors as one unfortunate heckler found to his cost. Iwayne, Wayne Wonder, Shacka Demus & Pliers, Iba Mahr and Warrior King were also on the bill – but space does not permit indepth commentary – suffice to say they helped to make the first night a definitive hit.  A somewhat sedentary Half Pint, reeled out hit after hit after hit and had the crowd lapping up every note.  It was heartwarming to see this artist back on stage performing after a brief illness.

Rebel Salute was not without some controversy this year with a ‘he-said-she-said’ banter between Tarrus Riley and Anthony B – but all in all the concept of Rebel Salute is still true to its original intent – the preservation of reggae music. Kudos – looking forward to Saturday night.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Country Life - St. Thomas, Jamaica

My cousin has her dream establishment set right at the foot of Bath Fountain Road – just opposite the Botanical Garden. One can imagine in past times a more genteel Jamaica where the aristocrats would travel to the country to sample the Baths. Much like Bath in England, I can well imagine the restorative waters doing wonders for old gouty joints. The garden still holds some semblance of those bygone days with towering coconut trees, diverse flora and fauna and the vestiges of an old stone structure, but it’s use has a long exhausted sell-by date. I remember as a child frequent school trips to the gardens – but I’m not sure what allure the old world has for this new generation.

Early early early, before cock put on him drawers on Wednesday January 18, I thought I was under attack, I could hear boots stomping and what sounded like a marching band approaching. I crept to the window and although the sound was getting closer – I couldn’t see anything, when all of a sudden, rounding a sharp corner came a group of about 20 young men – young police cadets out for their exercise. Only in Jamaica - after all the police station is a stone’s throw away from Iteen’s so I guess what was for me fascinating, would be an everyday occurrence for the locals. They were being marched in quick step up the very steep hill all while singing as they went. I grabbed my camera and sat waiting patiently for them to return – I could hear them singing as they ascended, but sadly their route took them another way and I was unable to capture them in their descent. I did get a video of sorts though of them exercising in the police yard. It’s quite funny and actually perhaps providential that their identity is not revealed. A slice of country life in St. Thomas.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Rebel Salute - Saturday Night January 14

It’s January 2017 and Rebel Salute the cultural music fest with its express intention of preserving reggae; and added bonus of accessibility to all things herbal (ganja); has its own milestone - 24 years of celebrating Tony Rebel’s earthstrong. What started out as a one night event in St. Elizabeth at the Kaiser Bauxite site has grown to a two-day extravaganza in the more accessible and accommodating tourist resort area of St. Ann. Coinciding almost simultaneously with the USA's Martin Luther Weekend; the show presented the perfect opportunity for folks to get away from the cold climes of Europe and North America for some Jamaican sunshine, music and fun.

The show was held in a huge park bounded by the ocean. Ample parking was managed by parking valets who directed the steady stream of converging cars – with police on the highway to direct those coming from the East, West and all other parts. The buzz on the second night was palpable, the volume of cars and patrons milling around confirmed that the Saturday night was the night everyone was interested in. The ticket lines were long as fans came out to support. Perhaps bereft of the annual Sting show – Tony Rebel and his Rebel Salute was THE show to be at and the fans were eager to purchase their tickets both at the gate and at the advance discounted price.

Derrick Morgan

 There are those pundits who say reggae and dancehall are dead. I leave them to their opinion, but from my vantage point both are very much alive.  Third World, Sanchez, Errol Dunkley, Leroy Gibbons, Leroy Sibbles, Tanto Metro & Devonte, Stranjah Cole, Wickerman, and Queen Ifrica’s father Derrick Morgan, legally blind, more than held his own not just in the delivery of his classic hits, but also in his duet with his grandson. His performance along with other ‘elders’ had this writer out of breath skanking to songs like ‘Don’t Call me Daddy”, his reprise of ‘Mule Train’, aptly retitled ‘Reggae Train’ ‘Forward March’, ‘Woman no Want no Bangarang’, and ‘The Conquerer’. Of the more contemporary artists Assassin delivered a set that was so fitting of his allocated time, he should definitely get an award for sticking to the script! Popcaan pleased the younger audience, and I was happy he did perform my favorite ‘Ravin’ and of course Beenie Man the self-proclaimed King of the Dancehall gave his always stellar stage performance. All the artists for the main also delivered in their stageshow attire, but again the veterans had them beat hands down.

dapper Leroy Gibbons
Jamaican popular music has evolved and now American rap music with its genesis in Jamaica has those musicians collaborating more and more with home grown musicians (even though they may not be giving credit where it is due) Just check those patrons who packed into Grizzlys Plantation Cove for Friday and Saturday January 13 and 14 and ask them if they got their money’s worth. You would probably hear the emphatic ‘YES’ from Jamaica to London to New York and beyond. With an eclectic mix of old, new and unknowns – Rebel Salute continues with its winning formula of having something to please everyone in the crowd. 

Rebel Salute Chronicles - Pictures Saturday Night January 14

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ode to Kester

I’ve been meaning to sit down and put my thoughts together, but life just seemed to get in the way. Today however, listening to the O’Jay sing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ the floodgates opened as emotions got the better of me, my eyes filled with tears before falling slowly down my cheeks.

Ahhhhh – where to really begin. I guess you came into my life via my daughter – you were schoolfriends and then had a brief fling, but you and I clicked; I guess you felt you could find refuge in my house. I remember one occasion where you had run away from wherever you were staying and made your way to my home. We talked about nothing in particular when the doorbell rang and it was your father looking for you. I don’t know how you moved so fast, but as I ushered your dad in – you were out the back door and over the fence. I didn’t see you for a while after that, but somehow you reappeared again with the news that you had been deported to Jamaica for some crime. I was saddened by this turn of events, you were always respectful to me and I must admit I was shocked to learn that you had been charged with robbery. You told me that you were with a group and knowing the person you are, I suspected you took the rap for friends far more street-wise than you.

With your deportation, you grew from a boy to a man. We kept in touch and when I could, I sent you phone credits and sometimes an additional monetary gift, but it wasn’t really about the money – I was your link to the US, the only home you’d really ever known – having been brought here as a mere toddler. You never ever pressured me, but hearing my voice and knowing where I was must have made it even more hard for you. Jamaica wasn’t for you and you weren’t happy there, but you made the best of the situation. What should you expect, a Yankee boy in Jamaica – authentic accent and all – it must have been hard being a target – but you kept your woes to yourself, only hinting at the stress you were going through. Your family by all accounts were never able to understand or provide the shelter, not just a roof over your head that you needed so I was happy to play the surrogate role.

Whatever words of encouragement I was able to offer kept you going as you bounced from one job to another, quickly losing the work when your ‘deportee’ status was revealed. You seemed happiest working as a groundsman on a gated estate. I warned you about keeping your own counsel and being wary of new friends who would befriend you for nefarious purposes. I told you not to take the same route home from work and things seemed to be falling into place. You seemed accepting of your situation, even though I was desperately trying to find an attorney to look at your case, but each time I mentioned neither you nor I had any money – the door was slammed shut. Even some notable attorneys in my community gave me the run around. You should not have been deported. You were not advised at trial that a guilty plea would lead to automatic removal and return to an estranged country of birth. That’s when you started getting sick, the fatigue, the coughing and shortness of breath. I thought it was exposure to pesticides and encouraged you to get yourself checked out. I was arrogant in thinking you could just walk into an emergency room and get treatment. Even though you were growing weaker and more tired, I could not in my wildest dreams imagine the outcome.

I remember our last conversation, when you told me you didn’t want to die in Jamaica. I was angry and told you in no uncertain terms that was not gonna be your fate – but I was wrong. I wish to God I was right, but it wasn’t to be.

I hadn’t heard from you for a while, I should have known something was wrong, because there was a strong presence of something in my home – I shrugged it off thinking one of my ancestors was checking on me – but I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was weird – I wasn’t scared, but I knew some spirit was there watching.

Something, or perhaps you, prompted me to check your Facebook page after you didn’t respond to my call. Chills ran over my body as I scrolled through and saw you hadn’t posted since October 28. I saw but refused to comprehend the comment from one of your friends that hit me like the kick from an ignorant mule.

I’m still in denial sometimes that you’re no longer in this realm and that I won’t hear your voice again in this season, but one thing I’m sure about - the price you paid for being a deportee is one that no one should pay and I write this in tribute to your sacrifice. Kester Robinson – RIP – gone but not forgotten.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Raging Fyah's Grammy Nod Well Deserved

It seems like a fairy tale – one short year after their NYC debut at Brooklyn’s Milk River as part of VP Records’ Dub Rockers imprint launch – Raging Fyah recently received the heady news of a nomination in the category of Best Reggae Album at the 59th Grammy Awards for their 3rd album Everlasting. Are they fazed by this news? Not really explains lead singer Kemar Bent who was accompanied by musical director, singer and keyboard player Demar Gayle at the VP media event held in Queens, NY on one of the coldest days so far of 2016.
Articulate, earnest and humble are just some of the adjectives that come to mind after spending time in the presence of two members of the five piece Raging Fyah Band. They are not new kids on the block as some would imagine, having put in the proverbial ground work; collectively and individually; backing dance hall notables like Vybz Kartel, Gyptian Cherine Anderson, Gregory Isaacs and Anthony B among others. Dissatisfaction at this secondary role and confidence in their ability to make the kind of music they wanted to hear led to the launch of their career as a performing band in 2008. The young men are all graduates of the revered Edna Manley College, with a veteran performer as the fifth member. They age in range from 28 year old lead singer Kemar “Kumz” Bent to 65 year old lead guitarist, veteran Courtland “Gizmo” White. Not content to just release quality products, in 2010 they conceptualized and executed the annual Wickie Wackie Music Festival held in Jamaica’s 8-mile Bull Bay area where incidentally Chronixx (then known simply as Jamar) made his first public performance! Hailed as part of the so-called resurgence in roots rock reggae this band has certainly piqued interest and has fans wondering if they are the new standard bearers of live authentic roots reggae music.
At pains to point out the incredibly hard work they’ve undertaken since 2015, in their first US tour, they performed in 34 cities, supporting American reggae stalwarts Stick Figure, an experience which both Kemar and Demar describe as extremely hard work but one that has its rewards in the opportunity of connecting with a diverse audience whose common thread is the love of roots music. 2017 looks to be just as hectic, with a short break in Jamaica for Christmas the band will set off again from January 24 through March 15 with Tribal Seeds on a 45 show tour. They will also perform with UB40 in the UK. An impromptu live acoustic set with Kemar accompanied by Demar on keyboards on “Splash” and “Ready for Love” was the perfect ending to an intimate and relaxed session and enforced the reasoning behind this band receiving a nomination to the Grammys.
Whether or not they win the Grammy, Kemar Bent, Demar Gayle, Delroy Hamilton, Anthony Watson and Courtland White, collectively known as Raging Fyah have already won, they’ve won and are winning the hard-earned respect of reggae purists by performing quality roots music with innovative and thoughtful lyrical content, but more importantly, they are achieving their goal of demonstrating that reggae is not just a three-chord musical expression; but by incorporating their knowledge of Beethoven, Bach and the classics learned at Edna Manley; they are composing roots reggae music innovative and timeless in nature, but still true to its origins – the heartbeat of Jamaica.

Monday, November 21, 2016

GRAMMY to Raaaastafari! Queen Ifrica Dominates Rebel Salute NY Launch

Rebel Salute 2017 is the 23rd staging of the outdoor cultural extravaganza, the brainchild of international artist Patrick “Tony Rebel” Barrett. He revealed his vision for January 2017 at Milk River Bar & Lounge in Brooklyn and was more than ably assisted in delivering that message (in order of appearance) by the likes of Ras Shilo, Bushman, Ed Robinson, Gully Bop and Queen Ifrica who also aired tracks from her new album Climb in the form of a listening/album release/mini concert.

Media was invited to hear the plans for 2017 and you could tell by the numbers in attendance that they were already fired up. Jamaica’s new Consul General to New York, Ms. Trudy Deans gave her endorsement in her address to those present. Irie Jam Radio provided live streaming of the event with commentary from Irwine Clare and music from Chris the Dub Master who kept the non-stop party vibe going.

The atmosphere was upbeat as Tony Rebel and members of his team advised the media of what the public could expect for January 13-14 in Priory St. Ann. With a line-up that includes veterans Derek Morgan, Bernard Collins from the Abyssinians, Third World, johnny Osborne, Anthony B, Ed Robinson Junior Kelly, Half Pint, Wayne Wonder, Bushman, and artists like Ras Shilo, Shevaun, Agent Sasco and Queen Ifrica, representing the younger artists blazing trails in their own right.

For the eco-friendly and adventurous, there’s a camp site where, for $40 per night, you can get back to nature; for those seeking a more luxurious experience; special deals can be had from hotel partners Cardiff Hall and The Hilton Montego Bay with the latter providing shuttle service to the site.
Patrons will certainly not be bored at the two day event, they can attend the Fashion Village with its emphasis on culture evident in the clothing, jewelry and shoes on sale and display, the abundance of food items to sample and many patrons will no doubt flock to the event to experience the so-called ‘Herb Curb’ an area designated not just to promote the smoking of weed, but also to provide a showcase for its by-products and myriad uses. This is perhaps one of the few venues in Jamaica where ganja will be openly smoked without fear of reprisal – the organizers having been granted special license. While the ganja will be smoked freely, Rebel Salute is an otherwise drug free, alcohol free, violence free and meat free exposition celebrating quality cultural music, lifestyle and heritage.


With all due respect to the artists who performed snippets of what they would be delivering in January 2017, the focus for the night was definitely on Queen Ifrica, who delivered a jaw-dropping selection of songs from her new album Climb. Performing barefooted, as has become her custom, she teased her band members and joked with the back-up singers all while unveiling an electrifying introduction to her new project. From Lioness on the Rise that had all the patrons singing along to Love is not Blind, That’s How it is Sometimes, Ask Mi Granny, Good Man, Lie Dem ah Tell Seh Jamaica Mash up to her brilliant mash-up of Let’s Act Silly, which incorporated Ed Sheeran’s megahit Thnking out Loud and Tarrus Riley’s Gimme Likkle One Drop. There was no stopping the aptly named fyah mumma who demonstrated her rapid fire spitting skills on Medical Marijuana. Definitely anthemic – the single Climb, named after the album was an inspired and inspiring piece of work. Watch out for Black Woman (scheduled for a January 2017 release) which had many thumping their approval on every available wooden surface. I hope the VP distributed album makes the Grammy nomination for 2017!

This writer is already planning for 2017 in Grizzly’s Plantation Cove, Priory, St. Ann. For more information check out