I made it to the 2008 Smile Jamaica | Africa Unite Concert in Oracabessa at James Bond Beach on February 23rd and it was a great show for me in many ways. I met some super cool people and made it all the way backstage with the artists. I shook hands and held a short conversation with some of the Marley brothers. I made some new friends and learned a lot about Jamaica and her royal family as well as myself in the process. The concert was big and a drain on me in more ways than one. I have not written much about my experience but I’m finally putting some reviews together now.
I have over 1200 photographs from Reggae Months biggest concert event from backstage before and during the show to front and center of the VIP area and even some shots from underneath the stage I have lots of pictures of 2008 Smile Jamaica to load to the photo gallery and some great video as well but the force has been against me. My website server was hacked and another one of my sites has been causing us troubles. You may have noticed some considerable downtime for us recently and I have been working hard on that. I’m uploading video and pictures now and I will update some new articles and links later this week but here are some pictures to give you an idea of how it went.
I got to the event very early in the day and was able to watch the setup crew from three different production companies at work as they got ready for what they all said was one of the largest concerts of the year. It took them 3 days with over 60 guys running around to setup for a show that was supposed to last about 12 hours but ended up running much longer. Things were a bit slow and in between set changes made the night drag on but the show was worth the effort.
I walked right into the park with my camera on my neck and past all sorts of security and staff. I had been at the same facility two weeks earlier and did basically the same thing that I did for the Bicycle Bash and walked around taking pictures all day long. I met up with the Musical Director and Drummer for John Legend and we hit it off quick. My new friend Swiss Chris arrived early and we hung out for quite some time while he and the band went through setup and sound check. Chris asked me to video him during his performance that evening and I jumped at the chance to hang out on stage with permission. I got some great shots of Swiss Chris on drums and also Sharif Simmons on guitar. Someone told me Sharif was one of the youngest Marley brothers and it took me some time to figure out that was not true. I spent some time with both and had a great day on stage learning a lot about the music business in the process. It really was cool to just sit and watch as things went on. Chris is an amazing drummer and watching him do his thing was incredible. I have a new found respect for musicians and the talent it take to put on a major show. Chris and John are Grammy winning artists and you can see they earned their place in the industry through hard work and real talent.
Swiss Chris on pre show sound check for Smile Jamaica 2008
Sharif Simmons on guitar at Smile Jamaica for John Legend
On stage with John Legend band at sound check
I hung out with Chris, Sharif and some others backstage until the crew came on stage to setup for the Marley family. There were guys tuning the drums, guitars and making adjustments to the mic stands. I sat on stage and took photos and no one ever said anything. I was enjoying the opportunity to watch a show take place from the other side of the chain link fence out front of the stage and it was all very exciting. I think things got a little to exciting for me as Stephen, Damian and Julian all appeared on stage an began to rehearse just 30 feet before me on the very same stage. It was one of the coolest moments in my life to watch the three of them walk out on stage as they casually puffed on big fat spliffs and sipped Guiness beers and begin singing some of their fathers music that has become so familiar to me.
The Marley brothers mean a lot to me and I did not handle this situation well at all. I will leave that up to another article soon come. Suffice it to say that I know of the 100 people the Marley brothers may have met on this day I know I am one of the few they will remember meeting
Marley sound crew prepares for Smile Jamaica 2008
The Marley Brothers on stage pre show at Smile Jamaica 2008
Once the Marley brothers were finished with their sound check I disappeared under the stage with some of the production guys where I tried to live blog some photos using their wifi connection but my sites were down and I was happy enough to get them back up as I went on with the show. I stayed under the stage for much of the beginning of the concert and hung out with my new rasta friends as we discussed music, politrix and life in general. I hung out with them for quite some time until some of the larger acts of the evening started to hit the stage in preparation for Ziggy and the rest of the Marley clan.
The shows theme is of course Smile Jamaica Africa Unite so they had to have some African artists on stage as well and they did. African poet and philosopher K’naan put on a great show and is a very talented young artist. He is from Mogadishu Somalia and you can hear in his lyrics that he has seen some horrible things. I met with him backstage after his performance with the Marley clan later that evening and we had a great conversation about the effects of media on youth. I have noticed a very disturbing effect on Jamaican youth from the movies and music they pickup from America and it gives them a heavily distorted view of what goes on “a farrin”. I won’t get into some of the stereotypes that exist here about and our sexual preferences and perversions. Suffice it to say when a 5 year old asks you if you want to rape him as he runs away from you it knocks you for a loop.
K’naan at Smile Jamaica 2008
Javaughn on Ghetto Youths Label
The last time I saw Bunny Wailer was 2003 in Fort Lauderdale Florida and I swore he was dead and propped up on stage for a show that was more sad then anything. I went because I felt I had too and I regretted it. It was not a good show. When they said Bunny was playing for Smile Jamaica I was hopeful he would not be dead again. Was I surprised to see as this old man hoped and scooted around the stage and gave one of the best performances of the show. He was even nice and respectful of Bob although he did make mention of some of their differences and sounded like he took a sarcastic jab or two at Bob and the Marley family during his speeches in between songs. Bunny has a real funky jerk chicken kinda dance he does and he seemed to put all he had into the show and the crowd appreciated it. I think Bunny was a highlight of the early evening performances and far better than some of the big name acts to follow.
Bunny Wailer on stage at Smile Jamaica 2008
I made it backstage after Bunny was on to meet up with my buddy Swiss Chris before he went on stage with John Legend. We walked on stage as the stage crew was moving around set pieces and the crowd was being kept calm by Mutabaraka from Irie FM. There is a lot of commotion and action on a stage during a show and even under the best conditions things are hectic. I watched these guys for much of the day and I can say that all of them were complete professionals but having never worked together on such a diverse setup caused them some long delays and members of the crowd were getting tired of it after long. I’ve been backstage at a number of concerts and I have met and worked with a lot of musicians and artists but standing on stage and watching John Legend perform at Smile Jamaica 2008 was awesome. The energy and feedback from the crowd was amazing. Sadly the whole thing goes by rather quick and the amount of preparation before the seems a bit much now that I see how quick the performance was but these guys are devoted to putting on the best show they can and I was glad to be able to watch them do so.
Setting up for John Legend at Smile Jamaica 2008
John Legend performs at Smile Jamaica 2008
The Crowd viewed from the stage at Smile Jamaica 2008
After John was finished I went backstage to hang with Chris and the other artists and VIP guests. This was the artist area and there are supposed to be no cameras allowed. I did notice that really hot chicks were allowed to ask guys like Sean Paul for a picture but most everyone else had to stash their cameras per orders of the security staff. I left mine in the bag and hung out with lots of well dressed and important looking people. I can say that Sean is a lot shorter than I thought but who gives a crap when you’re covered in hotties like he was. He won’t smoke a spliff in public but I know for a fact he smokes with cool people
The artist area was cool but I’m not really a celebrity chaser and watching everyone get silly over these guys got old fast. I decided to get back out front so I could score a decent spot in the VIP area before the big show started. I was able to get pretty close to the stage actually because I came in from under the stage unlike everyone else who came in from the sides. I was probably a bit to close for some of the better shots of the entire stage but I was in a great location for up close pics of the artists and I spent much of the rest of the evening in pretty much the same spot for the main show.
This was a Marley show as far as I was concerned and none of the acts to follow them mattered to me. I left the show as soon as the Marley Brothers left stage and went back to my van were I crashed until about 10AM when I got up and drove home. I’m writing up another article about the Marley bothers and my experiences at the show with each of them. It was very strange meeting them and a true pleasure in watching them perform together. In my last post I wondered how they would handle a commercial event like this with their father and I was very impressed by they way everything was handled. I watched as they performed songs made famous by their father and it was obvious they were having fun and truly enjoying the experience. It must be very difficult to live in the shadows of such a great man and I feel almost proud of the way they conduct themselves in his legacy.
Bob Marley lives on in his sons and it appears to me that each of them has taken a part of their father and made it theirs. Ziggy is the eldest son and most resembles his fathers kindness in person and in music. Ziggys music is uplifting and full of the life inspiring spirit of some of Bobs biggest hits. He believes everything will be alright with one good spliff and so should we all. Julian shares some of this but it appears less defined in him. Ziggy
Ziggy Marley performs at Smile Jamaica 2008
Kymani Marley at Smile Jamaica 2008
Julian Marley at Smile Jamaica 2008
Stephen Marley is the 2007 Grammy Award Winner for Best Reggae Album for his release “Mind Control” and is one of the favored sons in Jamaica for certain. The crowd was on fire when Stephen hit the stage and the energy in the place was invigorating. It was 4M and I had been on my feet since 9AM and I was a dancing fool for much of his entire set. Stephen has quite a bit of Bobs hard side to him and is known as ragga muffin to many in Jamaica for being one of the toughest of the Melody Makers but his history as a child carries on with him and he has a sweeter side in some of his songs you won’t hear on younger brother Damians music.
Stephen Marley performs at Smile Jamaica 2008
If any one of the brothers picked up more of their fathers militant side it has got to be Damian. He’s the real ragga muffin in this clan and his hard hitting lyrics and machine gun toasting are crowd favorites here in Jamaica. His “Welcome to Jamrock” is an anthem for much of the Ghetto Youth in Jamaica today and Jr Gong is by far the more popular of all the Marley brothers for most Jamaicans. When he hits the stage the crowd goes crazy and when he goes of in a rant at 100 miles per lyrical mile he brings the entire place to their feet. It was a high energy show as soon as Damian hit the stage and stayed like that throughout his performance.
I have more picture and video from the show that I am uploading now. I’ll add links to those soon.
Damian Marley on stage at Smile Jamaica 20082008, africa unite, bob marley, concerts, Jamaica, jamaicans, jerk chicken, music, re, reggae, reggae month, smile jamaica, ziggy marley
Come on and smile, we’re in Jamaica. Smile Jamaica Africa Unite is the theme for this years Smile Jamaica concert to be held in Oracabessa at James Bond Beach where we just went to the Jamaica Fat Tyre Festival and Bicycle Bash about a week ago. Its a really beautiful part of the island with more natural beauty around you at all times. The East Coast of Jamaica is what is left of the Real Jamaica in many ways. Look for that article coming up soon as I get back from this show. I have never seen Jr Gong perform and it will be a real pleasure to be able to see him and his brothers on stage performing at a concert their father started back in 1976. Damian seems to be the favored brother here in Jamaica and no matter what part of the island I go to someone has his music blasting almost as often as you here his fathers music. I think Ziggy plays better to white America with his happy cheerful melody makers than he does here in Jamaica where the Tuff beats of Jr Gong better reflect life in Kingston. Damian seems to me to to have been influenced by his fathers more militant side (or was that Peter Tosh?) and maybe Ziggy is the hippy kid who thinks we can save the world with one good spliff.
It should be awesome to see them both perform in front of their fellow countrymen so I can see how the crowd feels about them at a show. I know that I sometimes get people calling me Jr Gong when I go to Kingston because apparently I look more like him than I do Ziggy to the average Jamaican on the street. I get very strong reactions from older Jamaicans and especially older Rastas for my resemblance to the Marley clan and I have had it happen over and over that they think I look like Damian more than Ziggy or Bob himself. I don’t think I look like any of them but I guess i can see the confusion for some Jamaicans who rarely see a brown skinned Taliban looking dread like me. I also want to see how the boys handle the commercialization of their fathers image and his being packaged more as a product than a person here in Jamaica. I sure hope not to see his image used like it is all over the island. Bob Marley is used to sell Jamaica more like Colonel Sanders sells chicken or like Ronald sells McDonalds most often and I personally am disgusted by how “The Legend” is treated by most Jamaicans. Bob Marley has become a cash cow for almost the entire country and he’s rolled over in that mausoleum in St Anns a few thousand times I bet. I sure hope his sons maintain the high level of respect for him at this commercial show that I have seen in their commercial music and they don’t disrespect the King of Reggae during Reggae Month in Jamaica.
Tags: 2008, africa unite, bob marley, Jamaica, jamaica concert, jamaicans, kingston, music, queen ifrica, re, reggae, reggae month, smile jamaica, tarrus riley
Kingston, Jamaica:– Oraccabessa St. Mary will come alive on Saturday February 23 when the Marley Legacy is unleashed at the James Bond Beach. Bob Marley foundation and Ghetto Youths in association with The Rita Marley Foundation presents ‘Smile Jamaica â€“ Africa Unite’ in tribute to the work of the late Nesta Robert Marley. The event follows an initiative of the Marley family to unite Africa and Members of the African Diaspora through Music and to perpetuate the message of Love, Strength and Hope that was the hallmark of Bob Marley’s career.
This is the second staging of the ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert since its rebirth in 2007. The first concert was held in December 1976, at which the legend himself, Bob Marley, headlined the show at the National Heroes Park in Kingston. Despite being attacked the night before, he bravely and defiantly stepped out and said he would only do one song, but ended up working the stage for ninety minutes. This year’s staging of the event represents an intersection, where The Africa Unite concert staged in Ethiopia and Ghana previously merge to create an experience that transcends culture, language, race and economic barriers.
The show features for the first time in Jamaica, on one stage, the Marley Brothers, Stephen, Ziggy, Damian, Julian, Kimani displaying their unique talents. Having amassed their own career wealth Grammy winners Stephen Damian and Ziggy are eager to display their unique magic on stage. Stephen is touted to take the stage with a new accolade as he is nominated for the coveted Grammy Award for his debut solo album ‘Mind Control’ the Awards will be staged on Sunday, February 10.
Other acts booked to appear are Rihanna, Javaughn,Elephant Man, Sizzla, Queen Ifrica, Capleton, Richie Spice, Lutan Fyah, Spragg Benz and Tarrus Riley and is touted to be the most colourful climax imaginable to the Month now Dubbed Reggae Month.
Smile Jamaica â€“ Africa Unite takes place on Saturday February 23 at the James Bond Beach. Patrons will join in this historic event for $1500.00 and are guaranteed a wonderful demonstration of The Jamaican Motto ‘Out of Many, One people’.