17 August 2017
The magnificent concert by Youssou N’Dour just finished when the echo of his bands’ percussion instruments still lingered in the air at the Main Stage as people were making their way slowly towards other parts of the festival. Following on from Seun Kuti we witnessed another moving celebration of the Africa that we love. The Senegalese artist defined it as the “New Africa” during one of the best parts of the concert. It was the percussion instruments which dominated this chapter of the festival: with the voice of Youssou harmonising with the typical beat of the wolof and creating a hypnotic environment which enchanted the crowd.
The 1994 hit, Seven seconds, was always bound to succeed as he performed with one of the backup singers who sang the female part of the duo in English, which in its day was done by Neneh Cherry. While the elegant stature of the great signer dominated the stage, dancing also had a key role to play, with the meandering movement of the dancer setting up the indispensable percussion instruments in the band. The journey to Africa had already started even before sundown with the return of one of the greatest artists from Jamaican dancehall in Sunsplash: Beenie Man spared no effort and condensed an incredible amount of songs in an hour, such as the great variety of rhythms performed by Zagga Zow Band.
He simply couldn’t fail with hits from which he created his legendary status, such as Who am I, Romie, Unstoppable y Dancehall queen: the main ingredients of his spectacle were, as usually the case, his great ability as an entertainer, his versatility and also his resistance to pressure which, in Jamaica over the years, has carved out his status as an absolute animal. The return to the stage of Beenie during Christopher Martin’s set, so as to sing a duo together, was a bit of a blessing for one of the most talented and energetic emerging singers on the Jamaican scene in recent times.
Followed on stage by the magestical sounds of his band and also his friend D-Major, Christopher didn’t cease for a moment on stage, attending to the public in an energetic manner. He has beautiful and powerful voice which lends itself well to the perfection of his talented backup artist in the more soulful moments of the show. In spite of the jumps, dancing and the rapid movements from one end of the stage to the other, this young artist didn’t lose his nerve for even a moment and he magnificently executed his songs from his debut album Big deal. He clearly has the ability to be considered as a continuation of a rich singing tradition, he made references to the Wailers, Bushman and Cocoa Tea. He finished the show with his shirt off, a feast for the eye for a large part of the crowd.
Previously, the moment of the night most connected to the roots & culture aesthetic was the concert of Raging Fyah: the young Jamaicans opened the way for the artists of the new Jamaican roots movement with their debut at the festival in 2012. Five years later, they demonstrated their maturity with the material from their latest album, the fantastic Everlasting, which was nominated for the prestigious Grammy Awards. Their focus was militant, but in their attitude there was also a pronounced touch that made their most captivating moment more irresistible. Among the songs in the repertoire that stood out the most were: a beautiful version of Everlasting, their interpretation of No woman no cry, Dash wata, which started like La bamba, as well as their ska version of the magnificent Judgement day.
Translated by Lewis Allen