Our ReggaeMania.com team arrived just before 2:00 PM at the Markham Fair Grounds for Jambana 2015 – Day One. The day seemed promising; the weather was holding up – sunny and hot and everything was well organized at the entry gates. Once inside the grounds, surveying the crowd, it seemed a bit sparse, but, it was early still. The festival kicked off at 1:00 PM. Our crew had already missed a few performances, one being, The Human Rights Band.
Backstage, things looked good. Anyone and everyone had a role to play and everything seemed to be running smoothly. We were ready for whatever Jambana 2015 had in store, or so we thought. Big up the Day One MC’s, including the latest Internet sensation – Majah Hype (by the way, great job!), Vibe 105’s Alan Jones and CIUT’s Patrick Roots (no Oliver Samuels this year)! Also, big up the Mountain Edge Roots N Culture Band – always a hard working band, yet, still underrated!
The first performance we saw was by the Black Stars dancers. Black Stars are real pros, they delivered a choreographed piece that was tight and highly entertaining; the only drawback, not enough people were in attendance to witness their performance.
Following Black Stars was a Rapper who I had never heard of, ‘Nevahurd’(no pun intended). I was skeptical at first, but, after a few minutes, it was clear to me that he had talent – a skilled entertainer. I loved his beats, not to mention, his ‘live’ drummer, who, by the way, was ever so incredible – on point and very funky. A big shout out to ‘Nevahurd’! This local Scarborough Artiste put on a good performance, especially considering the crowd was mostly made up of diehard Reggae fans, not Hip Hop heads.
George Banton, a Jambana favourite, is ever the crowd pleaser! There’s not much I can say about George that hasn’t been said already. He communicated with his audience – mingling and smiling while singing his songs. The crowd loved him and he loved the crowd; a testament to his skills and positive vibes. His delivery was executed with extreme precision and his set was well thought out and very appropriate for the time of day. This was a very graceful performance by the classy Gospel-rooted, George Banton – good show my man!
This year, a few more DJs were added to the lineup to play between sets – this made total sense to me, less talk, more groove. Up next, ‘Jambana Idol’; five contestants rallied for a cash prize, writing and recording sessions with internationally acclaimed musicians plus a performance spot at Jambana 2016. First up was Nathan, aka ‘Gifted’, who, by the way, placed 2nd in the overall competition.
Lady Share followed. For most of her song, she was somewhat static and sang off key. I must say, her voice is somewhat unique and with some good vocal training behind her, there is promise. Who knows, sometimes the same artist who is ‘weak’ on the stage could be ‘great’ in the studio.
Taking the stage next, Little Edward and his crew. This kid is 7 years old and was dressed to impress and ready to go! He took the mic and sang Survivor’s – ‘Eye of the Tiger’ while performing a dance routine with his two backup dancers. He got the crowd up on their feet – all were screaming, laughing and having a really good time. Watching Little Edward was something else, if he keeps it up, he’ll have a really bright future ahead of him. Looking back, I will say, that despite the quality of performances that would come from Kiprich and Kabaka Pyramid, it was Little Edward’s performance that earned him the undisputed title of the biggest forwards for the Jambana (Day One) event.
It was now time for Civalect the Healer – a singjay from Boston who drove all the way up here with family in tow to participate. He seemed happy to be on stage, performing. It was clear to me, it wasn’t about ‘winning’ for him, it was about making a connection to the people and his love for the business. Near the end of his song, he brought his beautiful wife and two children out on stage and sang to them – clearly, this was the highlight of his set. MC Majah Hype put it best when he said something to the effect of…Civalect was smart because the previous performer had his “family” on the stage during his performance, so, he would do the “same” (jokingly of course). As we say, it was a good look! The crowd ate this up and all appreciated his show of life, love and unity.
Last but not least, Dancehall Dons who were mistakenly announced as “Dancehall of Canada”. This crew worked extremely hard and just like Black Stars before them, had a tightly choreographed show. It’s fair to say the Dancehall Dons had many tricks up their sleeves, you could tell by watching their performance. All their moves were very technical, allowing the highly skilled crew to strut their stuff effortlessly across the stage, all the while, smiling and having fun – pretty cool, I thought. They ended up winning Jambana Idol via a crowd vote. I look forward to seeing them perform alongside local and international artistes next year as part of the Jambana 2016 lineup – I wonder what they’ll think up next?!
Jambana Idol had just finished and before the next artiste could arrive, it began…the rain! All of a sudden, it was raining cats and dogs. A fierce dark storm with a great lightning show took over the festival. The promoters, artistes and fans tried to brave it out, but, despite their best efforts, the weather ended up highjacking Jambana. The crowd literally scrambled, running for cover wherever they could – umbrellas, jackets, tents, vendor booths, cars, porta potties, you name it. Vendor booths started to collapse under the intense winds as did some of the temporary fencing that was put up around the perimeter of the stage, it seemed like a mini tornado had just touched down.
Some people left the festival immediately, not knowing when or if this storm would ever subside, others, held out in hope. I did see a firetruck and ambulance enter the grounds, but, I think that was more of a precautionary measure less an emergency. After fifty minutes or so, the clouds seemed to pass and the rain stopped. Allan Jones came on stage to announce that the show would go on and announced the next artistes. This had to have been a tough call for the promoters to make as one has to take into account the health and safety factor for all involved. If there were 1,000 people on the Markham Fair Grounds before it rained, it’s fair to say that less than half of them returned.
In a matter of less than an hour (as the equipment got checked, the stage got sweeped (rain water) and set up again), the festival continued under clear skies and a slightly lower temperature. The night was upon us. Jamaica’s Kiprich was the next artiste to take the stage. Big up the very talented Kiprich! Despite the drop in numbers (attendance wise) Kip Rich brought a vibe that created a happier atmosphere for the remaining audience members – a sign of a true professional! His set was entertaining and funny, his lyrics were clear and concise, naturally flowing. Kiprich got several forwards before he concluded his show. I would have liked to have heard more chunes, but, time was of the essence. He definitely earned some new fans that night. Loved his red sneakers too!
Kabaka Pyramid came on next, the final Reggae artiste to perform on Day One of Jambana. Big up Kabaka! – a truly gifted Jamaican artiste who is quickly rising through the ranks of cultural Dancehall. His show was flawless – a very confident performer who would earn more than a handful of forwards before leaving the stage to a standing and cheering crowd who didn’t seem to mind the drop in temperature. Backstage, before and after the show, Kabaka had been stress free and wearing a slight grin. I’m sure he’s had fun making an impression for himself up here in Canada, this will not be the last time we see or hear of this shining star!
After a disappointing long delay, the final performance of the night belonged to the ‘Queen of Soca’ – Alison Hinds – and storm number two! The ominous clouds returned just as Alison took the stage. Suddenly, a downpour of rain! A handful of the crowd left, but those remaining were ready, willing and able to enjoy Alison’s edited show. I’m assuming these brave people remaining were mostly Soca-Alison Hinds fans who were jumping up front and centre – nothing was going to stop them from having fun Caribana-Jambana weekend. Some had umbrellas, some rain ponchos and others, nothing – they were clammering to hear the sweet, sweet sounds of Alison regardless of the intense falling rain – talk about dedicated fans!
Less than 10 minutes into her set, during her third song, Alison Hinds had no choice but to leave the stage, the rain was spitting with rage! Sad to say, it ‘rained on her parade’, but, with weather like that, there was simply no option to continue on – Jambana 2015 had come to a premature halt; but it was a little before 10 PM anyway, and (from a promoter point of view) the majority of the artistes ‘promised’, had been ‘delivered’
Unfortunately, Day One of Jambana 2015 will always be remembered for the torrential rain storms, not, the fine quality of performances that we saw by many local and international artistes. I have to big up the promoters – Jones and Jones Productions for offering compensation to any audience member that had left previously due to the weather. An announcement was posted on their website stating that anyone who was in attendance Sunday, could return on Monday, free of charge with proof of ticket. I think that was a pretty fair deal given that one can’t be responsible for mother nature.
JAMBANA DAY TWO: Monday August 3rd 2015
Day One of Jambana left me and my crew tired. Despite plans to arrive by 2:00 PM the following day, we didn’t actually arrive until 3:15 PM. Spying the crowd, it was clear that this was going to be ‘the’ day. Lots of good vibes were flowing through the air and the sun was shining bright! One could not have asked for a better day.
After holding court stage left, our first priority was to find out who we missed. We had just missed Nattali Rize & Notis (Australian singer), whom we heard performed really well. We had seen Nattali back stage on Sunday, but, didn’t know who she was. Big her up the same way! We also missed Gerry Thompson, the Arsenals, Dance Caribe and Donette Thompson Hall.
Tasha T was the first artiste that I caught. A seasoned veteran performer – just another show to add to her impressive list of shows worldwide. She showed us her progressive side – the woman, not, the girl, with her performance. I liked her show, but, this is nothing new for me – I am biased, Tasha T should have been scheduled to perform later!
Kirk Diamond (Don Dem Crew) was next up. I would describe Kirk Diamond (this was my first time seeing him live) as being a little ‘ahead of time’. There’s a lot of potential here, and I like his work with Don Dem Crew. But clearly, as a solo artiste, Kirk Diamond is in his own world, and as a lyricist and performer, seems not to be influenced by any past or current Reggae styles or trends (a good thing sometimes). It’ll be interesting to monitor the progression of Kirk Diamond. All in all, a solid performance; considering the audience, were for the most part, unfamiliar with the Kirk Diamond library.
Reppin’ for Montreal – Mikey Dangerous. Mikey is another Jambana favourite and Juno Award winner. He’s always been one of my favorite Canadian Reggae recording artistes, simply because, he’s good at what he does! Big up Mikey for being an unselfish artist – during his set, he brought up Ras Demo aka Demolition Man UK and let him have a go! Ras Demo, outfitted in red and white, used his time wisely and was well received by the crowd
On this day, I would say that Mikey Dangerous’s show would be best described as average. Like many of our Canadian artistes, it’s often a difficult task to win over a crowd that is unfamiliar with your material. If given enough stage time (Mikey had a long stage time), artistes facing this situation can sometimes better garner the attention of a crowd by performing their own tunes in combination with a mix or sample of classic and familiar chunes that audiences can sing along with because they know them.
The next show I took in featured Steele. No one knows the Jambana crowd better than Steele. A Jambana veteran, who performs classics and covers and is always ready to push the envelope when it comes to his performance. He’s a party rocker! Big up Steele on yet another classic Jambana performance, and big up the female singer that he gave some great exposure to on stage! By the time Steele exited the stage, the crowd was riding high.
By time the Steele show was complete, Jambana was on a high, the atmosphere was nice and celebratory and there was a lot of love and unity in the air, nothing but smiling faces and people having a great time! Following Steele was Markham’s own, Lucas DiPasquale (also an internet sensation). Lucas is famous for his Popcaan covers. Armed with a classical guitar and a mic, he played an acoustic set consisting of original material as well as a few Popcaan covers – the crowd was bowled over by the sheer beauty of his voice. I’m curious to see where Lucas goes from here.
It was now time for Exco Levi – a four time Juno Award winner. Fresh off his successful European Tour, he put it into high gear and put on a decent show for the Jambana crowd. Exco is a seasoned performer who always leaves his mark wherever he goes. I noticed a few technical difficulties with his mic, but, not enough to take you away from his performance. During his set, he brought out Keisha Chanté and the two of them did a duet. Big up Exco Levi , Canada’s best ‘lyrical’ performing artist!
Dance Caribe were up next. I could have sworn that I had just witnessed the same routine that they performed last year at Jambana, hope I am wrong! This Dance group were crowd pleasers, but they were ill-timed, and would have been better suited for a early afternoon time slot.
The pace of Day Two was right on point! It was veteran artiste, Ernie Smith’s time now, a regular performer on the Jambana circuit who had no problem keeping the crowd while delivering a graceful and memorable show. Big up Ernie!
Darkness had now started to set in, and people were getting hyped for Gully Bop; bad timing for The Arsenals and Iley Dred who the crowd tolerated, but for the most part was not interested in seeing at this point. Fab Five took the stage, did the shortest show I’ve seen them do at Jambana, then it was time for the show.
It was time…MC Nuffy took to the stage to introduce, the one, the only, Gully Bop to the screaming crowd – he teased us, not quite yet. He introduced Jamaican Reggae/Dancehall/R&B songstress and song-writer, Ikaya to the stage. She took command of the stage right away and immediately started to belt out her hit, ‘Ugly Girl’ – rewind!!!
Last but not least, Gully Bop! I have to give him credit, his ‘performance’ started a few hours earlier as he was constantly hounded and rushed for autographs, pics, interviews and jingles by a media and VIPs backstage. Dressed in all white (top, pants and hat) with the exception of a red bandana that he had tied around his neck, he met and greeted all. I’m not sure where he gets his energy from, but, he’s got lots of it. It seemed he was running on pure adrenaline – you could tell that he was just so happy to be given this opportunity. He’s humble and down to earth (that’s rare these days) and throughout his performance, he constantly gave thanks to God for blessing him.
One thing is clear, there is nothing fake about Gully Bop; behind the scenes and off the stage, he is genuine, rooted and friendly. Once you get him started, he keeps delivering, and eats up every media and publicity opportunity that comes to him. Gully Bop worked the backstage and press both before and after his show. I’m not sure where this man gets his energy from, but throughout the night, he kept referring to how God had truly blessed him.
On to the show! This was my second time seeing Gully perform. The first thing that I noticed was his entrance – somewhat anticlimactic, this could have been better. Once at the front of the stage, Gully started to work the crowd – free stylin’ to the delight of the crowd who were so curious to see Dancehall’s most talked about new artiste.
At one point, while working the crowd, Gully spotted a hefty man and convinced him to come up on stage despite there being no strategic way of doing so. What followed?, crowd members hoisted him up and eventually Gully grabbed his hand. Gully engaged with him and so, it was a bit like the game, Simon Says, except, it was Gully Says. He put on a few dance moves, waved his rag and had fun with Gully. The crowd loved it!
Gully Bop next called on a female in the audience to come up on stage. Same deal as before, except this time, she had to rub his belly, scratch his back and wine ‘pon ‘im. Laughter ensued – everyone was having a good time. He then spotted a White woman center stage and engaged in dialogue – something about dating a Black man; to his surprise, without hesitation, she responded something like, she exclusively dates Black men. This kind of audience interaction was met with cheers, laughter, salutes and whistles.
More or less, this was the Gully Bop show, one that he appeared to be truly satisfied with. The show ended on a paltry note, I was hoping for an encore. The crowd wanted more! I looked around back stage, no sign of him – gone! The audience (5,000 – my estimate) cleared out quickly in an orderly fashion and so, that wraps up our coverage of Jambana 2015. See you at Jambana 2016! Don’t forget to check the Pics in the Gallery below. Big up the crew – ‘DM’ and Lisa West for helping out with Pics.