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Reggae Night Blazes - Raging Fyah and Nomaddz at Calabash 2012
Academic discourse surrounding Reggae had started off the first night of Jubilation 50, the 2012 installment of the Calabash International Literary Festival, Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth. But as Friday gave way to the first hours of Saturday morning, it was time for the music to take over as Raging Fyah and Nomaddz took to the stage for Calabashment.
The crowd shifted from the sea draped stage which hosts the literary sessions to the front of the courtyard that borders the dining area, but the murmur of the sea could still be heard, until the first strains of the music started up that is.
With Nomaddz and Raging Fyah, both young bands rising in popularity, the Calabash organizers effected a diverse evening. Both bands have an independently released debut album to their credit. Nomaddz released The Trod in 2010 while Raging Fyah produced Judgement Day in 2011. The styles of the two bands compliment each other well. Whereas Raging Fyah manages to effect that eternal Reggae paradox of combining relaxing groove friendly music with intense often political lyrics, Nomaddz delivers a far more playful and light-hearted performance.
Raging Fyah quickly had the audience rocking to the warm reggae rhythms, performing several of their more popular pieces. Screams rang through the audiences as the opening strains of ‘Far Away’, led by vocals and keyboards took over the night. The opening was filled with a haunting longing that the bouncy tune is never able to recapture.
Raging Fyah features Kumar Bent on vocals, Delroy Hamilton on bass, Anthony Watson on drums, Demar Gayle on keyboards and Courtland White on guitar. The band moved between songs of love and politics, pleasing their audience and impressive repertoire which includes ‘Barrier’, ‘Irie Vibe’, ‘Music Isn’t Biased’, ‘Running Away’ and ‘Judgement Day’. The idioms and proverbs heavily sprinkled over the lyrics help to gain them the feeling of age and wisdom belying the evident youthfulness of the lead-singer and most of the band members. The group also performed the ‘Sunshine’ medley was performed in recognition of Jamaica 50, paying tribute to some of the hits of yesteryear.
The band occasionally had to share audience’s attention with a few crabs (or maybe it was one determined crab) which skittered amongst their legs, its threatening claws ensuring that its path was closely watched and feet made way for it. As the crab made its way toward the stage it seemed it too wanted to ensure that he enjoyed the good Reggae vibrations, up close and personal.
Between sets, Jah Lex battled against the indifference of the crowd allowing the mercifully short band change to occur with a modicum of entertainment. While Jah Lex was lyrically uninteresting
Then with a scrape of the grater and their signature sound Pupukkupu, it was time for Nomaddz, Sheldon Shepherd, O’neil Peart, Chris Gordon and Everaldo Creary to begin. The sound begins slowly building in speed until it is hurtling to a crescendo which is momentarily halted by a growled “A wha dis?” (what is this), issued by Shepherd. For the uninitiated, it is an apt question because is unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The band poises nimbly on the border between their roots of dubpoetry and their aspirant position as Reggae band. All talented dramatists with years of experience gained in high school and later the professional stage. They are adept at creating intrigue and dramatic tension. Even their clothing which appears to have been borrowed from dapper Mento performers is a part of the drama. Their hour long set brought the evening to an energetic close.
“Their pure entertainment,” one woman said to her friend with a satisfied laugh. And that it was. As the audience slowly trickled out from the grounds of Jakes and Jack Sprat where the three-day festival was being held, their was a general feeling of contentment, and that Calabash 2012 had gotten off to a good start.