- by Nadine White -
“The World Rub-A-Dub Masters”, courtesy of BJ Productions, LV and Tease & Reveal, was a historic concert, as the world had never seen the two heavy-weight sound systems ‘Volcano’ and ‘King Sturgav’ play in the same vicinity!
When it comes to the development of dancehall music, sound systems were key and hence they were responsible for the success of many artists’ careers – such as all of the billed artists, for starters.
‘Volcano’ was formed in the 80s, under the leadership of Danny Dread and producer Junjo Lawes; whereas ‘King Sturgav’ was formed by Daddy U-Roy in the mid-70s, and he himself, has much to owe to the sound system culture:
“Soundsystems played a huge part in my career. It is where i started from and where I come from”.
Having spoken to ‘the Godfather of Dancehall’ a couple days before the big concert, I learnt that he received his big break on Dickie Wong’s sound system, back in 1951 and this was the beginning of his career. From there, he has worked with the best producers: from ‘dubbing it’ with the legendary King Tubby to ‘making musical Treasures’ with the late Duke Reid.
Leaning back further into his chair, things seemed a world away from 1969, when he changed the dancehall game and influenced rap music with his distinct ‘toasting’ style. Interestingly, the whole idea of artistry started out as just a mere creative outlet for the star:
“I had no idea, when I started, that I would be still doing it today, but I give thanks.”
With all those who have tried and failed to crack the music industry, U-Roy says that there is no secret to his longevity. Having been in the business for over 5 decades, he puts his fruition down to humility, being true to oneself and minimalising ‘hype’. Sounds like the perfect recipe and it clearly works! Despite visiting the city of London, the ‘Wake The Town’ (1970) maestro spoke of no plans to go and smoke a ‘Chalice In The Palace’ (1975), although we did have a good laugh at the idea!
However, who did speak of visiting Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, was Yellowman. He deemed it only right, being the ‘King of Dancehall’!
“I am the reigning King of Dancehall, of course I am!” he confidently declared, with a glint in his eye, before chuckling “I should to go to Palace, but the guards look scary!”
Yellowman has scored a shed-load of hits, toured the world several times over and also makes history as the first dancehall artist to be signed to an american label. Sadly, the Monarch refers to nowaday’s dancehall as ‘Garbage-hall’!
Disappointed with its deterioration, he claims that “the talent is there, but it’s not particularly being used in the right way”, with many of the younger artists lacking the real knowledge of “vintage music”. He says there are a few exceptions to these such artists though, such as break-out roots artist Chronixx!
“Things are definitely changing. You have artists kicking down dem one another on stage!”
Yellowman commented in reference to the Popcaan & Black Ryno saga at Sting 2012. With even institutions like the Jamaican Sting stage-show failing to impact dancehall fans in the way it has done in the past, the state of affairs makes patrons and artists alike quite concerned for the future of dancehall music.
There are others who agree with King Yellowman. Casually, yet vehemently, Frankie Paul stated: “I am simply not interested in nowadays’s dancehall music, as it has no teaching. I am interested in the veterans’ music.”
Apparently so are a legion of dancehall patrons – who turned up to Brixton O2 Academy in their numbers on Saturday 30th March, to see these veteran artists sing, toast and ‘fry’ some magic! There was definitely a unity in the air, a common gladness. The building’s capacity was really full and simply bursting with the spirit of red, gold and green!
Anticipation continued to grow, as a couple of well-known selectors played, what was meant to be, a ‘warm-up’ set. It became quite apparent though, as more and more time passed that none of the billed artists, selectors or sounds were present. They were all actually running late!
Of course, the audience had no idea of this and unapologetically started to inundate the poor selectors with ‘boos’, once the ‘2am’ mark was surpassed, with the scheduled show time being midnight. No form of pacification or ‘chat’ was accepted by the keen and slightly irate crowd – they wanted a show!
Eventually, after one or two more interjectory reggae tracks, Daddy U-Roy arrived onstage. An apology for lateness would have been nice, but once he performed a few lines from one of his songs, the crowd applauded, were charmed and the show began. Each artist performed in that iconic ‘pass the mic’ (cipher) style, where one rode the same riddim as the artist before. Classic!
Some of the lower billed artists were quite unknown and where a compère would have been on hand for introductions, the audience did not know who was who at times. In between ‘one foot skanks’, I saw a few looks of puzzlement on the faces of some and echoes of ‘Who’s dat’?
A consistent problem throughout the evening, which proved to be the event’s major flaw, was the sound itself, which was flat. This had a knock-on effect on the energy amongst the attendees, which started to dramatically dip.
Nevertheless, credit has to be given to headliners – Cocoa Tea and Frankie Paul who (pardon the pun) frankly carried the concert – despite Cocoa Tea’s slightly unprofessional onslaught of profanity towards the end, in frustration.
Yellowman burst onto stage for a very bubbly set, blazing a trail from left to right as he jumped and “pallaved”, singing through a few of his hits like ‘Zungguzung’ and ‘I’m Getting Married’. He only performed for 10 minutes due to health reasons, we came to understand afterwards. Still, our 6 foot King brought such vitality to the place!
Given the cruciality of sound for any stage show or performance, many left the concert at the end, slightly disappointed. It was a technical issue, which was unfortunately beyond the organisers’ control, however they have released a formal apology.
All is not lost though – the masses turned out to see great performances and they did see this in abundance. In 2013, it was a joy to see the Veterans paying ode to the days when ‘Dancehall was Dancehall’, captivating that time and place, with steely flair. The concert did bring sweet nostalgia and that was certainly needed.