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Young Lions Rule at Blue Mountain Music Festival
With the city of Kingston robed in lights and laid out at its feet, the Holywell national park was the beautiful, albeit cold, home of the inaugural Blue Mountain Music Festival, and the mountains were indeed alive with music as roots rocking Reggae clothed the hills with good vibrations. The opening night of the two-day festival featured a slew of great performances that may have secured it a place on Jamaica’s entertainment calendar.
As the night wore on the temperatures dropped and patrons began to burrow deeper into their sweaters and blankets during the intermissions but found themselves warmed by the Reggae rhythms and got to the feet for performances. Holywell went a far way in providing the Blue Mountain Music Fest with a look and feel that distinguished it from most of the over music events that pepper Jamaica’s annual roster.
The night was ably hosted by DJ Bambino, who brought hearty servings of intelligent silliness, helping to make the numerous pauses between band changes pass by a little easier.
Even so, it was one of the few occasions when those in general admission got a much better deal than those in the VIP segment. VIPs were placed at a higher vantage point but to the side of the stage. Indeed, the entire experience could have been heightened if the stage had been place on a lower tier allowing the entire venue to become a natural amphi-theatre. Additionally, the lighting and sound were just adequate.
Yet the Blue Mountain Fest’s opening night musical offerings, was more than enough to make up for the shortcomings (with the possible exception of shivering in the cold of 4:00 am, waiting for the shuttle to come, and understanding what foreigners mean by ‘wind chill factor’). The night was favoured by a strong line up of artists representing at least three generations of Reggae but who all bore the markings of being able to deliver solid performances bouyed by good music.
Saturday night’s performances opened with poetry from Abbebe Payne, Ann-Margaret Lim and Millicent Graham. With the exception of Payne who delivered a fire brand spoke word set, the poetry was a ill-suited for the night, being a bit of a disservice to the strengths of Graham’s and Lim’s work.
The poets were followed a few emerging singers, who were given more time on the roster than the state of their development deserved. This was highlighted by Matthew Ezra, whose dramatic peach suit seemed to have suggested he understood showmanship, but needs to be reminded that if you are over three years-old it is not okay to expect an audience to wait for you to tie your laces.
The result, was that the night’s main performances took a little long to get off the mark, but at approximately 10:30 pm Jah9 took the stage. By then the less tropical side of the Blue Mountains had been uncovered and it was a great time to stir the musical fires. Jah9 delivered several of the pieces from her debut album including ‘Warning’, ‘Avocado’ and the title track ‘New Name’.
The inimitable Tanya Stephens was next to the stage and she delighted the audience, who flocked to the front of the stage, with her engaging lyrics accompanied by witty banter between songs. Showing the strength of her repertoire, Stephens dipped into some of her older pieces mixed in with more current tracks including ‘Boom Ride’, ‘After You’, ‘These Streets’ and ‘It’s A Pity’.
Her tongue in cheek irreverence went over superbly with fans as in song and banter she questioned monogamy, and laughingly admitted that she spent too much time verbally beating men, but made no promise to stop. This did not mean that women were safe from her humour as she admonished them to lighten up, and not be so protective of men that no one else wants.
“Not every man is tekkable,” she declared. “Some of oonu have some untekkable man. If we even borrow him, we will bring him back,” she said.
Stephens was followed to the stage by Kabaka Pyramid, backed by his newly minted band the Bebble Rockers. Pyramid made a great follow-up to Stephens, as his songs highlighted his lyrical prowess. Pyramid delivered a solid set which suggested his musical star may as yet be nowhere near its zenith.
Pyramid’s set mixed militancy with love as her performed ‘Worldwide Love’, ‘I Alone’, ‘Liberal Opposer’ and brought the set to a strong close with ‘No Capitalist’.
Though a touch of some of the magic of their performance seemed to be missing Raging Fyah continued to keep the night’s musical fires blazing. The band delivered a solid set including fan favourites ‘Funky Reggae Party’, ‘Far Away’ and ‘Running Away’. With the title track from their debut album, ‘Judgement Day’, the band finished their serving of great reggae music.
In truth, the Blue Mountain Music Fest was an occasion when the young lions of Reggae reigned, and the current king of the pride Chronnix, who increasingly looks like a re-incarnated Peter Tosh, took to the stage. With his numerous performances that have followed in the trail of his supersonic rise to Reggae stardom, Chronixx’s skill and confidence as a performer has grown significantly.
Chronnixx delivered ‘Here Comes Trouble’, ‘Smile Jamaica’, ‘Naa Give Up’, ‘Behind Curtain’, ‘Warrior’ and ‘Lone Ras’. He made his finale particularly endearing as he mixed ‘Lone Ras’ with a touch of Super Cat’s ‘Tan So Back’.
And for many in the audience, that was a great close to the night as they filtered out of the venue. Yet more was still to come as the final act of the night Third World, with AJ Brown replacing the recently deceased Bunny Ruggs, was still to perform. It seemed that even they knew there was no time to be wasted, as so, without waiting to be introduced, they took over the microphone, bringing the night to a close.
The Blue Mountain Festival was co-produced by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust and Bombrush Records and proceeds will benefit the JCDT as well as TOK’s Guardian Angel Foundation.