On Sunday, I succumbed completely to reggae fever. My husband and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary at Best of the Best, the biggest dancehall reggae festival in America. And as you can see, I went decked out in Rasta colored resplendence.
I’m rockin’ those Reggaelicious hoop earrings, and some big faux designer sunglasses, because I sweated off all my eyeshadow. Oh, and don’t ask me what that pose is — I’ve got my rum and coke in hand and was having a whole lotta fun, so I have no explanation.
Like my shirt? It’s made by G*ology, a fresh teeshirt line out of England designed by Gabrielle Smith. These are men’s tees, so I modified mine using tips from Generation T: 108 Ways to Modify a T-Shirt, a pretty handy book written by Megan Nicolay. G*ology has other afrobella friendly shirts — do you not love the sassy “My Afro Is Too Big For This Tiara” tee? I do. Go ‘head, Gabi!
If you want a lengthy review of the concert, here’s a brilliant and detailed one by Esther Park. I agree with quite a bit of what she said — and as an oft-conflicted fan of dancehall music, I’d like to say that I was really happy that none of the artists used the stage to incite any messages of violence or hate. I’ve seen it happen at past concerts, and it’s made me actually leave a show before. But this year’s Best of the Best had positive vibes. The atmosphere was truly celebratory and lovely. Several of the artists sang about Barack Obama, and the pride his candidacy makes them feel. One of my new favorite artists, Tarrus Riley, did an improvised song about America having its first black president, and it warmed my heart to see so many island people waving their flags and applauding the prospect.
I will say, I’ve seen several of the performers before, and I’ve seen them put on better shows — Buju in particular left me a little disappointed. But I’m just biased, because I was hoping for a more mellow Til Shiloh type of set, and Buju was in a dancehall frame of mind. He opened with Me and Oonu, so if you’re a fan you know the kind of speed his set started off with. He slowed down eventually and did a range of his classic material — from How The World a Run to Driver A (which I adore). Machel Montano made flags fly, and Sizzla Kolanji did a tremendous set, delivering 15 minutes of pure fire. Yes — 15 minutes was all the time he had, because of time constraints and scheduling issues. As much as I agreed with Esther’s review, to me the absolute highlight of the whole show was Barrington Levy. Longtime readers might remember, I’m a big, big fan. I already knew I was in for an experience, and I got what I came for. He holds the audience in the palm of his hand. His voice rings out strong and true, and he’s all about interactivity. He hardly sang a word of Too Experienced — we all sang lustily, word for word. It was a beautiful, blessed moment, with the sun setting in the background. We loved it.
Barrington delivered a barrage of hits, and he granted my husband’s wish — all he wanted was to hear that skiddly-waddily-iddily-diddily-diddily-whoa-oh-oh live and in person. And he got his wish and then some. I wish there was good live footage from the show, but in lieu of that, there’s this. Live Barrington from the Bongidae festival in 2005. This is Murderer.
I hope Barrington comes back for next year’s show!
All in all, it was a great experience, filled with island pride, good food, gorgeous weather, and wicked live music. If you’re a fan of reggae music, definitely make the trek to Miami next year — this show is worth it.