Yes, Jazz is in the air, and I had caught the sensation at least one month prior. From the first mention of the acts for the rebranded festival, I was somehow intrigued. Like many other Saint Lucians, I was eager to see the legendary Kassav perform.
But after missing both the opening of the 2014 Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival and Soufriere Jazz where Kassav performed, my editor notified me that I was assigned to Fond D’Or Jazz at the Fond D’or Heritage Park in Dennery. I was unenthusiastic about the news. My only consolation was that Morgan Heritage, one of my fond reggae bands, was due to perform at the venue.
Nevertheless, it was work, so I obliged. Upon arrival at the main gate, I was greeted by the sweet cultural sounds of Avot Sévis. The pulsating creole rhythm of ‘Pwen Paché-ou Vin Pwen Coco’ seemed to lift my spirits as I entered the historical park. But this uplift would be short lived. Grabbing hold of my camera, I realized that the batteries were exhausted.
I figured a quick trip to Dennery would solve the issue and I’d be back to catch probably the final acts. Wrong.
I literally walked through nearly the entire Dennery village in order to source some Energizer Double-A batteries!
By the time I got back to Fond D’Or over an hour later, the much-acclaimed Ronald “Boo” Hinkson was finding unison with his guitar. During his presentation, he incorporated his acoustic sounds with the harmonious local voices of Shayne Ross, and Irvin “Ace” Loctor. Internationally renowned songstress Tracy Hamlin also collaborated with Hinkson, but not before adorning him with praise, as the pair’s work on her latest album had warranted her multiple Grammy considerations.
Securing a suitable spot by now was the aim, as everyone anticipated the entry of Morgan Heritage. Expectation gradually turned into irritation, as we waited patiently for the stage setup. And then finally, the hour had come for the Reggae family.
Opening for the group was Jamere Morgan, son of lead singer Peetah Morgan. A loud roar resounded as the band emerged on the stage, and as I looked back from the sweet spot I had secured near the stage, it appeared that persons had come out of their hiding places and consumed the area.
Morgan Heritage did not disappoint. Rastafarians and bald heads, young and old, skanked and rocked as one, to hits such as “Don’t Haffi Dread”, “Reggae Bring Back Love”, “Tell Me How Come,” “Down By The River,” and “Nothing To Smile About.” The crowd went into delirium, as they sang their hearts out to lover’s rock singles like “She’s Still Loving Me” and “I’m Coming Home.”
Peetah and Gramps alternated on vocals as the show went on and engaged the crowd throughout. As they performed, the two touched on issues of employment, crime and even love and relationships. No doubt, everyone in attendance was feeling irie, as they waved their hands from side to side and yelled ‘Yes Rasta!’ at every instructed time.
Morgan Heritage themselves expressed their love for the island and the people, and that love was reciprocated as the band finally left the stage; leaving the crowd bawling ‘We want more!’
The 2014 Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival continues on May 8 at the Gaiety with Dee Dee Bridgewater and Omar Sosa. Friday May 9 Pigeon Island will feature Barrington Levy, TJ featuring Alison Hinds and Alternative Quartet.
The event reaches a climax with headline acts P-Square. Elvis Crespo and Kem on mainstage Saturday May 10 and Maxwell, Tessane Chin and the Commodores on Sunday May 11.