Wednesday, 10 September 2014

SOUND AND SUBSTANCE: Bands have their day at the 2014 Gungo Walk Music Festival

THE RIGHT NOTE: The annual festival features a diverse bunch of new and emerging talents.

The most important ingredient to any music fest lies in the mix. TALLAWAH was reminded of this as we surveyed the wondrous scene at Saturday's Gungo Walk World Alternative Music and Arts Festival at the Edna Manley College, a well-supported shebang combining live music, film showcases, theatrical presentations, a healing village and delectable Jamaican culinary fare. But there's no denying that the most tuneful component of the event this year was the bands. They had us trekking to and fro across the college's basketball court, from the Stonebridge Stage to the Poinciana Stage.

Finding the right mix of talents, it seemed, proved no problem for the organizing committee, which managed to assemble an eclectic assortment or performers who alternately rocked and seduced the diverse crowd that swelled as day turned to dusk and dusk to nightfall.

For the most part, the performances were filled with frisson and a fusion of everything from pulsating reggae to foot-stomping funk. Fairly popular (and solidly sonic) groups like Mystikal Revolution brought a potently rhythmic energy to the stage, delivering a mix of the tender and the spiky with crowd-pleasing tunes like "Black Woman", "Divide and Rule" and "Man Ah Hustle". Keisha Patterson, in full Coachella mode, described Downstairs to us as "an amazing rock band," and her appraisal was not far off the money, given the jolting (if at times jarring) heavy metal-esque strains they rendered. Mijanne and Her Boyfriends opted for strings-infused takes on modern dancehall and electro-pop classics.

In contrast to the bombastic stylings of the aforementioned units, not to mention the youthful verve of On the Shout and UWI Pop Society, bands like Nina Karle and the Capstones, Monifa Henry and the Persons of Interest and the year-old Jah Rain and Iyah Vybz kept things refreshingly rootsy and low-key. 

Bob Marley and the Wailers, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Third World, Raging Fyah. Jamaican bands have been instrumental in taking reggae music to the masses across the island and across the waters. With these new-generation aggregations showing so much promise, the mission is clearly far from over. "Reggae belongs to the world now, and we want our sound to be just as universal," said a post-performance Conroy Walker, a founding member of the Persons of Interest, whose upcoming first album is expected to help raise their profile. "We know we have what it takes, so our aim is to keep doing good music and let the people decide where we fit into the bigger picture."

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