Gully Gad Showers Sumfest with Stardust

MAVADO gave everyone a true Star Boy experience at this year’s ‘greatest reggae show on earth’, and for some he gave even more than that, when he removed his bling and threw it into the crowd.

NICKI MINAJ didn’t disappoint as day three headliner, though she did it in a surprising way, handing the stage to her dancers for a dancehall tribute. And MYA excelled, appearing twice on dancehall night and once on the Saturday night.

Sadly R KELLY had to pull out as he was too unwell to travel but the gap was ably filled by BUNNY WAILER and the cheeky COCOA TEA.

Day one (dancehall night) is always crazy but this year it was mad crazy. TIFA sparkled. Arriving on stage on top of a huge white gift box, wearing a blonde wig and white bustier, she thrilled us with her hits like Wedding Chapel, Swaggin’ (with Future Fambo guesting) and her latest, Get Flat.

After JAH VINCHI who did a big up to Bounty Killer and Vybz Kartel (don’t normally associate those two together?), on came KIP RICH, dressed in a long red coat and red trousers, who entertained the crowd with his deejaying. He’s one naughty guy. Referring to the act who’d be headlining the whole festival on the Saturday night, he announced to cheers from the crowd “big up NickI Minaj for watching dancehall night!" Was he for real?!? "Just want to say she’s got a great bumper. And needs a Jamaican to give her one.” As if that wasn’t enough, he then brought out his own version, “Fluffy Minaj” (fluffy means 'big' on the island) and he had fun with her, acting out what – we imagine – he’d like to do to the real thing.

Next it was one of Jamaica’s strongest dancehall girls, SPICE, and boy can she impress a crowd. Dressed in a mirrored leotard, and a bouffant that looked like Marge Simpson’s only bigger, she raised the deejaying bar by addressing social issues with a message to the government to pull their fingers out and do something for ghetto people. This young artist makes her voice heard in politics as well as music – lobbying government to make changes for her people, like fixing the roads, doing more to tackle crime and violence and poverty, and stopping the police killing innocent youths. So she knows what she’s singing about, and sings good too, with tracks like fun and Jim Screechie. And then out came a surprise - R’n’B sensation MYA joined her, in what would turn out to be a bumper Sumfest for her, and they treated us to the first ever live performance of their new track together Take Him Out.

ELEPHANT MAN next, giving us what we all expect, his usual crazy stuff – climbing up the stage frames and exuding serious energy. Equal energy (if not the Elephant Man health and safety risk) was AIDONIA, up next, then things got a bit more mellow with I?OCTANE, with a set including his hit Lose A Friend and although he was running over time and summoned to come off he stayed with the audience who didn’t want to let him go and performed Puff It.

Dancehall night was already cooking up a good year, but now it was time for the dancehall massives. The Doctor. The General. The Dancehall Hero. The Gully Gad. Talk about competition.

Who was going to take the stage first? What order? Who was headlining? And most important who was going to finish on top?

The lights went out. Music started and the compere announced “only lighters allowed”. “Pay homage to the ghetto,” came the cry, and there he was, representing for the poor people, the poor people’s General himself, BOUNTY KILLER. Dressed head to toe in black, with gold jewellery, it was a stonking set, full of powerful lyrics powerfully performed, and finishing with Whine For Di General his smash hit on the Barmitzvah riddim.

Couldn’t get more different next: the King of the Dancehall, BEENIE MAN, was dressed all in white, together with platinum jewellery along with some natty knee high Converse type diamonte trainers. The Doctor gave his usual medicine to the ladies, esp. in Dude. His chat was as full on as the tracks – “for all my tight, tight, tight, tight pumm pumm, all my virgins” he announced the track Hmm Hmm, followed by a string of others followed by a couple of surprise duets: on Rum And Redbull, FUTURE FAMBO, and on Girls Dem Sugar, for her second appearance of the night, MYA. This talented lady had a great Sumfest, appearing on two nights and twice on the Thursday. This duet with Beenie Man was perfect, and all the more entertaining since he’d said he was resisting being touchy with any of the girls as his wife would ''kill him!” Amazing what recording a track with your estranged wife D’Angel can do to your behaviour, no?

The headliner was today’s big name in dancehall, VYBZ KARTEL. Don’t quite know what I mean here, but he was looking ‘surprisingly normal’ if you get my drift. The Dancehall Hero turned up in a vest and cream jeans, one trouser leg up and one down. His set gave us a string of hit tunes with his portmore crew, but at the end the crowd seemed to still be waiting for a climax from Di Teacha. Either way, he definitely scored as far as the evening as a whole was concerned – on the big screens throughout, they showed clips of his new soon to be reality show, in which girls from around the world will compete to be his girlfriend. Sorry ladies if you missed this week's closing date; looks like a it'll be a party.

But for my money the biggest hit of the night - and who got the biggest crowd reaction - was the Star Bwoy, geared up in diamonds and star trainers, chains looping through his three quarter length jeans, Gully Gad himself, MAVADO. This was a set of genuine emotional power. Some seriously emotional performances. Not surprising maybe, having recently lost a close friend in a tragic shooting. And also touching some high points. Having just returned from a trip to the US, he told the crowd “respect to obama for giving back Mavado his visa”. This set was not about performing, it was about raw passion. Passion for life, for surviving, for existing. Then he called out “Jamaica be careful of those who say [they] are your friends”. Which maybe explains some of that raw passion.

I can’t tell, of course. I do know last year was the peace breakout. Is that lasting, we wonder? I met up with Beenie Man between sets and asked him what was the state of dancehall in Jamaica at the moment and he replied “we’re working on it to get it to the right place”. Enigmatic.

Whatever’s the reason, there was a magic about Mavado’s performance. He really put his fullest into every track: even when he pulled up a girl from the crowd, we’ve all seen bumping and grinding, but this was – real sensual. He gave the crowd everything in true dancehall style; the guys sang along with him on Don’t Wana Be A Memory, and he made the ladies fall in love with him during Delilah followed by an extra special duo performance with Laza Morgan, of the Morgan Heritage family, on One By One when by this time the ladies where in meltdown. Then came a real climax. Suddenly off came the bling. Heaven knows how much this stuff was worth, if anything, but I guess monetary value didn't matter. As he proceeded to throw his necklace, his bracelet and his shoes into the crowd, his fans could take a piece of the star boy home with them, as – literally in barefoot – he closed his set on Star Bwoy. A true star performance.

Days two and three of Sumfest are of course the international nights.

Friday was hit by the news R Kelly was too ill to travel, but did it recover? Hell yes, with COCOA TEA and Bunny Wailer coming in to replace. The organisers had to grin and bear it during Cocoa Tea’s deejaying, saying “the promoters never book me. They run off and book R Kelly – but see now Cocoa Tea come save it!!”

The banter just kept on rolling. “Jamaica do you miss R Kelly? How can you miss R Kelly when you have Cocoa Tea?” - and the crowd roared.

BUNNY WAILER headlined the night dressed in a white silk outfit with a sequine tie and waistcoat representing the country’s colours. Entering the stage with “if you love reggae music reggae music let me hear you!” he performed his classics like Cool Runnings. His set ended with a speech, “in my time we didn’t have any condoms - we did ital which is vital. Which creates strong children.” At this point he introduced his daughter to the crowd, SENSILOVE, and the set ended with a musical performance from this trainee act.

But for me the biggest act of the night came in the shape of Mr BERES HAMMOND – in his humble style he moved with ease from his classics What One Dance Can Do, Groovy Little Thing, to more recent tracks I Feel Good – mixing up the love vibe with the sufferers anthem Putting Up A Resistance. He was the act to be honoured this year, always a high point of Sumfest, and it was a proud moment for the crowd to see one of the greatest reggae singers on the island getting the respect he so richly deserves, and named “the King of Lovers Rock – for his contribution to reggae music”. He accepted the award with his usual humility.

On to Saturday, international night two and the final night of sumfest, and the big hitters came and performed like they were on fire - GYPTIAN and JAH CURE pleasing the ladies with Nah Let Go and Love Me, and WAYNE WONDER doing a spectacular performance and introducing us to a guest appearance from - guess who – yes for the third time it was MYA! She looked amazing and together they hit the crowd with Ghetto Superstar and a remix of If I Ever.

It was time for the headliner of the event to take centre stage. Forsaking her usual harajuku doll style, but looking stylish for sure, NICKI MINAJ hit the stage in a leopard print halter and harem pants plus jet black bob. Of course we’d already got a taste of her fun side in the antics of Kiprich on Day One, and the crowd loved Moment 4 Life and of course (one for the island) her remix of Gyptian’s Yuh Love.

Her long section of standing back and letting her dancers let rip on a collage of dancehall tracks was definitely unusual (the sound for her set seemed strange, did this have something to do with it?), but it showed her appreciation for dancehall, and the crowd appreciated her for doing it.

The night finished with some good closer acts, including a nice chilled note from reggae classic group CHALICE taking the crowd into the early hours of Sunday morning, dreaming only of - Reggae Sumfest 2012.

Words by Reshma B (

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