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Triumphant day for reggae music

HEADLINER: Shaggy gave an impressive but short set (PIC CREDIT: Ron Shillingford)

WITH A host of music stars gracing the stage at this all-day event, it could have been likened to the annual Glastonbury festival. But devoid of mud and rain, and complete with stalls selling jerk chicken, Red Stripe beer, and a host of red, gold and green merchandise, this was, most definitely, a reggae affair.

The One Love Peace Festival, inspired by Bob Marley’s ‘one love’ message and held to mark the 30th anniversary of the reggae legend’s death, the show aimed to drive home the importance of peace, at a time when gun and knife crimes are commonplace on UK streets.

An upbeat festival, it really did provide something for reggae fans of all ages. Described as a family show, this couldn’t have been more accurate, as I went with my 50-something father, who couldn’t wait to see “old timers” like John Holt, while acts like Gyptian and Etana were on board for the younger crowd.

Long serving acts Wayne Wade, Horace Andy and Trinity were some of the show’s earlier acts, with the latter performing a particularly energetic set. Backed by the Ruff Cut Band, they created a brilliant atmosphere in the arena.

Similarly, King Sounds owned the stage with his regal-like presence, while Natty King and Nitty Kutchie also delivered impressive sets.

COLOURFUL: Etana brought glamour to the stage (PIC CREDIT: Ron Shillingford)

With the show featuring predominantly male acts, songstress Etana brought feminine glamour to the stage, as she belted out her hits I Am Not Afraid and Wrong Address. In the media room, she revealed to The Voice that her colourful two-piece outfit was created by London-based label Locstafari.

Asked how she defined the festival’s ‘one love’ message, Etana told us: “It means having no prejudice, accepting people for who they are and loving unconditionally. It’s about togetherness.”

Back on stage, dancehall star Gyptian was like a ball of energy, dancing away during his smash hit Hold You. Behind the scenes, he was far more chilled, sipping on an alcoholic beverage. When asked what he was drinking, he jokingly told us, “water…coloured water!” Giving his thoughts on the ‘one love’ mantra, the star added: “It’s something we need worldwide. We need to be more friendly with each other and spread that message of love.”

VETERAN: John Holt’s lyrics were strong (PIC CREDIT: Ron Shillingford)

John Holt was one of the show’s most impressive performers, with the 64-year-old veteran still possessing the sweet yet powerful vocals that originally found him fame. A gifted live performer, Holt delivered his hits including Police In Helicopter, Sweetie Come Brush Me and The Tide Is High.

There was disappointment for fans who were looking forward to a performance from Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani Marley, who, it was announced in the run-up to the show, would no longer be performing.

Similarly, Sean Paul’s set left a lot to be desired, with many commenting after the show that the dancehall star’s set lacked the quality and excitement that would be expected from an artist of his calibre.

However, hip-hop hero Busta Rhymes whipped the crowd into a frenzy, along with his longtime collaborative partner and hype man Spliff Star. (Respect to Busta – he doesn’t go anywhere without Spliff!) Though not a reggae star, Busta went down a storm performing hits Pass the Courvoisier, Make It Clap, Touch It and Break Ya Neck, which had the audience cheering and dancing throughout the arena.

An overrun of the previous performers meant that the night’s headline act didn’t get as long on stage as he should have. Still, having found myself in Shaggy’s camp ahead of his show, he and his team remained professional as they psyched themselves up for what was to be a fantastic performance.

Running through hits including Angel, Bonafide Girl and old school dancehall favourite Big Up (how I skanked to that one whilst watching from side of stage), Shaggy delivered an impressive, albeit short set.

Big up also to Reggae Reggae sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots, who, despite his fame and fortune (posters for his various food and drink products could be seen in the media room and throughout the arena) was personally dishing up and serving plates of jerk chicken/fish and rice and peas to those of us in the hospitality room. (Yes, I found myself all over the place that day!) A millionaire who remains humble – hugely admirable.

Despite a couple of disappointments, the One Love Peace Festival was, overall, a very good show that marked a great triumph for reggae music.

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