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Issue 1083

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Jamaica House: Freddie McGregor, Steel Pulse, Ziggy Marley, Protoje, Luciano... Indigo2 5-13/8/17

Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com
Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Protoje - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 13/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Luciano - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Luciano - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Luciano - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Luciano - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Luciano - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Luciano - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Freddie McGregor - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 5/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com The Skints - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com The Skints - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com The Skints - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com The Skints - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Steel Pulse - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Steel Pulse - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Steel Pulse - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Steel Pulse - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Steel Pulse - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 9/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Ziggy Marley - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 11/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Protoje - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 13/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Protoje - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 13/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Protoje - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 13/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Protoje - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 13/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com Protoje - Jamaica House: Indigo2 at the o2, London 13/8/17 @bluesandsoul.com

In August 1962, after hundreds of years of oppressive colonial rule, Jamaica gained its independence.

To mark the occasion, 55 years later, a series of concerts were announced in London, featuring some of the country's finest artists, and acts inspired by the island's music scene.

Organised by the Jamaican Tourist Board, the lineup boasted more than a week of top quality artists, varying from veterans of the reggae scene to up-and-coming dancehall acts.

I was lucky enough to get along to four of the nights, and was treated to some top quality music at the Indigo2, an excellent music venue in the o2 Arena complex in London.

The opening night boasted a stellar lineup, with Luciano and Freddie McGregor taking centre stage.

The island was just two years into self-rule when Luciano, nicknamed The Messenger, was born, and he's been active since the early 1990s, having scored a UK number one with "Shake It Up Tonight" in 1993.

That was one of the tracks performed early on in a lively set, in which the 52-year-old stunned everyone by unexpectedly doing a double backflip.

He has a fine voice that was well showcased in the intimate setting, and he paid homage to reggae heavyweight Dennis Brown with a superb version of "Deliverance Will Come".

Versions of "Pure and Simple" and "Knocking on Heaven's Door" were among the highlights of his set.

With the World Championships going on at the London Stadium throughout the week, there were frequent switches to the athletics on big screen.

The night Luciano and McGregor performed coincided with Usain Bolt's final solo race, in the 100metre finals. It was all set up for a spectacular finale, but alas, it all went horribly wrong and Bolt came in a disappointing - by his standard - third.

With half the audience waving Jamaican flags, this could have made the atmosphere fall immediately flat as McGregor took to the stage.

If there was a sense of disappointment in the room, the 61-year-old soon lifted it.

A model pro, he sounded excellent and the crowd sang along word-for-word on "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely" and "I Was Born A Winner".

His long dreadlocks may be gone, but McGregor's youthful spirit remains, and his years of performing - he cut his first record as "Little Freddie" at the age of just seven - showed.

"Push Comes To Shove" was a highlight of the veteran's performance, and night one got the series of shows off to a great start.

The second time I visited was three days later, when Birmingham-formed heavyweights Steel Pulse headed a bill that also included The Skints.

The latter, a London band, did a good job of warming up the crowd, and surprised many in the audience with their version of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together".

There was a lengthy gap between the performances as more athletics, including the women's 400m final, meaning that it was gone 10pm by the time Steel Pulse took the stage.

Steel Pulse has a big worldwide following, and became the first reggae act not from Jamaica to win a Grammy Award for best reggae album.

Frontman David Hinds bounded onstage in a distinctive outfit and sounded in excellent voice in a lively set.

The crowd may have been tired by the time they arrived on the stage, but they were soon dancing as the sound of reggae filled the Indigo2.

Hinds and co delivered an excellent set in which they performed an excellent version of "Ku Klux Klan" - a track as sadly relevant in 2017 as it was in 1978.

His fellow founder member, Selwyn Brown, was on keyboards as the band produced a lively set which also included a top-drawer version of "Rally Round".

The group may not be from Jamaica, but they did the festivities proud and ensured the audience left happy.

Two days later, on the Friday night, it was back to the Indigo2 to watch Jesse Royal and Ziggy Marley.

Hailed as one of the exciting 'reggae revival' artists currently breathing new life into the genre, Jesse Royal was full of energy as he appeared onstage, and gave one of the week's standout performances.

I'll confess that I didn't know a lot of his music before the show, but the 28-year-old is definitely worth looking up.

Versions of "Butterflies" and "Modern Day Judas" showed he is an artist with an exciting future, and he said the stage perfectly for the night's headliner.

Ziggy Marley doesn't need much of an introduction. The oldest son of reggae's biggest ever star, he has a string of Grammy awards to his name and a career spanning more than 30 years.

It must be tough for any artist to break free from a famous parent's shadow, but Ziggy quickly put his stamp on proceedings with fantastic versions of "Tomorrow People" and "Personal Revolution".

The crowd were moving and swaying as the charismatic singer, whose mannerisms - I have to say - do bear more than a passing resemblance to his dad.

A rousing version of "We Are The People" was another highlight from a great set, and there was a nice moment when he bought his children onstage, with the young ones dancing to their father - and grandfather's - music.

A cover of Bob and the Wailers' "One Love" went down well with the crowd. Appearances by Ziggy in the capital are rare, but he's well worth a watch next time he's back.

The final night of the festivities was headlined by reggae revival star Protoje, and the organisers did well to get Sylo G booked in a support role.

The 31-year-old has collaborated with artists including Clean Bandit and Major Lazer and released some exciting material on his own.

It felt like he had his work cut out at the Sunday night show - by the time he appeared onstage it felt like energy levels inside the venue were low. Perhaps after more than a week of reggae shows was catching up with those who had been along each night.

But he dealt with that well, and by the end of his lengthy set, the crowd was jumping around.

The final act to take to the stage was Protoje, who's very fast establishing himself alongside Chronixx and Kabaka Pyramid as artists making waves in Europe and the US.

His relaxed stage presence and fast flow make him an engaging artist to watch, and he got the audience moving with versions of "Resist Not Evil" and "Criminal".

"Rasta Love" and "Blood Money" follow, with the star bounding across the stage energetically.

The future's looking bright for Protoje, and it was no surprise that he left his best known hit, "Who Knows", a duet with Chronixx, until near the end.

It had the crowd dancing wildly and was a fitting climax to what had been a superb fantastic showcase of Jamaican and Jamaican-inspired music.

There was a similar series of shows held at the Indigo2 in 2012 for the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence. Let's hope that 60 years is marked just as well.

PHOTOS: DAVE BURKE
Words Dave Burke

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