Saluting the Rebels – A Review of Rebel Salute 2017
by Kadine N. Ferguson, Entertainment Reporter
It’s another year and another Tony Rebel birthday celebration took place in the form of the signature and what must be considered one of Jamaica’s biggest and by far – one of the World’s most authentic Reggae calendar events: Rebel Salute.
The two-day event at Grizzly’s Plantation Cove in Priory, St. Ann from January 14 to 15 was a fantastic affair! But, in order to truly get a sense of the greatness of Rebel Salute 2017, here’s a run-down of the defining moments that made this stage show – centred on conscious reggae music, one to experience (at least once).
Reggae music is so beautiful – especially when listened to live and direct! On Day 1 of the two-day event, the lineup featured a number of seasoned artistes including Fanton Mojah with performances of his hit songs ‘Corruption’, ‘Only Jah Love’, ‘Nuh Build Great Man’ and ‘Hungry’ and I-Wayne with ‘Can’t Satisfy Her’, ‘Lava Ground’, ‘Life Seeds and Book Of Life’.
Lest we forget, also performing on Day 1 were the No-maddz band, Wayne Wonder and even Tony Rebel graced the audience with some of his greatest songs ‘Fresh Vegetable’, ‘Nazarene Cow’ and ‘Man fi Know Jah’. During his set, Tony Rebel sincerely thanked patrons and sponsors alike for supporting him for the 24 years since the show first began.
There also were some notable performances that are absolutely worth mentioning – including that of recently born-again Christian Marion Hall previously known as Lady Saw and US native, California based Harrison Stafford from the band Groundation.
One could observe right away the double meaning of the ‘rebel’ in the signature event’s title and the performance by reformed dancehall artiste Marion Hall epitomized just that. One might not have expected such an appearance by a born-again Christian since it seems so left-field but, identifiablly the featured artiste of Day 1, Hall graced patrons with much confidence in a beautiful blue dress, addressing through her potent gospel lyrics, questions about the sincerity of her conversion to Christendom. As a matter of fact, her songs ‘On Fire for Jesus’, ‘All For Jesus’ and ‘I Will Not Worry’ and her performance in general seemed to have – for a brief moment – morphed Rebel Salute into a gospel concert during what appeared to be a lengthy set.
As a “Rebel Saluter” bestowed with the duty to observe and internalize the experience, Hall’s performance generated two distinct but not quite unexpected responses from patrons: On the one hand, her gospel performance was so powerful and intense that Hall got patrons “in spirit” and even weeping openly. On the other hand, were some Rastafari in the general area belting ‘fire bun pon yuh white God’ during her act. As such, not only was her presence at Rebel Salute well received, it was also controversial. (Controversial in the sense that it speaks to an often not addressed schism between the Jamaican Christian community and the Rastafari community.)
In addition to this (and from a subjective point of view), also standing out on Day 1 was US born and California based Groundation’s very own roots reggae artiste Harrison Stafford. Embodying roots reggae through what seems to be an in-depth study and internalization of the genre, Stafford represented himself, and reggae music quite well. Again, highlighting the ‘rebel’ in Rebel Salute, as a Caucasian and native of the United States, Harrison’s performance stood out because of its symbolism for reggae as a highly impactful genre and social movement in a global context.
Anthony B who, after what appeared to be a little squabble with fellow artiste Tarrus Riley (who was slated to perform a full set but did not after this encounter), finally closed the show on the first night after a few band change delays at 8am Saturday morning. Many of the artists at Rebel Salute were particularly vocal about ongoing social issues – particularly with regards to the recent revelation of carnal abuse in the Moravian Church in Jamaica as well as systemic oppression of the poor – and creatively incorporated some real social commentary in their songs which any patron can admit was both admirable and exceptionally delivered.
On Day 2, the crowd was not only much larger but more responsive as there was a barrage of veteran acts including Sanchez, Cocoa Tea, Junior Kelly, Leroy Sibbles, Leroy Gibbons, Derrick Morgan and Third World. Seasoned artiste Andre Hugh Sutherland (Popcaan) also took to the stage and during his set hailed Canadian rapper Drake as ‘family fi life’.
Later, Agent Sasco graced patrons with his presence but had a noticeably short set in comparison to fellow veterans. As a matter of fact, one might have been looking forward to hearing some of his songs from his most recent album ‘Theory of Reggaetivity’ but much to the crowd’s disappointment, he did not. Despite this little glitch, like all the other performers on the lineup, Agent Sasco (aka Assassin) brought his A-game, making his set sweet, (although admittedly short).
Standing out on Day 2 was Queen Ifrica, whose local and global appeal once again manifested itself at the two-day event. Not only was Queen Ifrica clad in a beautifully made cream cape pants suit, but she was prepared to engage the minds of the patrons and this showed in her delivery of an unapologetic rendition of her hit song ‘Daddy’ in solidarity with victims of child abuse and as a form of conscious activism against perpetrators of carnal abuse in light of the Moravian Church scandal currently grappling the nation. Before Queen Ifrica closed her set on Day 2, she declared “I am not an entertainer, I’m a revolutionist.
She also performed a number of songs from her upcoming album ‘Climb’ and even used the opportunity to debut the music video for one of the album’s track list ‘Trueversation’ featuring Damian Marley. One can almost tell that Queen Ifrica is refining her brand not only for her local fans but those on the international scene. The album artwork is beautiful and even its promotion at the event seemed to have been very strategic.
Despite there being less than a handful of women artists who represented at Rebel Salute 2017 (Marion Hall, Sister Nancy, Lady G and Queen Ifrica) which highlights the androcentric foundation of reggae as a genre of music, these women held their own – so much so that, it’s almost as if the gender disparity went unnoticed by patrons.
At approximately 10am, Sunday morning, Day 2 ended with the performance of self-proclaimed King of the Dancehall and the man who confidently declares he has over a hundred number 1 hits, ‘the Doctor’ – Moses Davis. He closed the show with an assortment of songs including ‘Our Father in Zion’ which was dedicated to the incarcerated but soon to be released Buju Banton, Bounty Killer’s ‘Seek God’, some of his old hits ‘Kette Drum’, ‘Memories’, ‘Mi Nuh Like Yuh Neither’, ‘Wickedest Slam and ‘Old Dog’ after which he introduced three upcoming artists Contana, Likkle D and Baby Trish.
Somewhere along the line the King of the Dancehall at this Reggae show subtlety incorporated Destra’s ‘It’s Carnival’, perhaps in a way to wake up people who were desperately dozing off as they were lacking in sleep at this point. Exclaiming that the wait was well worth it would be a hyperbole but one could almost tell that after waiting so patiently to see Moses Davis grace the stage, the patrons were pleased.
The Herb Curb
The herb curb is one of the must see assortment of booths at Rebel Salute 2017. But, in comparison to 2016 when it first debuted, the Herb Curb was a little less exciting this year.
However, this was due to a noticeable relocation and layout of the Herb Curb as opposed to the Ital and authentic Jamaican quality products that were on display and available for purchase. To provide a bit of context, the Herb Curb debuted at Rebel Salute 2016 on a wall platform that protrudes out into the scenic Caribbean Sea.
At the Curb there was a “weed lounge” for the convenience of patrons who wanted to relax while listening to a mixture of reggae music and the Caribbean See in the background. Not only is this NOT cliché, it could be considered liberating for first timers and weed connoisseurs alike. Skipping forward to this year, The Herb Curb’s new location was further inland (on the lawns to be exact) and must have been due to the high waves that were attacking the platform resulting from the heavy winds that engulfed the event on Friday the 13th and Saturday the 14th.
Separate and apart from that, the products – mostly marijuana of varying strains – ‘Afghan Blueberry’, ‘Most Wanted’, ‘Cruise Control’, ‘Auto Pilot’ and ‘Orange Cush’ from growers of the herb – Rastafari Indigenous Village and another strain ‘Mango Berry’ from Rastafari Roots House – as well as products derived from the plant such as ganja face bars were on display.