SALUTE TO THE WAILERS – 2011 REVIEW
This event took place at the Hackney Empire in East London ominously on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 – Lloyd Brown remembered the near-3000 who perished by singing ‘So Much Trouble In The World’. But I guess few of us in the theatre were aware until one-time Wailers guitarist Junior Marvin mentioned it was also exactly 23 years since the untimely death of Peter Tosh. In spite of that, there was great vibes around, the Perfect Purple Band were in top form – a very solid band they are. Although because I was sitting right in front, the volume may have been a tad too loud, the mix was one of the best live sound I’ve heard in a long time – one could clearly hear each vocal and musical instrument.
The Salute To The Wailers (STW) format had the house band and young singers performing songs from The Wailers/Marley songbook with the odd established artist guests, invariably one having a direct connection with the Bob Marley & The Wailers story, starring on vocals. The performance is interspersed with commentary – this year by Daddy Ernie and Count Prince Miller which, provided highlights of the band’s history, key musicians who contributed to The Wailers legacy, stories of the era and some of the songs of the key albums. In 2008, I tried something similar over a couple of concerts in Brent including the ‘Songs Of Life, Survival & Empowerment Concert’.
I attended last year’s STW at Hammersmith Apollo and feel this Hackney show was much better. Certainly young singers impressed – the two females Antoinette Griffiths and Blessed Karess, the two males Mr Alexander and Caspian – all swapped lead and background vocal duties. Although the females did the business, on this occasion, I was simply feeling the males much more. Mr Alexander has grown in confidence and shows great star potential. He stood his ground and impressed singing a duet, Turn Your Lights Down Low, with Mica Paris who, brought ‘so good’, old school Soul vocals into the Reggae arena. She also performed Is This Love? and Satisfy My Soul – such great talent – who can match her when it comes to earthy, church vocalising?! Mica, wish you’d give those TV gigs a break as music needs you!
Back to Mr Alexander, whilst he did a good job on his lead performances, one that stood out by far was his vocals over the slow build arrangement of the hauntingly beautiful ‘Redemption Song’. Caspian showed the same sort of confidence I observed last year – using all of the stage, loud-speakers and coming into the seating section to sing directly to the audience! He has a good voice and sure knows how to engage and work the audience. His version of ‘No Woman No Cry’ went down well. Although he uses one moniker, he revealed his Zimbabwean family name when he proudly gave a shout out to his family before launching into Peter Tosh’s ‘African’. The way he introduced this song resonated with me, particularly as I had planned to catch some of the performers and guests back stage to contribute to a video documentary I’m making based around African identity.
The Perfect Purple Band, unusually, had two lead guitarists plus rhythm and bass guitarists. So it wasn’t surprising that there were many moments of Blues, Rocky guitar solos. This was taken up a notch or two when one-time Wailers guitarist Junior Marvin came on stage. Although he sung songs such as ‘Jammin’ and the rousing finale ‘Exodus’, his guitar playing and antics were reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix – as for those of us who love a bit of rawk geetah – we couldn’t ask for any more, especially when one had three lead guitarists going at it on the finale! It was heart-warming to witness a home-grown Reggae artist, Lloyd Brown, get probably the greatest applause as he entered the stage. He did not let down his fans, singing songs like ‘Zimbabwe’ with consummate ease. He took perhaps the only departure on the night by singing Joe Higgs’ ‘There’s A Reward’ as an ode to Joe who, was The Wailers’ early vocal and musical mentor.
The Promoters made an effort in putting on a show. For the second half, almost everyone on stage was dressed in white whilst a three-piece Brass section and a 10-piece ‘One Drop’ String section joined the Perfect Purple Band. Whilst the latter was a bold step aesthetically and financially, I think the String section was under-used. They sat without accompanying many songs whilst on some like ‘Waiting In Vain’, all they provided were the introductory strains which, like some of the riffs they played, could have easily been left to the Brass section and the two keyboardists. A song like Bunny Wailer’s mellow classic ‘Dreamland’ could have definitely done with live strings on top. Where the String section contributed more than the odd riff, I thought the arrangements did not stretch them enough. Having them there on stage was impressive but, they were simply under-used, as I said. That’s the only criticism I have which, I hope will be taken on board for next year.
The STW is a great concept that deserves greater support. So people get ready for 2012...!!
Pics: Black Ink Photography
** SEE GALLERY 2 FOR MORE STW PICTURES **
SALUTE TO THE WAILERS
The Story of Jamaica’s First Super Group
Reggae is the greatest music in the world... in my opinion!
(Otis Kirton - Musical Director)
To help understand Reggae music on a higher level, you need to appreciate, listen to and understand the music of Bob Marley & The Wailers. Since the ‘70s, the name Bob Marley has become synonymous with Reggae music. Even today, in the most remote parts of the world, you’re able to find people who are not just familiar with his message but, who truly enjoy, feel and relate to their music. But who were ‘The Wailers’? We’re talking about a group of musicians who, over a decade, were responsible for arguably the best Reggae music ever recorded. However, considering this fact, relatively little is known about them (as individuals) and it is my belief that they never received the recognition they deserved. ‘Salute To The Wailers: The Story Of Jamaica’s First Super Group’ is my attempt to address this situation - a collective effort by a dedicated team to pay homage to these great musicians as well as profile Bob Marley.
The sound of Bob & The Wailers evolved during a period spanning the ‘60s right through to the start of the ‘80s. This was a time that saw much change in Jamaica, from optimistic hope at the start of Independence through to political violence, civil unrest and protest. This period was reflected in The Wailers’ musical evolution, a period that saw Rhythm & Blues mixed with Jazz (Mento) become Ska then Rocksteady and finally Reggae. Most of Bob Marley & The Wailers’ songs have key elements of all these styles and this is what makes the music so uniquely special. Many of these songs never dated and continue to be played today at dances and on radio sounding fresh as if they were recorded just yesterday. Hence, it has always been my desire to assemble a group of like-minded musicians to come together and share my passion and enthusiasm for Jamaica’s first super group.
My original idea was merely to form a small group of musicians, a glorified ‘book-club’ if you like, where we could meet once a week to discuss, play and understand these classic recordings. As they say, from small acorns... I never imagined that I’d be able to find so many enthusiastic people who would take the whole concept so seriously. I’ve been blessed with a group of talented people who share my vision and who have worked hard to enable us to take our appreciation to the next level. This means we now get to take our ‘book-club’ onto theatre platforms! I’m extremely proud of our achievement and would like to thank all of the team, the musicians, singers, friends, our families and everybody else associated who, have worked extremely hard to help turn my dream into our reality!
WATCH INTRO TO THE SHOW HERE
Musical Director - Salute To The Wailers
I was first exposed to music by my father who, in the early ‘70s, was part of one of the earliest Reggae bands in England, ‘The Undivided’. My earliest memories of going along with my dad to his rehearsals means I was probably no more than 5 years old and being totally immersed in music at that age is why I learned to play drums so young. My first ever live stage performance was a solo Drum performance at Hackney’s Chats Palace aged just 7 years old. By the time I was eleven, I had also learnt to play Piano and Bass Guitar. At a Talent Show in Stoke Newington’s Town Hall with my younger brother on Drums and me on Bass doing our best Sly & Robbie ‘Dub style’ performance, we came second as we confidently gave our interpretation of The Wailers and Black Uhuru songs. It’s only looking back on the video of this performance as an adult that I now realise how much I was already influenced by the music of The Wailers at such a tender age.
In 1983, I formed my first band ‘Sweet Distortion’ which, consisted of my younger brother Marvin, my next door neighbours, brothers Basil and Colin Barnaby, Remmi Weeks (younger brother of Jazz and Lovers Rock legend Alan Weeks) and Lloyd Brown on vocals. For the next six years, we developed into London’s most acclaimed young Reggae band, second only to Musical Youth who eventually became our friends. Voted ‘Best Newcomer’ alongside 5-Star by Beat Magazine in the mid ‘80s, we were Support Acts for Reggae stars such as Yellow Man, Gregory Isaacs, Eek-A-Mouse, Barrington Levy and Aswad.
Fast forward almost 15 years (after various projects), I met Malinnga whilst working as an engineer at Genesis Studio in East London. At the time, Malinnga was about 19 years old and was spending a lot of time and money recording and producing some local Hip-hop Rappers. I was impressed with his discipline and drive. However, it wasn’t until he expressed a desire to produce a Soul Gospel album for a young female singer he’d met on the tube that I realised just how serious he was about what he wanted to achieve. I ended up helping him to produce the album for Adelaide Mackenzie for free and we have continued to work together providing a platform for UK talent ever since.
It was in 2007 whilst trying to think of a theme for a live music night at a small London wine bar that the first idea of a ‘Wailers Show’ came about. I suggested we do an evening of music that various singers could perform as long as their songs were in some way musically or lyrically connected to a Bob Marley & The Wailers song. Malinnga suggested we call it ‘A Wailers Tribute’ but, I didn’t like the name as I didn’t like the word ‘tribute’ as it almost suggested that the music was dead when in fact it was very much alive! I also wanted to somehow include some sort of recognition to The Wailers musicians so I came up with the idea of calling the night ‘Salute To The Wailers’.
WATCH VIDEO OF THE SONG 'ZIMBABWE' HERE
WHAT BLACK WOMEN WANT
Glorious Jones Is Coming Home!
A Theatrical Production
The Story: 15 years ago a young Gospel singer got her big break on the stage - a career that took her around the world. Soul Diva, Glorious Jones (Sandra McCalla) is travel weary. She wants to go back to her Gospel roots. She is on her last ever tour. She wants her final performance to be in the theatre where she had got that big break. As she begins to share her personal stories and songs with the people from her hometown, something amazing begins to unravel. In the form of monologues and duologues, we journey into the lives of the amazing women who have been touched by Glorious Jones’ songs on a level even beyond her comprehension.
On this very last performance, the theatre is packed. As Glorious Jones begins to sing and share stories of her experiences on the road, several songs touch a chord in the lives of some audience members. We see their individual stories unfold on stage in flashback. Rosa (Rechelle Graham) wants love but also wants to meet her parents’ expectations in that journey. Dawn (Mel Brown/Chaz Harrison) had everything she ever wanted then life throws a wicked dice. Chloe (Johanne Hudson-Lett) just wants to know what her husband is getting up to. Holly (Ayana Tyrell) is a very expectant mother who wants security in these crazy times. Echo (Lisa Lovell) never intended to but, goes to the concert anyway; she experiences a deeper understanding of her relationship. Genevieve (Johanne Hudson-Lett) wants to find her old self again. Michelle (Natasha White) is happy with her lot really then everything changes. Rebecca (Rechelle Graham) just wants to be safe. Mum (Nadine Edwards) just wants to find her daughter again and Ola (Latoya Newland) just wants happiness for her friend.
‘What Black Women Want’ is a beautifully written theatre piece which explores the lives of the Black British woman as never portrayed before on any production…. Writer Yaw Asiyama brings his sensitive touch to this story of every woman. Sympathetically told, this collection of short stories journey us through a knife edge of various emotions allowing us into very private lives and thoughts. This tapestry of life is held together by the most eloquent Soul music. The Peter Daley sound and the Sandra McCalla touch has made this a ‘got to be there’ moment.
This one-nighter was a beautiful experience. In typical Asiyama fashion, the audience is encouraged to participate by making this a dress to impress session. Women in the audience were encouraged to arrive in ‘that iconic black dress’. The men were encouraged to dress sharp. All part of the fun really. This was reflected on stage by the black dresses (Camelle Daley, House of Ilona) the characters wore.
Lead actress Sandra McCalla said: “’What Black Women Want’ is not a play specifically focussing on Black women. No matter what race or colour you are, you will see yourself or someone you know in one of the women on stage. Get ready to laugh, cry and be moved by the stories shared all joined together by Glorious Jones' personal story. Peter Daley has produced some amazing soundtracks to follow the stories so come ready to have a glorious night”.
Maybe you already know… maybe you just might find out What Black Women Want