DANCEHALL music from the 1980s and 90s was the toast of the final night of performances at Reggae Sumfest which concluded at Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay in the early hours of Sunday.
The tribute to pioneering dancehall producer Dave Kelly, conceptualised by the organisers of the festival and featuring a cast of the genre's heavyweights — Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Cham, Spragga Benz, Frisco Kid, Wayne Wonder, and Mr Easy — lit up the dying hours of the event, bringing an energy that was unmatched.
Scripted and choreographed by Kelly himself, the seven artistes seamlessly transitioned in and out of popular songs set to what have become Kelly's iconic rhythms. Each time a popular song echoed through the towers of giant speakers, the decibel levels rose inside the venues as patrons were magically transported to a bygone time and space as memories came flooding back.
This energy became a cycle and, the more the seven deejays gave, the more they received from the audience.
The audience roared its approval as the first chords of the rhythms, including Medicine, Showtime, Bruk Out, Fiesta, Haunted, Stink, Murderation, Joyride, and Bounce became audible. Then once the deejays began putting their signature stamp on these melodies, the excitement grew even louder and more palpable.
Forever the showman, Beenie Man and his three costume changes for the set was in great form as he dropped a slew of his hits for Kelly including Itsy Bitsy, Ole Dog, Wickedest Slam, and Fassy Dem Nuh Like Me.
Bounty Killer's Dave Kelly catalogue was stacked to staggering heights and he unpacked them for his Sumfest audience. Eagle and Hawk, Can't Believe Mi Eyes, Anytime Mi Hungry, Poor People Fed Up, Wukless Bwoy, and Look Into My Eyes all received the approval of the thousands who remained in the park for this segment of the show.
One of the acts close to Dave Kelly is Cham, and his hits also went over very well with the audience. Tracks such as Vitamin S, Many Many, Ghetto Story, Another Level and Joyride were a key part of the presentation.
The same could be said for Frisco Kid's Rubbers and Little and Cute; Hypocrite and Parasite and Step Inna Yuh Face from Spragga Benz; Wayne Wonder's Searching and Bounce Along; and Strange Things are Happening from Mr Easy.
During the performance, which lasted near an hour, it was all smiles, laughter and gimmicks from the band of seven musical brothers as they supported each other through the charged set.
Despite the best efforts of the artistes themselves and MC Richie B, the always-elusive Kelly declined any attempt to step forward on stage to receive the plaudits of the people. At one point Spragga Benz tried to physically bring Kelly to the stage but was outmuscled and had to accept defeat.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer following the performance, Cham noted how special this tribute was to him.
"The tribute was about giving Dave his flowers, showing Dave how special he is and how much we appreciate him. Joe and the whole Sumfest team came up with the idea, Dave accepted it; he wrote the set from start to finish so you have to really give Dave his credit because he is the one who envisioned this show like this. We saw what it did to the whole Sumfest … the sun was out and people were still rocking and partying. So, we just want to say 'Big up' to Dave Kelly and the Whole Mad House crew, and thanks for everything."
Wayne Wonder described the vibe on stage during the performance as being electric.
"It was nice; it was like a current flowing through us. That's how we do it in the studio — we always have a good energy over the years — and so what you experienced on stage this morning was that purity, soul, and something coming straight from the heart… that's how we do it."