Reggae superstar Sizzla is another topnotch artist whose name can be added to the steadily growing list of Jamaican top acts who have performed in one of the most acclaimed venues of Belgium, namely the Petrol Club in Antwerp. When we arrived at the entrance of the Petrol it was obvious that this show had been waited for with great anticipation by many, many reggae fans. People had to stand in line and it us took about twenty minutes before we could get inside the venue, where Belgium's foremost reggae ambassador Crucial P and his crew got the crowd enjoying themselves with a real nice selection of tunes.
Emerging during the mid-90s, the enormously prolific Sizzla was one of the leaders of the conscious dancehall movement. Along with Buju Banton and Capleton, he helped lead dancehall back to the musical and spiritual influence of roots reggae. Sizzla, born of devout Rastafarian parents and raised in the close-knit community of August Town, began to develop his own uncompromising style whilst serving his musical apprenticeship with the Caveman Hi-Fi sound system. For him the music was a vehicle for his message, and in 1995 he grabbed the opportunity to spread the word far and wide. Kick starting his recording career with a release through the Zagalou label, he then teamed up with Bobby 'Digital' Dixon for a series of singles.

1996 marked an important turning point for Sizzla who began working with producer Phillip 'Fatis' Burrell of Jamaica's foremost modern roots stable, Exterminator. A run of successful singles led to the release of Sizzla's debut album, 'Burning Up'. The alliance again proved fruitful a year later with the follow-up, 'Praise Ye Jah'. Securing his position as a top conscious reggae artist, he set about cultivating his role as a spriritual messenger. Sizzla's combination of Rasta principles and up-to-the-minute dancehall riddims made his hard line approach more palatable. A brilliant and passionate performer, Sizzla broke boundaries, appealing to those looking for something new, music with depth.

His major breakthrough came with the release in 1997 of the now classic album, 'Black Woman And Child', which beared all the hallmarks of Bobby 'Digital' Dixon's dancehall-influenced production. The impact on the reggae market was phenomenal and the evocative title track, issued as a single, rapidly achieved anthemic status. Sizzla has since released countless albums and singles, and he's a constant presence in the reggae charts worldwide.
Showtime started at about 11pm when The Firehouse Crew came on stage and kicked off with a nice introduction featuring riddims like Studio One's classic "Full Up" and Damain 'Jr Gong' Marley's "Welcome To Jamrock". The latter was received with much approval, but unfortunately a large part of the riddim got a real 'hard rock' treatment, which didn't work that well. Then the MC in charge announced Sizzla's (unexpected) support act Singing Cologne, a singer who is around for quite some years but despite a few nice single releases never achieved wide recognition. Throughout his performance he showed that he's just an average singer and thus failed to make a serious impression. If Singing Cologne wants to became a name to watch for in the near future he surely has to improve his vocal delivery and the quality of his songs.
Then came the MC to announce the one everyone had been waiting for... Sizzla Kalonji. The crowd was packing forward in anticipation and there was barely any room left in the Petrol Club where it was getting 'sizzlin' hot'. The refrain of "Just One Of Those Days aka Dry Cry" kicked in and on he came dressed in white and with sunglasses on. The crowd went mad and kept up the support throughout, often singing along to his many hit tunes, sometimes word for word. After this devastating entrance Sizzla almost effortless kept the vibes flowing. A good proportion of his 2 hours lasting set was given over to 'Da Real Thing' album as he treated the crowd to tunes such as "Why Should I", Simplicity", "Woman I Need You", "Thank You Mama", "Solid As A Rock" and, of course, saving his huge hit for the last part of the show... "Just One Of Those Days" to finish the night...
Luckily he had decided to cover many classic songs including "Guide Over Us", "Good Ways", "Love Is Divine aka Words Of Divine", "Dem Ah Wonder", "Give Dem The Ride", "No Other Like Jah" and "Babylon A Listen". He ran through them all, touching on just over half the song, before blending into another, such is his catalogue of anthems. The fact that he sometimes sung out of tune, with the experienced Firehouse Crew also playing some false notes, were put up with. "Taking Over" marked the switch to a couple of bashier offerings, amongst them "I'm With The Girls", "Run Out Pon Dem" and "To The Point". The latter -- across the 'Tixx' Riddim -- drove the crowd crazy, in one of the hottest moments of the night.

get to di point caan dis di Rastaman annoint
mi bun mi chalice when di yankee bun joint
get to di point caan dis di Rastaman annoint
bun out di Babylonian everytime-da one ya name

hey hey hey hey Sizzla Kalonji say fi love unuh one anotha
hey hey hey hey Sizzla Kalonji say a hotta hotta fiyah
hey hey hey hey Sizzla Kalonji say fi love yuh one anotha
hey hey hey hey

Sizzla was pure energy, and commanded the stage, certainly knowing how to carry an audience with him.
After this dancehall intermezzo Sizzla returned to the roots with more recent material including "Give Jah Thanks" on the wicked "Truth & Rights" riddim, "One Away", "Ain't Gonna See Us Fall", and his current UK hit "Really And Truly" over Fat Eyes' remake of Bob Marley's "Natural Mystic" riddim. Furthermore he delivered a few songs from his associaton with Donovan "Don Corleon" Bennett, including "I Was Born", "Rise To The Occassion", and the hit "Be Strong" across the "Drop Leaf" riddim.

After Sizzla and The Firehouse Crew had left the stage the crowd made some real big noise, trying to get an encore from the man. But it was labour lost, so time for Crucial P to put the needle on the record to kick-start the after party.
Text : Mr. T & Photos/Video : Teacher