Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley performing at “Feed the Scene,” July 13that the Anthem. (Instagram/Damianmarleymusic.com)
It is no wonder that Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley has made groundbreaking recordings that garnered the first Grammy Award for a reggae recording outside of the category of “Best Reggae” album.
The youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley, now 41-years-old, has secured his own place in history taking home the award for “Best Urban/Alternative” for the single “Welcome To Jamrock” from the acclaimed 2005 breakthrough full-length CD recording also titled “Welcome To Jamrock,” which won a Grammy Award for “Best Reggae Album” that year.
Touring in support of his latest Grammy Award-winning 2017 recording, “Stony Hill,” the musician brought a few other Jamaican reggae superstars in support of his “Feed the Scene” tour which gave the audience food for thought through conscious reggae vibes. “Stony Hill” was awarded the 2018 “Best Reggae Album” Grammy.
Calling on the talents of Dancehall deejay Spragga Benz, who led into the iconic musicians after a set by local brothers, “SEE-I” who routinely serve as the opening act for Thievery Corporation, “Feed the Scene” launched into a musical event with humanitarian leanings.
Spragga Benz, neé Carlton Grant, has been an icon of the Jamaican dancehall culture since the early ‘90s, making his first appearance as an assistant DJ for Ricky Villa and the La Benz Sound system. Through the sound system he had the chance to put some of his deejay tunes on tracks and the entity Spragga Benz was born. He has had a philanthropist mission since the beginning of his career, when he started the organization “Stay in School,” providing help for needy students in his hometown of Kingston, Jamaica.
Following the untimely death of his first-born son, Carlton “Carlyle” Grant Jr., Spragga started a second organization called “The Carlyle Foundation,” a program providing scholarships and computers to excelling Jamaican students. Currently the veteran musician is working on a new album, “The Journey Continues” that will be released later this year.
A rare set by Sizzla Kalonji, who rarely tours and has consistently been a mysterious figure who doesn’t frequently grant interviews, gave American audiences a chance to hear a live set, backed by a full band, of the man considered one of the leaders of the conscious dancehall movement.
Emerging during the latter half of the ’90s, the prolific Kalonjiwas long associated with Buju Banton and Capleton, all members of the Bobo Ashanti order of Rastafari, and helped lead dancehall back to the musical and spiritual influence of its reggae roots. His music, commonly known as “roots music” or “conscious reggae” positively advocates “faith and compassion for poor Black youth, and respect for women.” His hit song “Thank You Mama,” and “Greatest Mother,” pay tribute to his mother and Black women in that role.
Dressed in all white with a signature turban-wrapped head identified with the Bobo Ashanti, Sizzla whipped the crowd into energetic anticipation in preparation for the main act, Jr. Gong.
The Bobo Ashanti were founded by Prince Emmanuel Charles Edwards in the 1950s. Most of its members, called “Bobos” or “Bobo dreads” and “Bobo Ashanti,” because the Ashanti (Asante) people comprised the majority of African slaves brought to Jamaica, lived in a small utopian community called Bobo Hill, which is near Bull Bay, nine miles outside of Kingston, Jamaica.
After leaving the capacity-crowd waiting and whistling to urge Marley to the stage, he came out with his blazing, rapid fire raps with the backing of a full band directly from Kingston. Known mostly for his deejay stylings and collaborations with Nas on one of his early hits, “Road to Zion,” and the CD “Distant Relatives,” Marley did not allow the absence of Nas to stop him from diving into their collaborative recordings.
Marley also dipped liberally into his well of hits dating back to his 2001 recording “Halfway Tree,” which started Marley’s run of Grammy Awards, also performing songs from his latest recording, from “Medication,” a tome to his beloved marijuana recorded with this brother Stephen Marley, to the didactic “So a Child Will Follow” and “Everybody Wants to Be Somebody.”
But it was when he launched into his father’s classic songs, starting with the deeply spiritual “Rastaman Vibration,” and continuing through “Could You Be Loved,” “Is This Love,” and “Exodus,” most which he put his own spin on, either adding a rapid fire rap or recreating the lyrics in his own way, that slowly but surely, the phones dropped from videotaping the nearly two-hour multimedia show, that featured historical film footage of Emperor Haile Selassie I. Eventually, a hush fell across the massive crowd as they took in the positive vibes and reveled in witnessing the legacy of the legendary Bob Marley, carried on through the original artistry of his talented progeny.
“Stony Hill,” is available on CD, or streaming on the artist’s official website, www.damianmarleymusic.com.