Not even overcast skies or the threat of torrential showers in Queens, NY on Labor Day Sunday could stop thousands of music fans who turned out in droves to attend the inaugural Reggae, Rhythm & Blues (RR&B) Festival which was held at Roy Wilkins.
R&B hit machine Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds, who has written and produced songs for some of the biggest names in contemporary music, delivered arguably the best performance of the festival.
For sixty blistering minutes, the slender, Grammy award-winning entertainer served up an erotic concoction of love ballads for the thousands of female fans who became locked in his constricting grip. Edmonds transformed the stage into his own playpen as his voice caressed hits like “Tender Love”, “Whip Appeal”, “Give U My Heart”, “For the Cool In You”, “My My My,” End Of The Road,” “When Can I See You”, “Every time I Close My Eyes” and many others. Could this signal a paradigm shift for reggae festivals in the US Northeast in terms of the acts they book? Fans simply loved the mix of reggae and R&B performers. Kudos to the organizers who took a gamble and booked Babyface and Monica for what turned out to be a most successful music event.
Reigning soca king Machel Montano again demonstrated that he is indeed the entertainment king of the Caribbean with another exceptional performance. The T&T born Montano and his HD family (Patrice Roberts, Farmer Nappy, and Zan) engaged fans and kept them enthralled with hits like ‘Rollin’, ‘Higher Than High’, ‘One More’ and ‘Down The Road’. Not even a short-lived power failure slowed his tempo or put a damper on his full throttle set that was nothing but raw talent, expertise and explosive energy. Other strong performances were delivered by Tarrus Riley, Leroy Sibbles, R&B songstress Monica and “Gully Gaad” Mavado, who delivered hits from his catalogue, concluding with his current hit ”Delilah” which really connected with fans. I-Octane – making his first appearance at an outdoor reggae festival in NY – was also in fine form. He proved a force to be reckoned with, reeling off hits like “My Life”, “Weed We Say”, “Nuh Ramp Wid Mi” and “No Lose Inna Dem” during his stint on stage.
A five minute video presentation, recognizing the achievements of veteran DJ Beenieman, aka Moses Davis for his 33 year contribution to the reggae industry was warmly received by fans who have been yearning for an opportunity to see the Doctor back live in the USA for some time now. At the end of the video tribute, Congresswoman, the Hon. Yvette Clarke, flanked by the Irie Jam Radio executive team and the reigning Miss Jamaica/ US, Capri Nugent, presented a “Living Legend Award” to the Dancehall King.
“Let me say, on behalf of all Jamaicans, Jamaican Americans, Caribbean people in the Diaspora, on behalf of the RR&B festival and the Irie Jam family, welcome back to the USA” said Congresswoman Clarke.
“We honor you. You have been an outstanding performer and you have made all Jamaicans proud, whether they are in Jamaica or in the Diaspora. We love you! We wish you continued success in all your endeavors. God bless you” she continued.
With his familiar signature “zagga zow, now, now, now!” Beenieman greeted and thanked the organizers and fans for the award and then used the opportunity to introduce the rising Jamaican star Khago, who blazed the stage with his big hit “Nah Sell Out Me Friend Dem.”
Another surprise video presentation, which included a message to fans from imprisoned reggae superstar Buju Banton was also well received by the throngs of music lovers who were gathered at the park. Honored too was slain VP Records executive Joel Chin for his significant contribution to the music industry.