Tropical Storm Stays Far, Roots Vibrations Catch A Fire At Queens Stage Show

On Sunday, September 4, boom chunes reverberated from early afternoon across the pristine greens of Queens’ Roy Wilkins Park. It was Irie Jam Radio’s 23rd Anniversary and heavyweights were out in full force to celebrate. Though fallout from a tropical storm was supposed to drown out the festivities, Bobby Clarke and the Irie Jam family kept on “Holding Firm” and in the end the only thunder and lightning came from the line-up of roots rock reggae entertainers. The jewel in the crown of these royal revelries was the return of Sizzla Kalonji to the New York City stage. After enduring over eight years of the artist’s absence, being reunited never felt so good. Photos After The Jump…

Kalonji brought Bobo Hill boomshots and jams from judgment yard backed by a supporting cast that included riddim riding Rastas Anthony B, I Wayne, Richie Spice and Bugle, Jahmiel, Khago, Christopher Martin blessing us with a “Cheater’s Prayer” and appearances from legends, phenomena and latest sensations such as Shaggy, Gully Bop, Tanto Blacks and singer/Youtube comedian Bella Blair among others.

Khago has gone through trials and tribulations and many changes in the half dozen years since he buss upon the scene. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the love Khago gets when he booms his biggest chune “Nah Sell Out.” Khago reveled in the response from Roy Wilkins and moments like Irie Jam’s 23rd Anniversary must do much to help Khago carry his heavier loads. Khago even expressed that he had given up on music, but now the songs are surging.

Jahmiel, the rapidly rising star and corner stone of conscious dancehall, definitely made his mark, shedding light with his art of real life in a fashion that’s accessible and family friendly, but still fyah fi de dancehall frenzy.  In an energetic set that set a tone for fans to follow, Jahmiel showed and proved that he knows a thing or two on how to “Gain the World” with soul intact. The young lion gained New York City with track after track, and gained the favor of legendary producer Jack Scorpio of Black Scorpio in the process. Scorpio was wooed and wowed by the wise words Jahmiel bestowed between his vocal flows and was so inspired that he expressed interest in recording with young artist. High points included the aforementioned “Gain the World,” and “Where Were You.”

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I Wayne brought the high tides of his mellow vibes and distinctive vocals as he burned fyah pon Babylon’s blasphemy in a bold barrage of ballads. Not one to hold his tongue, in between numbers the lava lyricist lashed out at the corruption of cultures that conspire to conceal contamination in children’s cartoons. He stamped down pon all the bleaching and freaking in the dancehall and reflected the radiance of righteousness in a performance that included “Life Seeds,” “Don’t Worry” and “Lava Ground.” The Zion of his show, however, were the lyrics of new songs splashed pon riddims familiar from his past hits, delivered with an aura as earthy as the lava that flows from both the core of our planet, and the mist of his music.

Toward the end, the band set tripped on the set list, cueing “Can’t Satisfy Her” twice when I Wayne had other plans for a newer jam. And while the set trip teased what may have crowd pleased, I Wayne ended his set with just the opening line of his 2005 radio raver before exiting the stage. It was a move that showed and proved that in its purest forms art may not give you all you want but overwhelmingly gives you more than you need.

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Bugle blew the horn on badmind with an animated set full of gestures accentuating his efforts as he stood in stern stances and flowed his souljah soliloquies. Anthony B provided a dynamic performance that showcased his exceptional talents from his rendition of “Redemption Song” to notables such as “Mr. Heartless” and “Good Cop Bad Cop” to the legendary “Raid the Barn.” Richie Spice nice up the Irie Jam with classics from his catalogue including  “Ghetto Girl,” “Youth Dem Cold,” “ Brown Skin,” Earth A Run Red” and an a cappella of “Groovin My Girl” that had the Empresses swooning. For the most part, it was turban time as the roots rock of Rasta Reggae blessed Irie Jam with rough riffs over regal riddims. It all culminated in a climactic performance from ‘king in the jungle’ Kalonji.

Sportin’ a blue suit and turban, Sizzla steamrolled his set in a musical marathon that was a storm of songs. Prolific with hits, the Rasta was relentless as he roared through selections such as “Holding Firm” “Like Mountain”  “Why Should I” and “Mash Dem Down.” Cuts from his earlier albums and landmark LP, Da Real Thing shouted it out beyond a doubt that “We Got it Right Here.”

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He thundered as we burned out the wicked and “Trod Mt. Zion” while “Dem Ah Wonder, “ we took time to “Praise Ye Jah,”  and honor the “Black Woman and Child.” The ladies went crazy when Sizzla sang “Give Me a Try” and the energy continued to build and blaze as he shot through bangers like “Taking Over, “To the Point,” and “Dem Ah Gaze.”  It was “Just One of Those Days.” Fittingly, he ended his set with “Take Myself Away” and the take away was a Sizzla show is a runaway train.  After eight years it is still apparent that you haffi clear the tracks when this Bobo Ashanti attacks.

Photography by Robert Cooper

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