I attended the Manifesto Jamaica festival two weekends ago and was impressed with the level of organisation, the sophistication and breadth of activities and the sheer enthusiasm and commitment displayed by their volunteers and management team.
This organisation, in its short life-span, has taken its commitment to empower inner-city youths by giving them the kind of skills-training which will not just give them basic qualifications and experience for the working world, but will go a far way in re-socialising those who have been impacted by the programme as well as re-orienting their mindset.
It is unfortunate that other than Director of Culture Sydney Bartley, I did not see other representatives from the public sector or captains of industry and commerce for whom, I'm sure, this festival would have been an inspiration if they had attended.
That being said, however, I wish to highlight in particular the concert held in the Vera Moody Concert Hall on Saturday night and the Evening of Poetry held at the dance auditorium on the Sunday night. Mutabaruka, Tanya Stephens and Cherry Natural really did themselves, and Jamaica, proud with their poetry on the Saturday night. But, there were some Jamaican Canadians who also performed at this poetry session and their perspective, given the race issues that they have to contend with in that society, revealed the continuing struggle of blacks in Canada against a system that is stacked against them.
The Uprising Roots Orchestra's performance could only be described as awesome. The addition to the group of the horn section and Bo-Peep on rhythm guitar, has truly transformed the band into one of the best sounding local bands in Jamaica presently, and by the end of their performance the entire audience was in a trance. This band is now ready to conquer the world!
Edna Manley had their graduation ceremony on Saturday November 22 at The Little Theatre. I had the pleasure of witnessing their rehearsals for this function on the previous Thursday and Friday, and was totally fascinated and pleased by the concept of Pierre Lemaire and the arrangements of the musical director Michael 'Ibo' Cooper. They were able to take A Night in Tunisia on a trip through genres ranging from classical, to jazz, to dancehall, so seamlessly weaving the styles together one hardly knew where the actual transitions took place. They were also able to stunningly marry the more stringent European influences to our indigenous sounds, art, and movement.
It is a little known fact that many of the current crop of Jamaica's top, popular bands and artistes, attended and/or graduated from the Edna Manley School of Music; Romaine Virgo, C-Sharp, Raging Fyah, Uprising Roots, Further Notice, Chevaughn, Shereita, Dubtonic Kru, Roots Underground, Diana Rutherford and Warren McPherson (who got the highest marks for the grade 10 classical piano exams) granting him a trip to Winnipeg for a Master Class a few years ago).
Many graduates of Edna Manley have told me that the portion of their success attributable to their tutelage at the college under the mentorship Ibo Cooper; they think of the school as having two phases, BC (Before Cooper) and AC (After Cooper). One student actually said he was about to leave the school because of the direction he saw himself taking was not being fostered by the previous atmosphere of all classical/jazz, all the time.
Last Saturday, I had the most exhilarating night of live music while attending the Bands Incorporated Concert at Lindsay Avenue. The four bands on the lineup, Blue Grass in the Sky, Roots Underground, Dubtonic Kru and Raging Fyah are four of the top performing groups currently in Jamaica and each has its own distinct sound and vibe.
Raging Fyah stood out on Saturday night with a performance that was second to none. The crowd would not let them leave and demanded two encores before they allowed the band to leave the stage.
The following day we drove over to Asante Adonai in Winefield, St Ann for Jimmy's Jam, and I am certainly glad that I did not miss this event. Even though the attendance was less than a hundred people and the rain fell throughout the afternoon, this did not have a great impact on the recorded and live musical program. DJ Afifa played two excellent sets featuring Jimmy Hendricks, Led Zeppelin and many other famous guitar-driven hits from various genres of music which led to lively discussions, debates, arguments that just added to the sheer enjoyment of the afternoon. Then we had a live performance from an impromptu band featuring Omar Francis & Maurice Gordon on guitars; Shurwayne Thompson on bass; Akil Krram and Shane Campbell on drums. They literally brought the hills alive with the sounds of music.