Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Live show breathes new life into Jamaican music - We’re in a new era of reggae music, say overseas ­performers

Published:Monday | August 19, 2019 | 12:07 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Veteran vocalist Ken Boothe holds a note during his performance at Jamaica Live.
Veteran vocalist Ken Boothe holds a note during his performance at Jamaica Live.

Jamaica Live, David White’s lively production, was illuminated by an astonishing dominant performance from international guests Don Dada and Seed Under from South Africa and Bonafide, a Jamaican reggae band based in Las Vegas. White also graced the stage as his alter ego, ‘Skill’, along with his brother Phillip, aka ‘Phillipidon’, and ­together, they showcased the best of the ’80s and ’90’s.

The first of the Jamaica Live concert series happened last Saturday at The Serengeti, Hope Zoo, in an intimate setting. Up-and-coming reggae artiste, Bless-I, set the tone for the evening, which, despite getting off to a late start with a small turnout, was full of life. Second on the running order were Don Dada and Seed Under. The chemistry was mysterious and their voices merged without fault. With the support of the Reggae Powerhouse Band, the South African performers shared five of their best collaborations and deep-cutting tracks and, of course, a little bit of opinion.

Waving the flag of Zimbabwe and speaking of upliftment of the people, nations coming together, and ‘sumuza’, which means ‘to move forward or rise up’, Don Dada struck a familiar nerve with the message then tempered the flame with his rhythmic flow.

“We are here tonight to rise up for reggae music,” said Don Dada. Combined with Seed Under’s traditional dance moves, their music certainly motivated the audience to move, even when they could not understand some of the lyrics sung in the artistes’ native tongue.


The tracks that followed, including Message from Afrika, another tune of unending positive energy, and Jah Is Good, currently distributed by Tuff Gong International, got the audience’s approval.

Veteran vocalist Ken Boothe came with the mellow energy that was expected, while long-time entertainer Esco Da Shocker entered the stage voicing the 2005 dancehall track that provoked the ‘tuck in yuh belly’ craze. He expressed that Jamaica Live was a platform on which he could show a different side of himself but said that it did not give him an excuse to forget where he was coming from. It tickled the interest of the crowd as he moved into a melodic mood for singles Ultimate, Sailing and Pass the Kush.

By the time Bonafide, a group of five brothers, hit the stage, the audience was in tune with the direction of Jamaica Live, to ­visually and aurally capture ­quality live music and create a platform for talents who not only come from the island but who share a similar vision. Recognised in 2018 by the United States Congress and ­popular for the track Leaving Come The Morning, a sweet-sounding collaboration with Vybz Kartel, the group was one of the anticipated acts.

Following their performance, lead singer Donovan ‘Junior Roots’ Stephens told The Gleaner, “Reggae is a big thing everywhere that we perform, but we’re in a new era of reggae where the root of the music is finding its way back into the spotlight. It was a great vibe, but the difference with Jamaican audiences is that they are tougher until they get to know you. But we are grateful to be part of a new venture supporting live reggae music.”

Zareb, Conrad Crystal, Suga Roy and the Fireball Crew approached the stage with a different attitude. As if to counteract the residual anxiety that comes with closing a show, Suga Roy literally jumped on stage and climbed the trusses, bringing a different kind of vivacity to the fore that surprised even his own musical compadres watching from stage level.

After the show, White said, “I have always been taught it takes small steps to make big ones. This is marked in tonight’s turnout.” He is looking to recreate the intimate atmosphere for the 11 live shows that follow until they culminate on a much larger scale with a two-day festival near the end of 2020.