By Nicholas E. Ford
Sound Explosion Segment
Reggae Sumfest‘s 2016 festivities kicked off in earnest at Montego Bay’s Pier One, in what was fittingly dubbed Sound Explosion. It was there that the likes of major brand soundsystems—such as the ‘Immortal Stone Love’, Black Kat, Fire Links, and Metromedia—did their utmost to lively up the dance. In turn, each sound system brought the crowd to a raucous roar as they set off not only new selections, but also a crop of oldies that kept the patrons skanking and swaying into the night—as the anchored ships twinkled their lights at a distance offshore. And of course, the many vendors that lined the fringes of the lawn were grateful for the brisk business—as they sold off jerk chicken, jerk pork, toys, blow horns, and an assortment of chewing gums, gizzadas and other sweeties.
Dancehall Night Segment
Whether this year’s Sumfest dancehall night was the largest ever at the event might be debatable. Nonetheless, no one can dispute the fact that a very big audience showed up to witness a slew of artists put their best foot forward in an attempt to make their mark on in this hyper-competitive music industry. Among the notable headliners were veteran deejays: Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, I-Octane and Popcaan.
But not to be outdone, were the newcomers—if you will—such as Dexta Daps, Savage, Tanto Blacks, and Chi Ching Ching. Each of these artists wowed the massive crowd over and over with their on-stage theatrics. As it happened it was Mr. Tanto Blacks who decided to sprint across the stage during his performance—only to trip and fall to the crowd’s disbelief and humor. Once Tanto Blacks rose to his feet and dusted himself off, he hilariously muttered into his microphone, “now that was rich!” Fittingly, he has a chart topping hit dominating the airwaves in Jamaica and beyond, titled ‘Rich Lifestyle’—touting his love for flashy jewelry, cars and such.
Clad in his customary fully black, veteran deejay Bounty Killer was as angry, cross and miserable as ever throughout his 40-minute stage performance. In having had a more than 20-year career the Warlord—as he is popularly known—appeared to be in his element as he dropped hit after hit for the energetic audience. On the female side, deejay Spice delighted the crowd to yet another top performance in delivering tunes such as ‘So Me Like It’ and ‘Needle Eye’.
Touching the stage at 3:30 am, was newcomer of sorts, Dexta Daps—also known as Mr. 7 Eleven who declared upon starting his set that he was not in the mood to give a ‘bag a long talking’—“less talk is the best talk!” Hailing from the inner-city Kingston community of Seaview Gardens, Dexta Daps then reeled off a series of hits like, ‘Chinese Jordan’, ‘Jealous Ova’ and ‘Shabba Madda Pot’—which makes reference to the ‘Dancehall Emperor’, Shabba Ranks, who is also from Seaview Gardens and who vaulted the Jamaican dancehall music genre to great heights on the international scene in the 90’s with his legendary hit— ‘Mr. Loverman’.
Prior to Beenie Man closing dancehall night 2016 is sensational fashion as always, the dreadlocked singjay I-Octane took the opportunity to once again carve out a name for himself—announcing that he was not searching for accolades for his scintillating performance, but rather wanted to focus on the needs of his audience and put it out there for them to enjoy. Beenie Man then closed the night well after 6:00 am. With such a treasure trove of hits in his catalog, all Beenie had to do was launch into the opening lines of his songs and have the audience pick them up and sing along with rapid pace.
Reggae Night Segment
Bringing instant electricity to the Catherine Hall Stage was none other than Tarrus Riley, who introduced the reggae morning and warmed up the atmosphere with his melodic, ‘Getty Getty’ and ‘Human Nature’—which is Riley’s version Michael Jackson’s longtime hit. Wearing white with a tinge of off-white, Tarrus, who often calls himself ‘Mr. Singy Singy’, then turned to ‘Lion Paw’, ‘Stay With You’, and perhaps his biggest hit—‘She’s Royal’. All throughout his set, Mr. Singy Singy was of course complemented steadily by master saxophonist, Dean Fraser, as mainstay in Riley’s musical ensemble.
One could argue that Tarrus Riley’s superlative performance was equaled only by romantic reggae crooner, Sanchez, a perennial and seemingly ageless talent, who wasted no time in serenading his loyal fans with ‘One in a Million’ and ‘Hallelujah’. And as he thereafter launched into ‘Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone’ and ‘Missing You’ , the tireless patrons at Sumfest went into a frenzy.
Taking the stage at 4 am was Supercat, seeming more like a blast from the past, not only because of his influential role when it comes to many other artists, but also due to his impressive and unrivaled wordplay. In that regard, the audience attempted to keep up with Supercat as he marched through, ‘Dem Nuh Worry We’, ‘Easy Mr. Cat’, and ‘See Boops Deh’. Supercat then closed to a deafening round of applause.
In a demonstration of the loudness of the swollen Sumfest audience, Barrington Levy, dressed in a white suit, sang ‘Living Dangerously’ in his long-awaited return to the festival. Then, Barrington’s ‘Black Roses’ and ‘Broader than Broadway’ was a reminder of the staying power of his music—many decades later.
At 6:45 am, Luciano, also known as ‘the Messenger’, brought the curtains down on Reggae Night to conclude Sumfest 2016 in fine style. Against the backdrop of the occasional plumes of marijuana smoke in the air, Luciano, delivered ‘Sweep Over My Soul’, ‘We Are All in This Together’, and ‘Lord Give Me Strength’.
Under the new regime after handing the reigns to Reggae Sumfest over to current Chairman, Josef Bogdanovich, the changes ushered into the new model which had put a bet on how alluring and magnetic Jamaica’s treasured musical genre would prove itself to be under the format change. While Dancehall night remained on the itinerary, International Night was replaced by Reggae Night. All in all, it seems as if Mr. Bogdanovich’s bet on the new nightly format of Reggae Sumfest returned an investment of artistic showmanship and cultural pride as dancehall and reggae both ruled on their respective nights to preserve Sumfest as the ‘World’s Greatest Reggae Festival’. And in this year’s Sumfest 2016 episode, even Jamaica’s Prime Minister Elect, Andrew Holness, played a part by popping in for a visit on the lively festivities.
 Nicholas E. Ford resides in the Miami Florida.