by Davandra Babb
Thousands of reggae lovers turned out at the historic Farley Hill National Park last Sunday for the popular Reggae On The Hill, the final event in the 2016 Digicel Reggae Festival.
From as early as 11 a.m., when the gates were opened, many lined up to enter the venue, with their baskets, coolers and other picnic essentials. Not even the intermittent rain and overcast sky would be a deterrent to those eager to enter the park.
While it may not have been the ultimate climax for some, it was quite a nice end to the festival. During the early hours of the show, the crowd soaked up the sweet sounds of local reggae singers, including Project X The Band, Fantum Dundeal, Empress Roli and Mole.
Richie Spice and Freddie McGregor stamped their authority and showed their experience, bringing much life to the somewhat mellow show.
Richie Spice thrilled the crowd with his many hits, including Gideon Boots, Di Plane Land, The World Is A Cycle, Youths So Cold, Earth Ah Run Red and Ah No Me That.
McGregor, who was in his element and a joy to watch, kept the crowd thoroughly entertained for his 45 minutes onstage. His offerings included Just Don’t Wanna Be Lonely, Push Comes To Shove and I Was Born A Winner.
Entertainer and radio personality Ronnie Clarke used the opportunity to personally thank McGregor for his contribution to the music industry and called on all those gathered to honour and show their appreciation to a man he described as a “living legend”.
Any conscious music lover would have been on cloud nine during these two sets.
McGregor is one of the few reggae artists remaining from the era of Dennis Brown, John Holt, Gregory Isaacs and Bunny Rugs, who are all now deceased.
The lovers in the crowd were not to be left out. Smooth-singing Romain Virgo and sweet-sounding Alaine served up sets specifically for them.
Virgo, the former 2007 Digicel Rising Stars winner was well received, and as he sang several songs from his repertoire, and covers, including Soul Provider, Don’t You Remember?, Stay With Me, Rich In Love and Who Feels It Knows It.
Virgo noted it was his first time in Barbados since 2010 and he was blown away by the love he received from the Bajan public.
Alaine, a former investment banker, though admitting she was nervous being onstage, still managed to thrill the audience with her impressive vocals. She delivered hits like No Ordinary Love, Sacrifice, Sincerely In Love and Dreaming Of You. She also attempted and conquered Adele’s hit song Hello.
Alaine encouraged all in the audience never to give up on any dream they had.
Nesbeth, who is the definition of strength, brought the hill alive with his hit song My Dream. From the first note, the crowd was sang along word for word, causing the Jamaican singer
to stop and hold his head in disbelief.
Nesbeth, who just lost his wife to cancer, told the crowd of reggae patrons of his love story and encouraged them to keep him in their prayers. He then performed an a capella version of the song he sang to his wife at her funeral a few weeks ago in Jamaica. The song, though untitled, was enough to bring a tear from the eyes of some in the crowd.
The thousands, who waited around well past 10 p.m. to see Chronix and the Zinc Fence band, were more than unimpressed by his performance. He opened his set with some of his newer music and, just three songs in, the crowd started to disperse, headed for the exits. While he did sing a few of his more popular songs, including Smile, Jamaica, Who Knows? and They Don’t Know, his performance ran up until just before 11 p.m., bringing the curtain down on yet another successful staging of the Digicel Barbados Reggae Festival.
The promoters should take a bow. The thousands who gathered at Farley Hill should also be commended for their good behaviour, as no incidents were reported on the night.