By Embukane Vincent Libosso, of What’s Good Networks Kenya our partners
The ambitious Street Fusion festival got off to a wobbly start on Tuesday morning when Damian Marley landed and a journalist went berserk accusing him and his entourage of insulting his mother.
That aside, Damian went ahead to adopt a lion – ‘Mukoma Marley” before roaring into the Carnivore Grounds for the anticipated Street Fusion Festival. His first ever Africa tour. Am not sure many of us realise why this was important to Damian.
Back in 2010, when Damian Marley & Nas’ Distant Relatives album was released, there were plans to tour Africa, but the tour never materialized. Now, 7 years later, Damian Marley toured Africa for the first time as part of a seven-week Africa/Europe tour, which leads to the long-awaited album release of Stony Hill (out July 21st).
Street Fusion, a medley of phenomenal global street music, brings together three passions to create a wonderfully stimulating and fresh event. It is about adding an unexpected but beautiful twist to the great music we already love.
Although the event got off on a wobbly start with many revellers held at the entrance in heavy queuing due to system issues, when we made our way to the Carnivore Grounds, the event needed something special to recover its momentum.
Kriss Darlin and an array of Reggae entertainers took the stage in a show of unity before setting the stage for Wyre backed by Gravitti Band. His performance was electric. Fyah Mummah, Jahmby with Selekta Teknix were next before setting the stage for a young touring act from Jamaica to curtain raise for Junior Gong.
His exquisite musical escort took the stage. First came an elder Rasta introducing Gong before the visuals of Emperor Haile Selassie in the centre alongside a lion on each side took dominion of the stage.
Then in came his voice a few minutes before 2 AM, and his distinctive dreadlocks, gravelly voice and characteristic Djing style, and Damian Marley appeared rocking a cool Adidas sweat jumper with blue jeans.
The grounds erupted. How am I to put in words the experiences of last night? While I still struggle to distil the sonic and visual impressions into written form, I allowed his music and stage performance to be a medication.
The attention of the crowd is focused on Damian, who kicks off the performance with such an up-tempo. His first session is one that takes the crowd back to the earlier projects he did before winning us back with new tunes like ‘Roar Fi A Cause’ and ‘Medication’ featuring his elder brother Stephen Marley off the anticipated 2017 album, Stony Hill. His locks down to his feet and his familiar flag waver who was on point from start to the end, Damian Marley owns the stage.
His first break comes at 3 AM after a blend of Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” and the new lyrical clapping, ‘Roar Fi A Cause’. When the lights go off and he walks off stage, everyone believes his performance is done. Some begin walking away and some push forward before the elder makes a return to ask if we were ready for some more Junior Gong?
His second performance draws hugely from his father’s canon—mostly political songs such as ‘Africa Unite’, ‘Is This Love’ and then with a brink, you notice how similar his vocal tone is to his father, Bob Marley. In between back and forth chants with the crowd and waxing some Swahili, he delivers.
Thankfully, he has crafted a vocal style and a career that speaks hybrid on its own. Finishing off with “Road to Zion,” he urges us, “The road to Zion is not easy. Keep your heads up always. Watch out for one another and may God bless us all. Rastafari”
Typical of top-tier performers in dancehall, his final performance is the energy tune, “Welcome To Jamrock!” As the venue emptied, DJ Moh and MC Jushman of Moh Spice play out! The vibes still linger and there’s a smile on most everybody’s lips.
Watch Damian Marley performing in Nairobi