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Toots Hibbert at Respect Jamaica 50th

Toots Hibbert at Respect Jamaica 50th

Toots Hibbert at Respect Jamaica 50th

By on - Photos by Emma-Louise - Comment

Chantelle Ernandez, Junior Toots, Toots Hibbert and more in London on August 3rd 2012.

The Respect Jamaica shows are well underway at the IndigO2 – a smaller venue within the O2 dome itself but still boasting over a 4,000 capacity. Tonight’s performance is by a colossal figure within ska and reggae – Toots Hibbert. He is also joined on the bill by son Junior Toots and backing singer Chantelle Ernandez. Family has been an important part of these shows. Exactly one week ago on the same stage I witnessed many of the Marleys came together all in one show which created a delightful atmosphere filled with love and pride. 

Junior Toots

The evenings music kicks off with Junior Toots who arrives on stage sporting one of his own self branded t-shirts, which I usually find slightly heavy handed on the self-promotion front. However, given that he was accidently invited to the stage as Junior ‘Roots’ by Daddy Ernie and it is in fact his UK debut performance the T-shirt seems more than appropriate on his occasion!

He kicks off with ‘Ready To Come Over’ among other tracks from his latest album "A Little Bit Of Love" including ‘Physically Spiritually’ and powerful ‘Ethiopian From Birth’. He also plays his dancehall style rendition of his father’s song ‘Reggae Got Soul’ which the audience react positively to. It’s a brave choice to cover one of his father’s songs when both playing the same night, but although it is evidential that he is heavily influence by his father and similar vocal tones can be heard at times, their styles remain divergent.   

The stage is then visited by funnyman Ping Wing whose comedic antics include a very impressive Michael Jackson impersonation, throwing fake money into the audience (along with his hat to which he then says ‘Gimme me ‘at back…’,’…It’s expensive Y’know!...£1 shop!’) a not so subtle plug of his DVD and some cheeky jokes kept the audience happy and the slot nicely filled.

Chantelle ErnandezThe evening continues with Chantelle Ernandez. Far from being ‘just a backup singer’ this super talented lady is an accomplished pianist along with many other talents, and has sung, recorded and worked with some impressive people. A strong, short but sweet set from this wonderfully inspiring woman. Her beautiful vocals can be heard before she can be seen on stage. Soulful lyrics such as ‘Tell me what went wrong, I’ve fallen in love with a Rasta’ resonate throughout and easily fill the venue.

Next is a man whose role within ska and reggae is fundamental. Toots Hibbert is widely known as the person who actually coined the term ‘reggae’ in his 1968 hit ‘Do The Reggay’, which was originally set to be the name of a dance craze and coming from the word ‘streggae’ (usually used as an insult meaning ‘scruffy’ or ‘unkempt’) With 31 Jamaican number 1’s and worldwide success, Toots is certainly a force to be reckoned with. It is interesting that his image is perhaps lesser widely recognised than say, Bob Marley – this could be purely due to superficial reasons such as aesthetics. In the media’s eyes Toots doesn’t match up with the conventional representation of a Jamaican. Far from being a ‘dreadlock Rasta’ he is a large framed muscular man, whose hair is typically shaved or short. Tonight, only just visible under his bandana you can see neatly sectioned little tufts of hair. The bandana, leather jacket and sunglasses (which he removes revealing his eyes momentarily before quickly replacing them) have become a subtle yet distinctive look for Toots.

He starts his set with ‘Pressure Drop’ which instantly gets the room bouncing. When Toots sings ‘It is you….’ The crowds response of ‘…Oh yeah!’ was simply enchanting and some beautiful harmonies could be heard from the audience too. He moves through the set with classics from ‘Time Tough’ to ‘Reggae Got Soul’ at which point you can really notice that he has really stepped up his game for this performance.

Toots HibbertThe next song he announces ’50 people begged my to do it’ and ‘it’s dedicated to everyone…and me!’ before belting out a gutsy version of ‘Pomps and Pride’. Perhaps two of the best received songs of the evening were ‘Bam Bam’ and ‘Monkey Man’ which were meant to conclude the proceedings. All around the sweaty auditorium you could sense that many people were still waiting for one song in particular. Shouts of ‘One More’ and ‘Encore’ echoed around the venue.

Moments later Toots reappears and everyone’s request are fulfilled and the venue erupts at the first burst of ‘Stick it up Mister!’ Many people know the significance of this track and throughout the whole song you can feel this man’s fire burning deep. At one point he drops to his knees and you can really feel his emotion – although at no point does his voice falter. He breaks it down to a slower tempo allowing everyone to groove before picking it back up and starting the call & response section. He calls to the crowd ‘Give it to me 12 times’ – every time I have seen Toots live he asks for ’12 times’ and then claims ‘nobody ever gave me 12 times before!’ nevertheless the audience are always willing to please and would probably give the man ’32 times’ if he asked for it.

He has a new acoustic album coming out on the 6th August (Jamaican Independence Day) entitled ‘Unplugged On Strawberry Hill’ which has a really tranquil and soothing vibe about it – purely stunning.

The party continues long into the night with Fatman & Cosine. Whilst Cosine takes a more laid back approach to the set Farman gets in the party spirit and busts out some dance moves including a notable ‘mashed potato’. We are spun tunes by the likes of King Jammy, Tenor Saw and Dennis Brown along with many others keeping everyone dancing into the early hours.

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