Applause for Junior Byles

By Aaliyah Cunningham
Observer writer

Monday, February 11, 2019

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It was a tear-jerking show of love and support as patrons and members of the music fraternity showed up at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in Kingston, last Saturday for the Junior Byles Benefit Concert.

Byles, who has over 50 years in the music industry, is known for timeless hit songs such as Fade Away, Curly Locks, Beat Down Babylon, and A Place Called Africa. He celebrated his 71st birthday on February 2.

Event conceptualiser and coordinator, Claude Stone of Big Stone Records, explained that it was important to pay homage to the singer.

“Junior Byles is a king in his own right and he needs to be honoured and treated as a king,” he said. “He should be honoured as the icon he is. I am overwhelmed with the support. I feel overwhelmed that the speech and the pleas and the begging that I did, did not just go on deaf ears.”

The show, which had a fair turnout, was scheduled to begin at 7:00 pm but did not start until minutes to 10:00 pm because of technical difficulties. Nevertheless, artistes tried their best to work through the issues and put on a worthy show for Byles who sat at the front of the audience.

Earl “Chinna” Smith and the Binghistra took the stage first, performing a mixture of originals and Byles' songs. They were followed by Natty King, Nature Ellis, Ra Deal, Guidance and Dakeye Marshall, and the flame eater, Fireman. Deejay Gully Bop gave a cameo performance.

Other notable performances came from Bongo Herman, Half Pint, Turbulence and South African poet/singer Jessica Mbangeni, who said Byles' music impacted her country.

During the show, Mbangeni presented Byles with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his musical contribution.

Proceeds from the show will go to Byles' medical expenses. The singer suffers from mental illness and an enlarged prostate.

His sister, Janet Byles, is happy for the help and acknowledgement that her brother received.

“This is the best thing that has happened to him throughout his career,” she told the Jamaica Observer. “We hope that people out there who have done wrong to him will see this initiative, will come forward and acknowledge him and give him what is rightfully his.”

The Byles family intends to seek additional medical treatment in Jamaica for the artiste, before exploring options overseas.

In July 2018, Byles entered the Billboard chart for the first time when the reissue of his 1986 album, Rasta No Pickpocket, debuted at number 17 on its Reggae Album table.

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