Sting — dancehall's pantomime
Gully Bop performing at Sting in 2014.Photo: Observer file

The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues with the 49th of its biweekly feature looking at seminal moments that have helped shape Jamaica over the past 60 years.

AFTER a seven-year hiatus, Sting is slated to return at Grizzly's Plantation Cove in St Ann on December 26.

Started in 1984 by police crime fighter Isaiah Laing, Sting has been held at Cinema II in New Kingston, the National Stadium in St Andrew, and Jamworld Entertainment Complex in St Catherine. International heavyweights like Biggie Smalls, Kris Kross, Busta Rhymes and DMX have all appeared on Sting.

Music insider Clyde McKenzie says the show's return is not only a silver lining for entertainers, but for the Jamaican economy.

Clyde McKenzie

"It was a fixture on the entertainment calendar. It was a forum that was used to validate many upcoming artistes. A lot of people got their 'buss' from Sting, for use of a better word... Many came into visibility as a result of Sting. It also had its own economic impact. Seamstresses, hairdressers would see a boom in business. The people selling peanuts and soups….It's a whole ecosystem that benefits. There was the creative system that a lot of people thrived on, but so many other people benefited," he told the Jamaica Observer.

According to McKenzie, the clash culture made it more appealing to music lovers from around the globe.

"The clashing is a central feature of the Sting brand. Clashing took it to a level that made it far more visible on an international level. It really was centered around that and was beneficial, until of course, things got out of hand and there were consequences," he said.

One of the most iconic moments of Sting was when Ninja Man handed a gun to senior superintendent of police Reneto Adams in 2003. In McKenzie's estimation, unpredictable instances like those made Sting akin to an unscripted reality show.

Isaiah Laing

"That again is drama. That's the kind of thing that you would not see at another stage show. The expectations that you had for Sting wasn't what you'd have for any other show. Many artistes looked to that show to see what would happen for the upcoming years. You'd find that many go on the show and their career gets a boost because they clashed with somebody and got approval from the crowd. The next year he would still be riding on a particular wave based on the success of the previous year," he said.

The famous Sting clashes include Super Cat and Ninja Man in 1990; Merciless vs Ninja Man, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man in 2000; and, Vybz Kartel vs Ninja Man in 2003.

Merciless (given name Leonard Bartley) died on July 19, while Ninja Man (real name: Desmond Ballentine)and Vbyz Kartel (Adidja Palmer) are both serving life imprisonment for murder.

Incidentally, the local pantomime season traditionally opens on Boxing Day. McKenzie posits that Sting is a theatrical production.

"I don't know if there was an intent to compete with the pantomime. We love the drama. We love dressing up…the costumes and that kinda thing. It was also surreal, almost like a play, with an individual performer that had a backing band…I think you would find that there are similar features in both," he said.

BY KEDIESHA PERRY Observer writer

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