A Bob Andy experience
Awesome tribute to the Jamaican singer/songwriter
You see the more you give to life
Is the more you’re gonna get from life So go on and give
Don’t count the cost
And the less you give to life
Is the less you’re gonna get from life So save your dough
And your soul might be lost
Life — Bob Andy
THESE words penned by legendary Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob Andy truly came to life on Friday night as singers and players of instruments came together for a magnificent tribute concert to honour this giant of the local music industry.
Bob Andy’s words and music reverberated throughout the Karl Hendrickson Auditorium at Jamaica College in St Andrew, as a slew of Jamaican artistes both old and young, took to the stage to deliver their renditions of songs written or recorded by Andy.
The event, organised by the Bob Andy Song Foundation, was truly a shot in the arm for the entertainment offerings for the more ‘mature’ audience, but this ‘big people’ night could have been equally enjoyed by all ages.
The organisers were mindful of crossing generations and this was reflected in the mix of artistes who were asked to take to the bandstand.
It is not often that the likes of a Big Youth, Freddie McGregor, Myrna Hague and Ken Boothe can share equal billing with ‘young uns’ — Protojé, Natel, Cezar and Denyque. But such is the magic of Bob Andy’s music, and on Friday night it was sung, recited as poetry, played and danced to with equal enjoyment.
Bob Andy, born Keith Anderson, is said to have been greatly influenced by the sounds of jazz and during his early days with the iconic Studio One label while working with renowned musician Jackie Mittoo. The jazz influence is clear in a number of his pieces, and Friday’s concert opened with an ode to this musical genre.
Jamaican master drummer Desi Jones and his congo band provided backing for jazz pianist Dr Kathy Brown on Sun Shines For Me and Della Manley’s haunting vocals were perfect for You Don’t Know Me But, when jazz diva Myrna Hague took to the stage to deliver Honey, her rich vocals was smooth — like honey flowing on a pane of glass — and this earned one of the night’s biggest rounds of applause. Jazz guitarist Maurice Gordon also delivered an emotionally charged rendition of Desperate Lover.
Such is the depth and breadth of Andy’s lyrics that dub poet Mutabaruka could create a poetic collage using four of his work, with the refrain coming from the monster hit Feeling Soul.
Throughout the night as the performers showered praise on Andy through his own work, members of the audience could be heard remarking, "he wrote that song too?"
And the great performances of wonderful music kept coming: Jeffery Starr and Chai with Really Together (originally recorded by Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths); Dean Fraser blew the audience away with Constellation — the most recent track penned by Andy for Dominican opera star Marie Claire; Pam Hall confessed that she had never performed Life Could Be A Symphony, but one would have never known as she sang, scatted and ad libbed, to great effect.
The tight programme flowed with performances including Tony Rebel with Super Powers; Luciano on Give Thanks, Nadine Sutherland who danced up a storm and sang away with Feel Like Jumping.
It was heart-warming to see Andy’s contemporaries — Ken Boothe, Freddie McGregor and Big Youth. But no tribute to Bob Andy could have been complete without Marcia Griffiths who paid her respects with It’s Impossible and Crime Don’t Pay, She announced that it was also Bob Andy’s birthday and led Stevie Wonder’s arrangement of Happy Birthday.
The night was made more special through the performances of the young Jamaican artistes many of whom were not born when Andy wrote or recorded many of the tracks.
Cezar opened the show with a crisp rendition of Life; The quartet Soul For Soul brought tight harmonies to Love This Life; Dwight Richards’ vocals and trumpet spoke volumes on My Time, and the now blond Denyque showed maturity as she poured her heart out in Desperate Lover. But, it was Chavaughn Clayton who brought the heat when he chanted Fire Burning, earning a salute from band master for that segment, Dean Fraser. One of the night’s touching moments occurred when young artiste Protojé leapt from the stage following his performance of Too Experienced and gave "Uncle Bob" a warm embrace.
The night’s guest of honour, Bob Andy, would grace the stage twice delivering an emotional rendition of the 1982 track Friends and for the finale in which he was joined by the entire cast on the hit I’ve Got to Go Back Home, which earned a standing ovation
Andy told the audience, "I am searching my mind to find a moment in which I was happier, and I can find none."
— Richard Johnson