Wednesday, 19 February 2014

IN THE OPEN: Arts in the Park spotlights live music, the spoken word with a dose of foreign flavour

GROUP DYNAMICS: Members of Tribe Sankofa in performance at the event on Sunday.

The North Lawns of Devon House on a Sunday afternoon. Veteran poet-percussionist M'Bala is working the stage following a rousing intro from MC Jerry Benzwick. The mouth-watering aroma of freshly jerked chicken is carried by the cool breeze. Over 25 booths and white tents adorn the property. Patrons walk around the venue taking in the rich cultural sights and sounds. 

Such was the eclectic scene at Arts in the Park, which effectively blended the performing arts and the great outdoors with a dose of Devon House hospitality and wholesome family entertainment (spanning poetry, song and even live band sounds) delivered by a mix of established and well-known acts (M'Bala, Tribe Sankofa, A-dziko Simba) and emerging talents you ought to know (kreativ aktivis Randy McLaren, songbird Sevana and band-on-the-rise From the Deep, among several others.) 

The Jamaican contingent gave solid accounts which went over well with the crowd that only swelled as the evening wore on, but the most feverish response was reserved for a Korean posse comprised of pop-reggae acts boasting names like Dr. No, Skull, Donnie and Ha-Ha, who warbled playful, comical interpretations of Marley tunes like "No Woman No Cry" and "One Love." Apparently, these Korean natives have quite a Jamaican following, several of whom came bearing placards and cheered loudly at the front of the stage. 

Still, the event's best moments were thanks to the rhythmic stylings of From the Deep (hailing from the bloodline of the Mystic Revealers) and the ensemble effort of Tribe Sankofa, who gave a powerful word-song-dub presentation in tribute to our literary forebears (Claude McKay, Vera Bell) while never losing that uniquely modern edge that makes them a standout act among the groups that regularly bring impassioned live performances to the arts scene in the capital.

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