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Nomaddz New Album Roars to Life at Countryside
“They have moved from just being dub poets,” says Debbie Bissoon, host of the album launch for Sly and Robbie Presents Nomaddz, at the Countryside Club in Kingston. Although a possibly unintended slur about dub poets lay hidden under the surface of Bissoon’s statement, it certainly rings true, because Nomaddz in no single thing, being far too inventive to fit into any traditional models.
Yet, Sly and Robbie Presents Nomaddz certainly marks a decisive step toward the mainstream without losing their eclectic inventiveness that makes that a treat to watch. Additionally, as with the exception of Peart who brings a chameleon vocals that moves from the sultry to the comedic, poetry or rather spoken word remains their major mode of delivery.
Herbie Miller, Curator at the Jamaica Music Museum aptly contextualized the album and was a welcome addition to the launch, despite the restiveness of the audience who wanted him to hurry from the stage so they could get a healthy dose of the Nomadd-ness.
“This is an exciting moment,” Miller said, explaining that Sly and Robbie are two of his all time favourite artists while Nomaddz are among his favourite contemporary artists. He went on to describe Nomaddz as “avant pop”, noting that they present an attitude that both an eclectic response and a continuation of Jamaica’s musical traditions.
“[The album] expands the langue of reggae music into theatre arts,” Miller said, giving the slapping the proverbial nail squarely on the head. One of the distinctive elements of Nomaddz is their theatricality, as each member is an accomplished actor in his own right with experience on the Jamaican stage. Additionally, Sheldon Shepherd and Everaldo Creary have both had leading and supporting roles in major films, with Shepherd earning a Best Actor Award at the American Black Film Festival (2012) for his role in Better Mus Come.
Their dynamic performance at the launch indicated that although they may be trodding closer to the mainstream, they are doing so without losing their edge and the semi-improvisational nature of their performances.
Fellow member of the Reggae Revival, Protoje also delivered a brief tribute.
“I always wanted to be a part of something special and that night I saw something that blew my mind,” Protoje revealed about the first night he saw Nomaddz perform. He explained that himself, Nomaddz and Jah9 grew together through multiple performances at Wicky Wacky, honing their performance skills and learning from each other.
Nomaddz finally arrived on the stage to enthusiastic applause, and after a theatrical set-up, which included Shepherd making a “brew” while the others plugged in their instruments, they opened with ‘Shotta’. The love song ‘Romance’ followed.
“This one is the panty-dropper,” shouted a woman in the audience.
“Drop dem yes,” Peart responded.
‘Romance’ signals the change in direction and the arrival of more ‘song’ elements to their pieces. Shepherd explained that it was actually the song that Peart had used to audition for Sly and Robbie, and therefore the catalyst for the album. The screams erupting from the audience suggested it had been a good choice.
One of the night’s most enjoyable moments, and indeed it was a night filled with them, came with the arrival of Marcia Griffiths to the stage and the lively and electric delivery of ‘Electric Boogie’.
“I can cross that one off my list now,” said a beaming Shepherd after the performance.
The evening’s performances highlighted the dynamic nature of their music which bears the markers of multiple influences which they mix and blend at will. So, they presented a version of ‘Ganga Stain’ which was preceded by a hilarious parody of ‘Pass It On (It Only Takes a Spark’ that had the audience roaring with laughter.
If the launch is anything to go by, the combination of Nomaddz and Sly and Robbie is a match made in Reggae heaven, allowing the Bongo band to take their material to a higher level of musicality. It was a vibrant, energetic evening that highlighted that Nomaddz are a group of dynamic performers and the band has more to offer than the addictive line “poo-pukku-poo”. The album will make an interesting addition to the Jamaican music landscape.
Sly and Robbie Presents Nomaddz was launched at the Countryside Club, Kingston, Jamaica on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.