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Blands Blaze at Arts in the Park

Shaggy introduces 7yr-old Xylophone at Arts in the Park

If there had been doubt about the existence of a growing pool of young talented musicians and singers, the idea was laid to rest when the Ministry of Tourism presented Arts in the Park, hosted by Shaggy, at Hope Gardens on Sunday, February 24, 2013. Shaggy was a decent host, despite a few too many 'It wasn't me' jokes.

When the show began in the early afternoon, the grounds were sparse, but as the evening wore on patrons trickled then eventually flocked to the lawns presenting a fair  sized audience for the numerous bands who had gathered. In truth, it was not so much the crowds these young musicians sought to thrill but the recording industry executives whom the ministry had brought into the country to see them perform. And with these potential high stakes on the line, most of the bands brought out their ‘A’ game and then some.

Nomaddz entrances their audience at Arts in the ParkIn the early hours of the afternoon the sounds of Ska Rebirth filled the venue with the brassy sounds of ska. The majority of the show, however, would be dedicated to variations of roots reggae, though with a healthy serving of rock-guitar riffs.

While the bands were the main feature of the event, during band changes a range of singers, largely talents waiting for a break on the local stage were presented. This ranged from seven year-old Xylophone to acts with some amount of recognition such as VC and Tessanne. Indeed, Tessanne’s presence among the “filler” acts underscored the glaring absence of female performers on the show and is an indictment of either the organizers or the state of the music or both.

Pentateuch was among the early to take the Protoje and Indiggnation was energizedstage, delivering a set throbbing with heavy drum and bass rhythms. Rootz Underground, led by the unceasingly energetic Stephen Newland, would follow with their blend of roots reggae with a hint of rock.

Despite the cooling afternoon, the temperature then swiftly rose with the arrival of Nomaddz who brought fans to their feet screaming their appreciation even before they uttered their first word. By the time the band, who style themselves as presenting ‘bongo music’ had unleashed their “bongo man” and delved into ‘Mountain Lion’ they had the audience eating from their hands. In their inimitable style which puts forward their own brand of braggadocio, they were the only band to have something of a costume change during their performance.

The high level of entertainment continued with the arrival of Protoje and the Indiggnation band. Protoje, who recently launched his sophomore album The 8 Year Affair, started pulling on Sizzla Kalonji’s ‘Just One of Those Days’ before segueing into his won material delivering ‘Who Dem a Programme’ and ending with the poignant ‘Kingston Be Wise’ which tackles the Tivoli Gardens massacre and the systems of ignorance that perpetuate it.

Raging FyahDi Blueprint Band the currently title holders of Best New Band from the Global Battle of the Bands continued to hone their performance skills delivering a blend of reggae, R&B and pop. They were also joined by Denyque who recently recorded a collaboration with them. The band presented an entertaining set with its pop focus varied significantly from the majority of the other performances. Their heavy dependence on the auto-tune effect during this performance also differentiated them.

The reggae fires continued to burn when Ragin Fyah took over the stage again to excited screams of adoring fans. Their set included fan favourites ‘Far Away’ and the ballad ‘Judgement Day’ which brought their stirring performance to an end. Tessanne

It was then time for C-Sharp to take over and they did so pulling on Peter Tosh’s ‘Equal Rights’ to make a strong opening. The band then delivered some of their original material before returning to another reggae classic, this time ‘Book of Rules’. Interestingly, rather than ending with a song the band delivered Jamaica’s National Pledge.

Chronixx who recently shot up the popularity charts closed the show with the Zinc Fence Band. The young roots singer delivered a strong set which underscored his quick rise through the ranks.

BThe sounds of Chronnixx and the Zinc Fence Band brought the evening to a closey then, night had long descended and the gardens were swallowed in darkness. But as the audience gathered shoes, igloos, blankets and chairs it was evident that Arts in the Park had been a stirring night of roots rocking reggae music.