Saturday, 25 June 2016

WHEN IT HITS: Sonic power, bands galore deliver the goods at Fete de la Musique

MUST BE THE 'MUSIQUE': Established and emerging acts got their shine at this year's event. (below) Small and company.

Apparently, Jamaica’s French connection, at least through our cultural association with the Alliance Française in Kingston, has been bolstered by events such as the fast-growing Francophone Film Festival (held every March) and initiatives like the annual Fete de la Musique, which has been around since 1982!

Recently renewed with splendid, tuneful results, it is a live music bash with a power-packing punch. From rootsy reggae to jazz and swing to rock-fusion stylings, Musique delivers an unforgettable mélange of sounds, largely delivered big-band style. Hosted this past Sunday at Lady Musgrave Road’s India House, the 2016 incarnation assembled a mix of established and emerging acts, who brought rhythmic verve and highly commendable artistry to the main stage.

Taking us to musical seventh heaven were Seretse Small & Friends, an aggregation made up of such veterans as guitarist Maurice Wilson, Desi Jones (the drummer extraordinaire), Adrian Hemans (on keys) and crooner Harold Davis (also jamming on keys). Their take on Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” was full of melodic instrumentation that truly put the sizeable audience in the mood to groove and swoon. 

Later raising the tempo and switching up the pace, Davis brought his remarkable vocal skills to a rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon,” a slice of righteous jazz-swing fervour that had Yvonne McCalla-Sobers dancing up a storm front-of-stage. The piece deserved the resounding applause that greeted it at the end.

The band’s lush musicality continued with a fascinating treatment of Toots & the Maytals’ “54-46,” which felt a bit dub-heavy, but Small’s masterful command of the material (his spiky guitar riffs stealing the spotlight) went a far way in making the performance another clear winner.

Seretse Small & Friends were a tough act to follow, of course, but Rebel Nation, led by competent lead singer Minori (a songstress with brassy contralto vocals) did their absolute best to make a solid impression. Their uplifting pieces “No More Worries” and “Keep Working” scored high marks.

Meanwhile, a succession of crowd-pleasing bands followed, the best of the lot being Earth Warrior and the Earth Sounds Band, Kamau Ihmotep and company and vibrant young Rastafarian Royal Blue and his backing band, a solid unit made up of recent School of Music graduates. It’s worth mentioning that with so many bands emerging from that institution of late, events like Fete de la Musique offer great opportunities for much-needed exposure.

Overall, Fete de la Musique 2016 was a musical extravaganza with a lot going for it – high energy and crowd-pleasing party vibes, sonic power and a touch of artsy French living.

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