Newbies rule Sumfest opening night
Skeng, who closed night one of Reggae Sumfest, performing on the festival held at Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay, St James, on Friday. (Photos: Karl Mclarty)

THE new breed of Jamaican entertainers showed their true colours and popularity as they dominated the performances on night one of Reggae Sumfest held at Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre in Montego Bay, St James, on Friday.

The line-up of the festival, which was returning to the entertainment calendar after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, was chock full of artistes who were making their debut on the event. However, these newbies showed no signs of being shy or timid, taking to the stage and delivering just as their seasoned counterparts.

The organisers of the festival must be commended for having their ears close to the ground and making the decision to pull together this particular aggregation of artistes who would prove popular and bring out the audience and, more importantly, provide the entertainment which had been missing on the entertainment scene due to the global health crisis which had sent everyone inside for the past two years.

This mix of acts was skewed towards the proponents of the latest brand of Jamaican music, trap, and saw acts such as Skeng, Intence, Iwaata, Jahshii, 450, Brysco, Teejay all making a huge impression on the thousands who gathered inside the venue.

Undaunted by showers which doused the second city in the hours prior to the start of the festival, these artistes showed no signs on the Sumfest stage of being inexperienced and came out firing on all cylinders to thrill their audience.

The popularity of their music and the ability to connect directly with their audience, thanks in great part to social media, showed itself as the happy throng at Reggae Sumfest simply clutched to every word that fell from the lips of their favourite acts.

So popular was this group of artistes that they could be saddled with the responsibility of closing the festival, a task that was awarded to Skeng, and his audience waited and enjoyed every second of his set.

These artistes proved that the music is indeed in good hands for the future in terms of popularity and mass appeal.

However, the established acts were no slouches.

In fact, deejay Masicka was placed squarely in the middle of these acts and, for many, was among the toast of the show as his potent lyrics and masterful delivery allowed him to stand shoulder to shoulder, toe to toe with these new acts and still come through.

The same could be said for deejay Aidonia. His ability to connect with a wide cross section of the audience made him an entertaining slice of the Sumfest pie. His hardcore, rude boy lyrics went over well with that constituency, while the females benefited from the aspects of the set which were directed at them. Aidonia's on-stage smooch with his wife Tiffany was also well received. The women in the audience let out a collective gasp and audible "Aaaawww" when this took place.

The women on the night's bill were few in number but that paled in comparison to the impact they had on the entertainment factor on the night. Leading the pack was the newly crowned Queen of Dancehall, Spice, dancehall's 'It Girl' Shenseea, and the always-controversial Ishawna.

Known for her dramatic entrances and strong sets at Reggae Sumfest, Spice was in her element. Although not her strongest entrance, she and her dancers graced the stage as astronauts — showcasing her 'out of this world' standing in the business. Never one to shy away from the touchy issues, she took on Prime Minister Andrew Holness for his criticism of dancehall music and what he has spoken of as negative influences. She campaigned to be called to the table to discuss the root cause.

Following her performance she was adorned with a glittering tiara by Sumfest boss Josef Bogdanovich for her contribution to the genre.

Ishawna was her raunchy, finger-on-the-trigger self from the moment she stepped on the stage in the early hours of Saturday dressed in a nude-coloured, see-through catsuit with glittering pasties and a matching thong to cover her essentials, all accentuated by a matching wig.

Her raunchy dance with life-sized cardboard cut outs of Prime Minister Holness and Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton set the audience on fire, but the coup de grâce would come when she sat in the face of the cut out of ace deejay Bounty Killer as she sang her hit song Equal Rights. This sent the audience in a frenzy and was too much for the 'angry, cross, miserable' deejay who simply left the venue with his entourage in tow.

Shenseea has certainly grown as an artiste and showed her proficiency on the Sumfest stage. It was a masterful performance by the Independent Gyal artiste. Wasting no time, she limited her between-song banter and just kept her set moving in a lively way, maintaining an energy that was infectious and reached her audience. The inclusion of a cameo appearance by her equally popular son, Rajiero, only added to her appeal — and the audience loved every minute of it.

Inclusion of family in the set was also a technique utilised by deejay and dancer Laa Lee, whose mother was on stage delivering the choreography for the Dirt Bounce and Do the Bird.

Deejay Alkaline's popularity rests on his ability to be an enigma. However, his set was affected by the fact that many members of the audience had just seen the deejay at his recent staging of 'New Rules' and noted the similarity in both sets. In the future, some distance must be put between these performances to maintain his status in the entertainment industry.

Govana, Chronic Law, Ding Dong, Harry Toddler, Rytikal and Teebone all connected with their audience, creating moments of entertainment and excitement all through the night, and making night one of the festival full of entertainment all through the duration of the show.

Reggae Sumfest is set to climax on Sunday morning with performances by the legendary Beres Hammmond, young Grammy winner Koffee, Dexta Daps, Sizzla, Christopher Martin, D'Yani and Chaneil Muir. The performances were also expected to include a tribute to music producer Dave Kelly featuring performances by Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Cham, Wayne Wonder, Frisco Kid, Mr Easy, and Spragga Benz.

Shenseea (left) and son, Rajiero
Steflon Don (left) and Masicka
Richard Johnson

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