Acts open Jamaica's songbook

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

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THE fact that February is being celebrated as Reggae Month may have influenced the majority of the acts on Sunday's annual musical variety show, Dwight Richards and Friends, to include the genre in their sets.

Act after act dug deep into the country's songbook to deliver classics which thrilled the capacity audience at Stella Maris Church Hall in St Andrew. The yearly event, which is used to celebrate Richards' birthday, is a fundraiser for various charities. This year, part proceeds will go to Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre in St Catherine, Jamaica's lone prison for women.

The treat in local music began with musician Ibo Cooper. The former Third World keyboardist dropped a brilliant, tender interpretation of Dennis Brown's Love Has Found Its Way, accompanied by vocalist Serena Constantine. He then called on his former bandmate Prilly Hamilton for Now That We Found Love, which drew cheers from the audience. If that wasn't enough, his Latin-inspired rendition of the folk standard Evening Time, composed in 1949, was just what the doctor ordered.

Gem Myers picked up on the trend and she dropped a string of rocksteady classics from the Phyllis Dillon catalogue — One Life To Live, If You Knew, and Perfidia, as well as her 1986 hit One Man Woman. She would add a Whitney Houston medley and the classic And I a m Telling You I'm Not Going from the Broadway play Dreamgirls, all of which had her audience eating out of her hands thanks to the long runs and notes.

Birthday boy Richards was in a nostalgic mood which reflected in his choice of Jamaican music. Ska was basically his preferred genre and he sang and blew up a storm on trumpet with tracks such as Wash Wash, Little More Oil, Never Grow Old, Wings of a Dove, It's You, This Little Light of Mine, and Gonna Lay Down My Burden. True to form, he did not disappoint, and patrons found it easy to dance to the music of his set.

Known for his proficiency in sports and broadcasting, Ali McNab showed another side as he too dropped Jamaican music including Third World's Always Around, Dennis Brown's Should I and Benji Myaz's arrangement of Love You Higher on the appreciative audience.

Saxophonist Dean Fraser's set was another display of the diversity of Jamaican music. He blew his audience away with Likes by Chronixx, No Goodbye from Beres Hammond, Tarrus Riley's She's Royal, and Marley's Redemption Song.

He ended his set with Paul Simon's Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes during which he also showcased his voice and was joined by Richards on trumpet in a climax of horns.

Not all the acts stuck to the reggae format, but their performances were entertaining nonetheless.

Karen Smith was her engaging self and drew her audience in with On A Clear Day, Sweet Bitter Love, The Impossible d ream, Fever, and I Pledge My Love. Show- openers Chris McDonald and Bunny Rose also performed 'foreign' music, but entertained their audience.

The event was dubbed Musical Enchantment and the music and calibre of the acts truly proved enchanting.

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