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Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Bob Andy and more at Respect Jamaica 50th

Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Bob Andy and more at Respect Jamaica 50th

Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Bob Andy and more at Respect Jamaica 50th

By on - Photos by Emma-Louise - 1 comment

Report of the last night on August 6th 2012.

Monday 6th August is the Official 50th Anniversary of Jamaican Independence and also the last day of the Respect Jamaica shows that have been taking place at the IndigO2. The 13 nights (originally scheduled as 12, but due to the high demand for the Damian Marley show on the 26th, an extra date (27th) was added) has brought over 50 of the most influential reggae acts to London.

A strong Jamaican presence is highly noticeable in North Greenwich; a sea of gold, green & black and red, gold and green can be seen in any direction that you look.

Respect Jamaica 50 - Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths

The O2 is host to many Jamaican Independence celebrations this evening. You have huge acts such as Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan, Bob Andy, Lloyd Parks and others in the IndigO2. A ‘Laugh Jamaica’ show (one of a series of comedy nights, showcasing some of the best Jamaican comedians that have been running at the same time as the musical shows) At ‘Britain’s Museum of Popular Music’ within the O2 Bubble there is a ‘free’ Bob Marley Exhibition. Debatable. The actual exhibition was free, but an unexpected £12 adult ticket price to the museum itself is required to gain access to the exhibition. After speaking to a member of staff who had said that it had been ‘particularly busy’ but that there had ‘not quite been the huge crowds that I was expecting’ I suspect that it was not a lack of interest, but rather a confusion over the definition of a ‘free’ exhibition that deterred potential visitors.

However, downstairs, there is a free show at ‘Jamaica House’. 90 minutes before doors and there is already a substantial queue, which over the course of the next hour it grows to at least half a mile long, curling and twisting it’s way around the walls of the O2. Making my way back to the ticket collection, the queue here is also perhaps just as exasperatingly long. The queue is full of people glancing at their phones and watches, quite aware that the doors were already open and the sporadic start times of the shows perhaps leaving some people slightly frustrated.

Despite any queue anxiety there is still an immense feeling of pride and happiness throughout the complex. Many still ecstatic from Yohan Blake & Usain Bolt’s medal victories the previous day and the after-parties that followed the atmosphere is truly electric.

The curtains are opened where Lloyds Parks (sporting a ‘Respect Jamaica 50’ t-shirt under his denim jacket) and the We The People band are standing on stage with the evenings compere Mandingo. After two instrumental numbers, Parks takes to the mic for a cover of ‘Nice Up The Dance’ among others, getting the crowd moving and everyone in the swing of things.

Respect Jamaica 50 - Lloyd Parks - Derrick Morgan - The Gaylads

Next up is Derrick Morgan, dressed head-to-toe in a clean-cut white suit (United Reggae were lucky to get close enough to the distinguished star to see the subtle diamontés in a heart shape around the base of his crisp white hat) Singing his heart out to tunes such as ‘Conquering Ruler’, ‘Fat Man’ and crucial hit ‘Forward March’ the man powers through his set and gets a warranted response for his performance.

Next in the proceeding is the newly reformed The Gaylads whose named we are informed by Mandingo is nothing sexual, but rather a name they were given by Coxsone Dodd at Studio One due to their happy nature. They played songs such as ‘I Love The Reggay’, ‘There’s A Fire Burning', ‘My Jamaica Girl’ and ‘Over The Rainbow's End’. Whilst the vocals may not have been perfect in places they more than made up for it in charm and quaint choreography.

The illustrious Bob Andy commands the stage and announces that this one is ‘for the ladies’ before singing his way through ‘Honey’. During the song each musician had their own freeform solo section to which Bob Andy explains that ‘they are not just a backing band’, these are professional musicians’ and ‘they travel all over the world’. After a lively version of ‘Fire Burning’, Bob relaxes more and turns stage banter towards the Olympics. When talking about the UK he states ‘I’ve never seen you so United’.

When the line-up for these events were announced I was secretly wishing that Bob and Marcia would be on the same bill. Scheduled for different days it looked like a duet was off the cards. However, my wish was granted and Marcia Griffiths is welcomed onto the stage. They sing three beautiful duets together including the huge hit ‘Young, Gifted & Black’. The long lasting chemistry and respect between the two is obvious and is purely joyful to both watch and listen to – the energy is simply magnificent.

Max Romeo takes to the stage, his long grey dreadlocks tied neatly back but still swinging gracefully with his movements, he opens with one of his more popular tracks ‘War Inna Babylon’. During his set he is joined by his two boys. By now it is past 11pm, yet, far from being in bed this pair tear up the stage, belt out some wonderful tunes and flawlessly handle quick changes in tempo back and fore between a more chilled reggae vibe and a faster paced dancehall style. The two boys also have strong dynamics between their vocal styles and give a truly inspiring performance from the younger generation ‘We Need More Love’ being particularly touching. They even join Max in a rendition of ‘Chase the Devil’ which concludes the set.

We are then told that it is time for a short break as the stage is set for Jimmy Cliff and his band. (Made easier by drum kits being pre-assembled on trolleys and just swapped) The crowd are warmed up Rudy Ranks including a play of ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ which is turned down in parts to reveal and encourage the crowd to sing along. Looking at the stage set up it is evidential that there is a huge percussion section within this band – a full drum kit, another kit along with several bongos.

Respect Jamaica 50 - Jimmy CliffAfter a proper introduction by Mandingo, Jimmy Cliff bounces onto the stage and straight into vocally ambitious ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’. The man whizzes around the stage like a hurricane - spinning, jumping and running his way through his first three songs. His over excitable behaviour sees him almost throw his guitar at the awaiting sound technician. He brings the tempo down and restores some level of sanity to his performance with ‘Wild World’ and ‘I Can See Clearly Now’. He continues with an updated version of ‘Vietnam’ which has been changed to ‘Afghanistan’ before moving on to soulful ‘White Cliffs Of Dover’. The tempo & energy picks back up as he begins his most prevalent song ‘The Harder They Come’ getting the audience really moving and receiving a standing ovation from the balcony.

While chairs are brought on and bongos are placed, looking around the venue itself it has a honeycomb pattern over most of its walls, reminiscent of a bee hive. Fitting perhaps as the IndigO2 has been a buzzing hive for both Jamaicans and all people to come and celebrate Jamaica’s Independence and enjoy some of the world’s finest reggae and ska. The only thing that differentiates this hive is that there is no single queen or king. This is confirmed by Jimmy Cliff who indeed tells us that ‘Reggae has many Kings & Queens’. He takes his place with his fellow bongo players and begins a calm rendering of ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ and ‘The Lion Of Judah’. He then goes on to talk about his new album "Rebirth" and gets the audience to participate in one of its tracks ‘One More’.

Although the tubes were scheduled to run later than usual during the shows, the late running order of the night meant that many people (including United Reggae) had to leave in the middle of Jimmy’s set just after 1am in order to get home from the O2 (it is not the most central location in London and night transport is almost non-existent apart from pricey cab rides) which subsequently unfortunately meant missing David Rodigan entirely.

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Read comments (1)


Posted by Gail Zucker on 08.15.2012
Awesome article and photos! Great job!

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