Redemption for Bob and Buju
Sunday's Redemption Live concert, staged by Digicel at Sabina Park, Kingston, was naturally laden with interpretations of Bob Marley songs as it celebrated the reggae legend's 71st birthday, which was actually the previous day.
However, several performers extended their vocal range to include material from other Jamaican popular music performers, expanding the slate of honorees.
Among the Jamaican vocalists whose songs made the cut at a concert where the turnout was not proportionate to the very low cost entry were Buju Banton, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Beres Hammond, Alton Ellis and Sugar Minott.
The respect paid to The Gargamel, as Buju is also known, was of sufficient intensity and frequency to make Redemption Live as much a tribute to the incarcerated performer as the deceased king of reggae.
Morgan Heritage's lead singer, Peetah Morgan, said it most explicitly towards the end of the family unit's stage time, after they had done Don't Haffi Dread, Down By The River and She's Still Loving Me to engage the audience, Heathen chosen as their Marley song.
"We cyaa deh a Jamaica an no pay respect to Buju. Dem a talk bout legend, there is legend alive today. He is my age group ... He is the one and only Buju Banton," Morgan said.
Gramps Morgan left his station at the keyboard to Psalm 23, recorded with Buju, substituting a name to make the song specific to the imprisoned entertainer as he sang " ... forevermore, my bredren Buju will be." Of course, he did Buju's part of the recording, getting the intonation right to rouse the audience even further.
Closer to the end of the concert, Bugle dipped into Buju's dancehall catalogue to pay his respects. After requesting, and getting, audience support for Bounty Killer, his main inspiration, Sizzla (the night's slated closing act) and Adidja Palmer, Bugle did Buju's B***y Rider, Browning and Ova Me on the 'Answer' riddim. In addition to his own Exercise, Incompatible and Rasta Party, Bugle also did Marley's Three Little Birds.
And in one lengthy band change, Stone Love Movements did an extended Buju Banton mix, which included Til I'm Laid to Rest, Untold Stories, Destiny, I Wanna Be Loved, Not an Easy Road, How Maasa God Worl' A Run and Good God of My Salvation.
Bongo Herman, in his accustomed blend of drum and percussion playing, humour and gruff vocals of popular Jamaican songs, gave an invitation to do rocksteady in Alton Ellis style. After taking a number of instruments out of his bag and playing them while exhorting the audience to say "gwaan", ending with an enamel chamber pot, slung the bag over nine shoulder to do Sugar Minott's Oh Mr DC.
Cocoa Tea, with far smoother vocals, included Gregory Isaacs' Number One and a touch of Beres Hammond in his set, along with his own Tune In and She Loves Me Now, as well as infusing well-known R & B songs on reggae rhythms. While he encouraged the audience to sing, which members of the crowd did willingly, it was clear that Cocoa Tea was upset, as he flatly said Digicel should not call him next year to do the concert. He repeated the statement in song, ad libbing the lyrics to good effect.
Andrew Tosh rode a unicycle out on stage to cheers and did a number of his father Peter's songs, starting with Pick Myself Up. Another generation of Tosh was included as Andrew's son Dre joined him on Get Up, Stand Up, which doubled as the Marley tribute.
Black Am I preceded Tosh, Kelissa's Best Kept Secret (Locked Away) was interspersed with the Marley tribute Waiting in Vain and Ikaya was in good mettle with Hard Way and Ugly Girl, paying respects to the Tuff Gong with Redemption Song.
Iba Mahr flashed his legs to show his appropriately clad ankles as he did Diamond Sox, doing Tarrus Riley's part on the remix. He also honoured Toots and the Maytals with a snatch of Bam Bam and Chakademus and Pliers by doing Murder She Wrote. Tanya Stephens was a gem with hits and quips, some of the former edited as she did not expect so many children and Boom Wuk actually dispensed with on the night. However, It's A Pity, After You and These Streets did not lose their sting.
A beaming Nesbeth brought his children out on stage for My Dream, which roused the audience time and again, Leroy Sibbles served up Party Time and bit of Marcia Griffiths' Feel Like Jumping, closing with Book of Rules. And Bugle introduced Assassin, reciprocating a favour that had been done in Miami, for Assassin to have the audience jumping to parts of Dem Guy Deh and Anywhere We Go.
I-Octane followed Bugle, with Sizzla designated to close Redemption Live 2016.
Ruff Kut did much of the music duties for the event, the Digicel Dancers moved to a Marley mix that included No Woman No Cry and Paula-Ann Porter and Tommy Cowan handled hosting duties.