THIS year proved to be a milestone staging for Reggae Sumfest, as Jamaica's foremost music festival celebrated its 20th anniversary coinciding with the build-up for the nation's much anticipated 50th Independence Day on August 6.
With two momentous occasions being celebrated, the week-long festival, which was held from July 15-21 did not disappoint.
Dancehall Night began the proceedings with laudable performances by Baby Tash, Specialist, Stacious, Potential Kidd, Zamunda, and JahVinci, before the show was kicked into high gear by Tifa's well-choreographed set.
Arriving on stage in a pink chariot held on by shoulders of men, Spice gave a dominating performance in a colonial era influenced outfit with entertaining shock value of subject matter, including contemporary issues facing everyday Jamaicans and incarcerated musicians. Such subject matter was also explored by a just as entertaining Kiprich.
A contender for performer of the night goes to young reggae prince Romain Virgo. His set also included a cameo of Loyal Flamez, who performed Mr Death.
Virgo belted out hit after hit such as Who Feels It Knows It, Rich In Love, and I Know Better, with unimpeachable vocals. After his stellar closing rendition of Adele's Don't You Remember, the audience reaction proved that Virgo had transcended into mainstream dancehall acceptance.
Summerfest Productions crowned Lady Saw the 'Queen of Dancehall' for her massive contributions to the genre and she fittingly personified her songs worthy of the crown.
Man-of-the-moment Konshens fired a barrage of hits such as Do Sumn, Bad Gal, Gal A Bubble, and even had a starting football team number of ladies in his background for Stop Sign. His set also included cameos from Delus, Dario, and Richie Stephens.
Khago and I-Octane brought their usual display of fireworks as both have become more than commendable performers on the Sumfest stage.
Both Popcaan and Tommy Lee pleased their legions of Gaza fans. Popcaan was able to celebrate his birthday pleased as he received a great response from patrons with singles such as Dream, Only Man She Want, and When Me Party.
Dressed in a full-black outfit reminiscent of the WWE's The Undertaker with Vybz Kartel's recently released Voice Of The Ghetto book in hand, Tommy Lee was the hometown hero as he represented 'Sparta' with his songs that have given him a cult-like following.
Seasoned performers Elephant Man and Cham gave praiseworthy dance-filled performances, with the latter sharing the stage for a segment with his wife and now-popular collaborator O.
Aidonia continues to prove doubters of his vocal clarity on stage wrong, with a workman like showing that had patrons raving for each song toasted.
Both Bounty Killer and Beenie Man pleased their fanbases with exemplary performances expected from the two dancehall icons.
International Night One kicked off with vocally pleasant performances from Bonafide, Nature, and Sophia Brown.
Tessanne Chin gave a solid set, and upcoming Bahamian pop singer Angelique Sabrina delivered thrilling dance moves for each track performed, including fast rising Pull Up.
Tarrus Riley, backed by the Dean Fraser band, presented a commanding set deserving of accolades. The cohesive showing was crowd interactive and they sang along to Riley's singles that included Shaka Zulu Pickney, Never Leave I, and, of course, She's Royal.
The most anticipated act was undoubtedly Shabba Ranks. Even with the bar set so high for the 'Dancehall Emperor', the living legend came, saw, and conquered. Shabba executed a festival-stealing show that reigned above all.
The crowd enjoyed every minute of the dancehall veteran's first performance on home soil in 11 years as he fulfilled his mandate with Trailer Load A Girls, Shine and Criss, and a rousing set with Cherine. She played female vocal counterpart for his singles Mr Loverman and Twice My Age. Shabba Ranks closed with Ting-A-Ling and affirmed his assertion that "I don't make hit songs, I make hit records".
International R&B superstar Trey Songz lived up to his hype as he had female patrons harmonising along throughout his vocally impeccable performance of Billboard Top 40 singles Can't Help But Wait, I Need a Girl, Say Aah, Bottoms Up, Can't Be Friends, and Heart Attack, amongst more.
Summerfest Productions must be commended for their excellent Jamaica 50th segment that saw important pioneers of Jamaican genres Derrick Harriott, Uroy, John Holt, Leroy Sibbles, Leroy Smart, The Mighty Diamonds, Pinchers, and Yellow Man, taking to the stage and teaching all through performance valuable lessons on showmanship.
International Night Two had opening performances from Jedani and Q-Ban, before first-timers to the big stage Conkarah and Raine Seville proved to be admirable acts to look out for.
AJ Brown delighted those in attendance before Protoje took the stage. Protoje filled the atmosphere with a conscious aroma of his roots-reggae and dancehall toasting hybrid of music. His selections came from his ground-breaking debut 7 Year Itch, and 2012 singles such as Who Dem A Program.
Christopher Martin was successful in his courtship of all ladies in attendance as he had them in awe through his theme-filled songs such as Paper Loving, Cheater's Prayer, and his most recent hit Chill Spot.
It seemed as if the wait for the 'Pied Piper of R&B', R Kelly, extended into 2012 as his set comprised of a long delay to begin. The early rounds of his performance were unfortunately haphazard in sequence as he complained of sound problems and which song to perform next to his band members. Eventually, however, R Kelly settled in and dismantled his early woes by stunning patrons with his amazing vocals, a proper song selection, and interacting with those that came to see him.
The 'Gongzilla' Damian Marley was amongst the best of the festival as the dreadlocked-to-the-floor, singer provided a memorable showing. After his Confrontation-aided entrance and his Skrillex collaboration opening Make It Bun Dem, Marley encouraged all to Set Up Shop, asked for More Justice, and delivered myriad other selections from his ever growing timeless catalogue of music. His Bob Marley covers also earned massive crowd response in addition to his songs from his Nas collaboration album Distant Relatives. It's safe to say that Damian Marley will be a winning affair of the heart to his fans for a long time to come.
Reggae Sumfest 2012 appropriately closed with Bunny Wailer, the last living member of Jamaican music's most prolific group of all time, The Wailers.