It had all the ingredients of a good show – quality performances, massive support and mostly clean music – but the highly anticipated Guyana Music Festival clearly lacked the core item of local talent, which was in very short supply.
But even that was insufficient to put a damper on things and when the curtains came down at around 3 am yesterday morning, the $3000 that the majority of persons parted with, was exhausted mainly due to one man and a band with a music career much older than three quarters of the huge crowd.
‘Gargamel’ Buju Banton and Third World rocked the show so hard the vibrations probably shifted a few seats in the Guyana National Stadium. Combined the two powerhouses belted out sounds so sweet and conscious it was difficult to determine the best reggae performance of the night. But the night certainly belonged to the dreadlocked, still very much homophobic Jamaican dancehall star, who had no apologies for his discriminatory lyrics lashing the gay community.
“Buju nah like no batty boy and dem batty boy attack Buju”, the singer said to an adulating audience who seemed to have been waiting for that exact moment. And perhaps feeling the vibes of the embracing crowd and the urge to sing his controversial song, “Boom boom bye”, the singer belted out a few of the lyrics nearing the close of his performance.
But Buju was not the only performer to have walked that line. Kiprich, another Jamaican star who appeared much earlier in the night also sang out against the gay community and the audience largely enjoyed it.
That aside, Buju’s entrance on stage just around 2 am was the beginning of a familiar journey of pulsating, classic dancehall tunes stretching over a decade in addition to stirring reggae sounds that have set apart from his contemporaries and catapulted him right up there with Jamaican legend, Bob Marley.
Testimony to his wide reach as an artiste was the fact that the audience was capable of singing nearly every song for him and in a few instances, did since the singer seemed out of it for a few of the tracks. Initially Buju appeared excessively hyper but then simmered down to a more controlled performance. He used his gruff vocals and excessive body movements interchangeably with the desired effect- the crowd was unable to miss a beat throughout the entire performance.
Given all his material and how good they are, every song had the same effect on the crowd except for one. His current hit, ‘Driver’ proved to be the tune of the night and from the moment he belted out that one word, pandemonium broke loose for a short period. As persons were exiting the concert, he was still on stage belting out the hits proving if he were to sing every tune from his extensive repertoire the show might have ended well into today.
Preceding Buju was Third World, who instantly changed the pace of the evening when they took the stage and mesmerized the crowd with soft, smooth, sweet reggae sounds. The legendary Jamaican band fed the crowd their hits and one member did a tribute to Bob Marley, which was unlike anything seen on a local stage in many years. For the most part, it did not matter whether everyone in the crowd knew any song the group performed because the delivery was excellent. But their biggest number of the night turned out to be ’96 Degrees in the shade’.
Much earlier in the night Alaine, Kiprich and Mr. Easy performed creditably but except for Kiprich the performances were generally bland. Alaine has an amazingly wonderful voice and unarguably gave one of the best vocal performances of the night. Kiprich lived up to his ‘Drama king’ name and displayed so many onstage antics he could have very well been auditioning for a role somewhere. The crowd loved him.
Coolie Buddz, who was another big name that many turned out to see, failed to impact on the crowd largely due to technical difficulties with equipment. His voice was barely audible at times and he chose to open his performance with a song many persons are unfamiliar with.
When the time came for his hit, ‘Come Around’, Coolie Buddz appeared to have been wearing down and was just flat. The crowd did show him much love though and stayed tuned in throughout his performance.
Locals Fojo and Jory were among the opening acts and of the two, Jory grabbed more attention due to his unpredictable, crazy, onstage persona. Much of what he was singing was inaudible and nothing was wrong with the band or the equipment at the time. Still, people seemed to have been following.
The promoters promised a music festival unlike any other and the biggest Guyana has ever seen and they were right. The show was in a league of its own and so well supported, it made the massive area outside the stadium looked relatively small. If parking for non-VIPs was better organized and controlled after the show and more Guyanese performers were in the line-up, there would be no criticisms of the promotional team, GT Entertainment.