The 25th anniversary staging of Reggae Sumfest (put on by Downsound Entertainment and Red Stripe) lived up to expectations, delivering two nights of electrifying performances and non-stop party vibes that left the thousands of patrons feeling good. Here, TALLAWAH highlights 10 of the festival’s bonafide watercooler moments:
Best Male Performance: Richie Stephens & the Ska Nation Band
Refreshing and full of sonic blasts from the past, Richie’s lively 40-minute stint with the 20-piece Italian band made the vintage and the modern come together in exuberant, pitch-perfect harmony. Delivering classics from the ska era, a few of his own well-loved hits and choice Italian cuts (a stellar “O Sole Mio” included), the showbiz pro, bandmates and dancers, whipped the crowd into a jubilant celebration bolstered by timeless “foundation music.”
Best Female Performance: Queen Ifrica
“You know that Queen Ifrica is not an entertainer; ah war mi come fi war.” That said, the militant, barefooted lyricist ignited the venue with her signature mix of hard-hitting rhetoric, social commentary and the big tunes that have made her a fixture on radio playlists and won her legions of fans. She called for renewed respect for national heroes like Miss Lou and challenged the “Black Woman” to reclaim her rightful place on the throne, before closing off with her latest call-to-action gem “Climb.”
Best Stage Props: Spice’s queen-size bed and ladies-in-waiting
The dancehall vixen and queen of surprises opened her set by being transported centrestage on an enormous bed surrounded by robe-clad females. For a live rendition of “Under the Sheet,” you have to bring the boudoir to the people.
Most Stunning Backdrop: Stephen Marley
Concert audiences always enjoy appealing visuals, and the 7-time Grammy winner served up a dazzling feast throughout his set, showcasing strong, hyperchromatic imagery (African lions, landscapes, abstracts) that served to elevate the roots-rockin-reggae sounds that he and his band delivered.
Best Outfit: Beenie Man
The king of the dancehall has a wonderful relationship with his stylist (he’s a keeper!) because he’s never less than impressively turned out for his headline-making appearances. The grey-and-black three-piece he chose for his Sumfest performance was next to flawless. Your eyes never grew tired following him up and down the stage as he worked and worked the look. Show off!
Best Ego Moment: Beenie Man
“I shall not be moved.” That was more or less Beenie’s firm response when he got the wrap-up signal from stage manager Worrell King in the early hours of Sunday morning. The Doctor went on to complain that he was initially informed that he would have graced the stage at around 4:00am, but he didn’t go on ‘till after 7. “I have 187 songs,” he said, “and I want to perform at least 50 for the people.”
Best Fireworks Display: Sean Paul
By his own admission, it’s been too long since SP has given a major performance at home, having been touring the globe for the past 3 years! He brought the curtains down on his high-energy show with a round of pyrotechnics that lit up the night sky for a few minutes, exemplifying his determination to make his long-awaited Sumfest return a truly memorable one.
Most Outstanding Young Act: Chris Martin
Has Christopher Martin grown a few inches? It seems so, but what’s absolutely certain is that his stagecraft has taken on thrilling new dimensions. He was among the most well-received acts on Night 2, working with a band of all-white-clad musicians to deliver the crowd-pleasing hits – from “Cheater’s Prayer” and “Paper Loving” to “Magic” and “Big Deal.”
Best Love Song Performance: Jah Cure’s “Unconditional Love”
Mr. Alcock has recorded dozens of tracks that speak to matters of the heart with the requisite heft, but none packs the emotional punch of “Unconditional Love,” a sweeping reggae-soul anthem that hasn’t lost its power. Closing out his hugely enjoyable set on Sunday morning, the singer and his competent background vocalists blessed the crowd with a vocal climax that was nothing short of spine-tingling.
Best Dancing Side-show: Ding Dong and the Ravers
You have to prepare yourself before Ding Dong and his crew hit the stage. The audience’s young and young-at-heart patrons lost themselves in the blizzard of dancehall moves (and the songs that popularized them) during a sweat-inducing set that showed why Ding is still king when it comes to modern dancehall excitement.