Jamaican artists treat London and Birmingham audiences with exceptional stage show

- by Nadine White -

The highly anticipated ‘Reggae Salute’ concert took place on Sunday 29th September at the O2 Academy in Brixton (South London) and in Birmingham the night before. The show was headlined by heavy-weights I-Octane, Etana, Chuck Fenda and Christopher Martin.

I-Octane performing ‘Gyal A Gimme Bun’ on stage of the Brixton Academy
I-Octane performing ‘Gyal A Gimme Bun’ on stage of the Brixton Academy

Somewhat underground reggae artist Nesbeth opened up the show and he set a brilliant standard! Those who were not familiar with this talented man certainly left the venue recognising exactly who he is. Hailing from the Downsound Records stable in Jamaica, he deejayed a few tracks from his catalogue of street anthems such as ‘Boardhouse’ and ‘Friend Killa’; engaging anecdotes were interwoven into his performance – both hilarious and sombre.

Chuck Fenda whizzed through crowd favourites such as ‘Coming Over Tonight’, ‘Herbalist Farmer’ and more. On that note, he indulged the audience in an amusing incident, where he bantered with airport personnel as they frisked him for marijuana.

Performing an exceptionally lengthy rendition of his hit song ‘Gash Dem’, Chuck spoke some more on difficulties faced by some reggae artists, as well as some socio-economic and political woes of the people in Jamaica, ‘blazing a fire’ on universal low lives such as rapists and bullies. Many of those in attendance regard Chuck as ‘the star of the show’ and they’re justified in that respect – he gave a brilliant performance.

Towards the end of his set, he performed a track ‘You’re So Blessed Mama’ which was about his biological mother who, he candidly revealed, had abandoned him at birth. During his delivery of this emotional song, he broke down in tears as the audience applauded their empathy and cheered him on; so intensely real was this moment that I blinked away a tear and took out my phone to text my mother my undying love. Having taken a brief moment to compose himself in the wings, Chuck returned to centre stage.

Speaking of mothers, ‘Cheeny’s big son’ aka Christopher Martin did a great job! By definition and title, he is a rising star – having won the Jamaican talent search show ‘Digicel Rising Stars’ in ’05. However it is safe to say that this star has indeed risen and he sauntered onstage donning a particularly sparkly outfit, to that effect!

Although this was his first time in the UK, he oozed confidence as  he sang through scores of hits such as ‘Cheater’s Prayer’, ‘Chill Spot’, ‘Paper Loving’ and more. Knowing exactly what he was doing, he went on to croon across some classic numbers like ‘Sexual Healing’ and ‘Let’s Get It On’ by Marvin Gaye, enchanting every last lady in the vicinity.

Lady Etana sashayed along in a bright red jacket and bright red lipstick to boot. As the only female on the line up, she gently soothed the audience of approximately 5,000 with her dulcet tones, opening up with a rendition of Bob Marley’s ‘Rastaman Chant’. All patrons rocked away to songs like ‘I Am Not Afraid’, ‘Wrong Address’, ‘Reggae’, ‘People Talk’ & more.”

By that token, many people talked, cheered and gawped in astonishment at I-Octane’s fiery set. Fresh from headlining this year’s ‘Reggae Sumfest’ (Jamaica) he had real stage presence and charisma, which made for great viewing. From bringing a female audience member onstage to engage in a mock skit for ‘Gyal A Gimme Bun’ to a mini-tribute to Buju Banton, we absolutely loved the vibes!

Despite the notorious issues with the quality of the sound within the venue, which was eventually rectified, and Luciano being unable to make it  ‘ Reggae Salute’ was a resounding success. The word is that there will be a follow up next year, which promises to be even bigger and better!

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