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Sunday, August 21, 2005

London Low-Down

Read on for last weekend’s wrap from our resident reggae-head inna London, Jay, checking out some of the legends of reggae – The Mighty Diamonds, Black Uhuru and Burning Spear.

First up on Friday night were the Mighty Diamonds and Black Uhuru, with Ninjaman making a special guest appearance. The warm up sound system played a variety of styles from classic Dennis Brown to some reggae covers of RnB flavour tunes which kept the steadily growing crowd warmed up for the main event.

For me the real stars of the evening were the opening act The Mighty Diamonds. As soon as they came on we knew we were in for a treat. Donald 'Tabby' Shaw, Fitzroy 'Bunny' Simpson and Lloyd 'Judge' Ferguson, have been performing great reggae longer then I've been on this planet, and it certainly shows. They played a fantastic set of classic, beautiful tunes, such as 'Right Time' and 'I Need a Roof', alongside newer material such as 'Country Living', or my personal favourite of the evening 'Shame and Pride'. I think the term living legend is often overused to hype up an act, but it really is an apt description for The Mighty Diamonds.

The surprise guest for the evening was Ninjaman, who was an entertaining and lively performer. The band played classic, heavy dancehall riddims with Ninjaman cutting in delivering quick-fire verses, alongside another vocalist. Hearing him chat over a very bass-heavy version of the Punany riddim was the highlight of his set for me. The music combined with his unique Snoop Dog-like styling, made for an entertaining performance.

The final act of the night was Black Uhuru, kicking off the session with ‘Party in Session’, and playing a solid set of their classics tunes such as ‘Solidarity’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and ‘Sensimilla’. The Ruff Cut band backing them was tight and talented. Michael Rose was great to watch and gave an energetic and lively performance. They kept place bubbling till the close of the show around 2 am.

Sunday saw Burning Spear and Macka B at the Hammersmith Palais. The show kicked off sharply at 9 pm with Macka B quickly on stage. Macka B was excellent in his delivery and lyrical content, which was conscious, intelligent, and often humours, covering many social issues such as the treatment of women, to the war in Iraq. He also delivered verse in various languages from around the globe. It was sad to see Macka B’s set end, an entertaining performer spreading a positive and conscious message through his music.

The crowd had come to see Burning Spear, and after a quick band change he kicked off the evening in fine style. His set was brilliant, performing classics such as ‘Marcus Garvey’, ‘African Postman’ and ‘Rocking Time’. The band was great with a superb horn section, but the real star was Burning Spear. His energy and presence was amazing, his singing and chanting was powerful, earnest and honest. Watching him skank about on the centre of the stage then jump over to his drums and pound with an intense and very spiritual vibe, was a memorable and moving experience. After the first encore the crowd were still screaming for more, and he delivered. To anyone who hasn’t seen him live take any opportunity you can; words just don’t do the great man justice.

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