Calabash opening night delivers with live entertainment
The moon, high in the sky, glistened on Treasure Beach Friday night as the Calabash International Literary Festival returned to St Elizabeth after a five-year hiatus. Moving ‘For-Word’ into the three-day event, Friday Night’s Calabashment: Live and Direct event ended day one on a high note as music and the spoken word came together in the most perfect and entertaining way.
The venue that has been the home of the festival since its very first staging was buzzing with laughter and conversation, but as soon as the night’s first performer Imeru Tafari hit the stage, all eyes were fixed on him as he used the opportunity to introduce new music.
It was his first time performing on the Calabash stage, but according to him, the vibe was impeccable.
“You can tell that these people love music and understand music and writing so I got a real response of internalisation. You can tell the crowd internalised my songs. It was a pleasant vibe and I have experienced things like this before, but not in this style,” he told The Gleaner.
Imeru Tafari previewed his upcoming track Vibrations, featuring Chronic Law and Popcaan, much to the crowds’ approval and rounded out his set with his hit track, Elevate. The cheers from the patrons, who sat attentively during the performance signalled a job well done and he was grateful for the chance.
“It is extremely important [a platform like Calabash] because if it is featuring young artistes like me and Ras-I, it is an opportunity for the younger generation to blend in with the ones who understand the music more because it is very mature crowd and we got an opportunity to create a connection between the older and the younger [generation]. It is always a pleasure to see things like that and at this calibre, it is a great feeling,” he disclosed.
Up next onstage was singer Ras-I, who raised the energy by inviting the seated audience to get on their feet and dance during his album’s title track, Kingman. Though many might not have been familiar enough with the words to sing along, his positive and inviting energy onstage captivated them and they rocked to the beat regardless. When he did one of his more popular tunes, Somewhere Wonderful, the patrons released their inhibitions and continued dancing along. Drenched in sweat, he deemed his first performance in St Elizabeth a shining success.
But it was veteran dancehall artiste Tanya Stephens that took the show. Her fans drew closer to the stage, some with phones in hand, hoping to capture the moment and some just hoping to get the best view. Her performance progressed like that of chapters in a book that told the story of love and love lost. The tracks, such as Boom Wuk and These Streets, had the audience lost in a musical trance and her narration jolted them to reality as they laughed at her wit.
Speaking with The Gleaner she noted that Calabash is always a great experience.
“It is always a good vibe. Because of the kind of festival that Calabash is, it always attracts people who want deeper stories. It is not really the superficial audience that comes here. Calabash attracts people who are into vibe and earthiness, so it is a great place for me. I don’t have to be anybody else, but myself,” she said.
She concluded her set with the track It’s A Pity and the crowd could not have been more pleased to hear it live and though it has been over two decades since it’s release, it was almost as if they were hearing it for the first time.