by Michael Barnett, Senior Entertainment Reporter

Jesse Royal - Benjamin Asamoah photo
Jesse Royal – Benjamin Asamoah photo

Due to circumstances beyond the control of the South Florida Caribbean Business Magazine team we were unable to reach Montego Bay for Dancehall night (July 16) of Reggae Sumfest 2015, however despite this we were able to make both International nights, which proved to be more entertaining than many pundits had forecasted.

International Night -1

The team arrived to Reggae Sumfest 2015 on Friday night (July 17) while the band ‘Raging Fyah’ was on stage, and by all accounts it was clear that they had the then half-filled venue in a melodic trance. I must say that I have seen this band, which was merely a backing band a few years ago grow from strength to strength. They now have an impressive catalogue and their major stand out hit, “Judgement Day” is undoubtedly a timeless classic. When the group performed this tune towards the end of their repertoire, this really got the crowd rocking. Another notable tune was the tune “Jah Glory” off their recent album – ‘Destiny.’ Raging Fyah are a welcome addition to the new generation of Reggae artistes and act as a source of reassurance to Reggae Purists such as myself that “Reggae Music” will hold firm in Jamaica for at least another generation.

After Raging Fyah departed the stage there was a short intermission and then the audience were

Kabaka Pyramid - Benjamin Asamoah photo
Kabaka Pyramid – Benjamin Asamoah photo

greeted with Keznamdi, a young reggae lion that has hit the scene recently. “High Grade Marijuana” was the notable track for this artist, who has become the latest addition to the so-called “Reggae Revival” artists. Jesse Royal was on next  and really got the crowd rocking when he performed his anthem song – “Modern Day Judas (Back-Biters).

On next (and with a great amount of anticipation) was Kabaka Pyramid. And I have to say he certainly didn’t disappoint. Kabaka, who arguably has been in the shadow of Chronixx for the last couple of years has finally come into his own, combining his powerfully conscious lyrics with true stagemanship and prowess. His tunes of note being “Never Gonna be a Slave”, “No Capitalist”, and of course  “ Well Done (Well Done Mr. Politician Man),”    Not only was Kabaka able to captivate the audience with his lyrics, but very notably he did so with his overall performance swinging and swaying in syncopation with true heart-beat Reggae music.

Several artists performed after Kabaka; the Hip Hop artists, Common and TI, who were soon followed by Cocoa Tea. However for me Kabaka was the highlight of International Night-1 and the true headliner of the show. Common and TI definitely appealed to the young Hip Hop heads that were in the audience, but never really made an impression on me to be honest.

By the time the Hip Hop segment of the show was over and Cocoa Tea had made his entrance on stage, most of the patrons, (unfortunately for him), had left and I couldn’t help wondering whether what I perceived to be a truncated performance by him was as a result of this.

International Night -2

Beenie Man - Benjamin Asamoah photo
Beenie Man – Benjamin Asamoah photo

This night had just a few highlights for me in terms of artists, but essentially brought home to me that quality beats quantity every time. Although the magazine crew got to the show relatively early on Saturday night (July 18), the show never really got started for me until L.U.S.T. took the stage.   L.U.S.T. which stands for the artists Lukie-D, Thriller-U, Singing Melody and Tony Curtis are an extremely powerful reggae quartet. Individually each artist can more than hold a note. So when you combine all four artists not only do you have melody and harmony, you have something approaching divine sweetness. Some may talk about the land of milk and honey, but I would say after listening to this group’s captivating vocals for just a few minutes, one is transported there in spirit if not in body. Notable tunes that this unique reggae combo performed were their big hit “Just As I Am”, the cover of Air supply’s 1985 hit song, as well as other big songs, “Inspiration”, and “Sweetness.”

L.U.S.T. notably brought the crowd into a zone in my opinion, such that when the highly anticipated

Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson graced the stage after a short performance by an artist touted as Yazz the greatest, the Sumfest crowd was in a state of ecstasy. Jennifer belted out hit songs such as “Pocketbook”, “Bring Back the Music”, and “No One Gonna Love You.”  The highlight song in her set was of course “Spotlight” a song that she performed interestingly enough with Jamaican songbird, Alison Roberts. When Hudson hits certain notes, one can only be mesmerized by her soulfulness. Her notable new slimmed down image has not taken away in the slightness from her unofficial ranking as Soul Sister Number -1. When she left the stage (although having performed for something like an hour), nobody felt like they had had enough of her. Despite passionate cries for an encore from much of the audience, sadly Jennifer did not return. All said and done, nobody could say that they had not just experienced a most unforgettable performance. The Jennifer Hudson performance was what on balance would define the International Night package for 2015 in my estimation, and despite workman performances from Christopher Martin (who was next on stage), and an energetic performance from self-styled  King of the Dancehall, Beenie Man to close International Night -2, it was Jennifer Hudson who had come and conquered, and etched her voice and her soulfulness onto the hearts, minds and souls of the Reggae Sumfest 2015 who were able to catch her performance.