Everything Irie at the Irie Jam Radio 23rd Anniversary 2016 Celebration
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
As anticipated, the much talked about Irie Jam Radio 23rd Anniversary Celebration on September 4, 2016 went down in history as the first New York area event featuring "The Return Of Sizzla" staged at Roy Wilkins Park in Queens, NY. The concert hosted by the popular radio network that features Caribbean music, news and talk on WVIP 93.5FM was well orchestrated with the majority of featured artists on hand and additional surprise celebrity guests that successfully offset the absence of the two dancehall artists who did not take the stage.
Starting from the beginning, Irie Jam Radio must have a magic hotline to heaven because leading up to the event weather reports predicted a hurricane proportion storm; however, the bad weather never materialized. In fact, not one drop of rain fell from the skies and the day was mostly hot leaving attendees to sizzle, with excitement. Chatting with several attendees at the show early in the day, I learned that poor weather reports played a significant factor in deciding whether or not they would attend the celebration and subsequently, their arrival time to the day’s event was evidenced by the line for last minute ticket buyers that swelled into the late afternoon. Luckily for attendees the lines moved swiftly and by 5 PM Roy Wilkins Park filled. And, from what I could actually see from the limited media assigned vantage point but clearly hear, all the artists that took the stage did an excellent job at entertaining an audience whose whoops and cheers signified genuine excitement.
Short and sweet among the early warm artists that our cameras caught up with were BillyBoy The Jamaican Cowboy, Ky-enie, Khago, Bella Blair, Martina Startina, Tanto Blacks and KConeil along with his trio of dancers. We also caught up with and totally enjoyed performances by Lady Ann, Beniton, the Voicemail duo and Khago (who by the way did an amazing job performing four songs opening with Tun Up and closing out with ‘Hay, Hay,Hay’). Lion Melta was on hand early and later in the show for a cameo appearance with Sizzla.
EARLY WARM FIRE STARTERS (click on each photo to enlarge)
THE FIRE SEGMENT
The announcement of the Fire Segment (so named by the producers) kicked off at 5:30 with the Titanium Band. As that section of the program progressed it made for a lively afternoon of great conscious music that continually grew in excitement! The first artist up was Jahmiel who I found very appealing although his set was a bit too short leaving me feeling that I'd like to hear a full performance of his music and see more of him on stage before deciding exactly what I liked best about his performance. One thing for sure, I heard excellent content filled lyrics that captured my attention making him someone that everyone should have on their listening radar.
As expected other audience favorites who brought fire to the stage were I-Wayne who was excellent as was Anthony B, Richie Spice and Bugle. Taken individually, I-Wayne who is well-known and loved by NY audiences wore a jacket trimmed in red, gold and green that are widely recognized colors of the flag of Ethiopia and the Rastafari culture. Throughout his almost forty-minute performance he was in wonderful voice that clearly resounded throughout the park enveloping the audience with a message that he sang from his heart, directly to us; the sum total of his performance had the effect of reinforcing feelings of spiritual upliftment and increasing one's’ consciousness complemented by beautiful music. While all of his musical selections went off exceedingly well I-Wayne truly captured the audience with his song, “Can’t Satisfy Her.”
Although last year he performed on Irie Jam Radio's 22nd anniversary we don't get to see Reggae artist Bugle as a featured artist nearly often enough in the NYC area. He was amazing and came ready to rock conscious music and share a thought provoking message to the people both of which he succeeded in doing splendidly. Bugle is well known for fiery songs with heart piercing lyrics just about everyone can relate to like “What I’m Gonna Do,” “Anointed” and “Rasta Party.” As fans undoubtedly await the release of the latest great music from Bugle, one can only hope that his new releases garners more stage time in the NYC area too.
AN IRIE CROWD (click on first photo to start gallery)
Finally having no choice but to make my way into the elbow room crowd for a clearer view of the stage, I'd say that one of my favorite artists of the day was Richie Spice who gave a super-incredible performance to an audience that showed their agreement with thunderous applause. In terms of music and lyrics it's safe to say that Richie Spice is always on point musically although there have been times when I've found his on-stage performance a bit laid back. At the Irie Jam Radio celebration that was absolutely not the case as he brought his outstanding body of music along with loads and loads of energy to the stage.
Anthony B who is also popular on the NY Reggae circuit opened up with his version of Bob Marley's “Redemption Song” which was in a word, marvelous. Soon thereafter he sang two songs that had the audience cheerfully singing along namely, “Raid The Barn” and “Good Cop Bad Cop.” Anthony B's set was by comparison to some of the others of respectable duration which, at least by me, was greatly appreciated.
While the band change for Sizzla was in process, surprise guest appearances were made by top artists Shaggy, Christopher Martin, Tanto Blacks and Gully Bop that were short but certainly spiced up the day’s atmosphere with loud cheers backed by applause. And while for reasons still officially unknown at this writing, Mr Vegas and Elephant Man did not appear; however, the strong lineup that included all those great celebrity guests significantly eased the reality of their absence.
Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for and it was a spiffy looking Sizzla in a stylish dark suit topped off with a yellow carnation who took the stage kicking off a high-energy performance from start to an end that lasted a solid fifty-minutes. After eight years off the US circuit the brethren backed by the talented Gumption Band (currently accompanying him on his US tour) immediately connected with the audience and never missed a beat. Sizzla sang many of the songs we've come to love and kept the audience on their toes signing and dancing. His performance was the perfect end to a wonderful day in every regard. Congratulations to Irie Jam Radio for 23-years in the business and for yet another successful presentation.
Editors Note: Media access restrictions for many of the photographers, videographers and correspondents covering the show was an unexpected challenge and worth mentioning because it seriously affected the type of full professional coverage that Reggae Reflection and fellow journalists seek to provide to readers and followers.
This time our media passes did not allow for unencumbered front stage access leaving most on the outskirts of the VIP area or in back of the stage. Media passes also did not allow us to enter the artist area. While a handful of photographers and videographers including us were eventually allowed front stage access, it was not clear if there were additional access restrictions such as re-entering that area (which is important in going backstage in-between sets to speak with and photograph artists). As a result we remained in one area for the entire event and our correspondent and many others were relegated to the back of the stage although not to the area where artists were located. Therefore, absent from our coverage is the characteristic backstage photo highlights and artist soundbites. While a media tent was set up it was on the exact opposite end of artist area and mostly remained unvisited for photos or interviews.
Generally speaking, earlier this year improvements to at least one other NYC festival better integrated media personnel with performing artists in order to provide more complete coverage that included options for brief interviews and photo opportunities whenever possible. By sharing this constructive feedback, we are confident that organizers will take suggestions into account as they plan their next events.
A Reflection in Time
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