The road to consciousness is long and winding. Achieving self-knowledge is honorable but not an easy path. There are often many bumps along the way. Musical consciousness is equally inspiring and difficult. Because music is art, it cannot be controlled through specific expectations. The inspiration gained through musical enlightenment is guided by the ability to expand spiritual principles and to act accordingly. Even more complex, music is a cultural modality expressing reality in a meaningful way. Seventeen years ago, Worrell King, creator of King of Kings Promotions, developed the concept of Western Consciousness as a musical journey, creating fertile ground for humankind to embrace a state of higher consciousness through the recognition of culture and art.

Reggae music is sometimes considered a vehicle to righteousness, directing goodness into to the heart and soul of those touched by the spirit. Stage shows such as Western Consciousness, East Fest, Luciano's 'Black History Show' and Rebel Salute are created with the intention of promoting professionalism and upliftment. The mission of 'Good Over Evil' denotes the seriousness in which Worrell King takes his role. Western Consciousness represents a microcosm of the nation. The show reflects the abundant and supreme talent of a socially conflicted country while embracing a diverse cultural heritage. Jamaica is a dichotomy of richness enhanced by natural earthen beauty and evolving human hardship. The art that ebbs and flows from the fertile lush mountains and vibrant turquoise sea reflects a multi-faceted jewel of social and political integration.

This year's Western Consciousness began on the evening of April 23, 2005, in the small residential community of Llandilo, just a short distance outside of the small town of Sav La Mar. The close proximity to Negril, makes this location easily accessible for visiting tourists. Over the years, the international attendance has grown. Many feel blessed to make this short pilgrimage from Negril to experience a night of pure Jamaican entertainment. The majority of the audience, however, is Jamaican, representing parishes from all over the island. On this night, a deep rosy sky rinsed away the oppressive heat and transitioned gracefully into a cool evening breeze. A fat voluptuous moon lined up directly over the stage. The strategic balance of amazing entertainment promised an exceptional evening, representing a wide diversity of talented artists. Everything came together beautifully for a night of pure joy. The stage and surrounding area reflected a comfortable down home atmosphere enhanced with attractive palm greenery and soft ambient lighting.

The artists were remarkable. Edge Michael of Negril, and Sista Zema 'Free At Last' from Los Angeles, were two early performers whose conscious lyrics warmed up the crowd for a powerful night of lyrical potency. Marsha, a schoolteacher by trade and poetress by passion, immediately captured the crowd with a litany of conceptual ideology, doling out provocative statements of black pride, sermonizing the ravages of artificial beauty, and satirizing spiritual bankruptcy promoted through prostitution and political doctrines. Introduced by Isis, Marsha was appropriately described as 'queen of mind expansion.'

The next artist is currently making many inroads on the concert scene. He demonstrates a rare and unusual musical style related to folk music. Abdel Wright's unique talent is strongly reminiscent of Bob Dylan. His performance has evolved significantly since I first saw him at Rebel Salute last January. Abdel arrived onstage with his acoustic guitar and soulfully unleashed musical poetry edged in social commentary. The audience responded with cheerful appreciation. The massive sound of horns blowing across the field easily reflected the acceptance of Abdel's style into the reggae musical genre. The next group, three women, LMJ (love, music and joy) segued smoothly with a sweet rendition of 'Dreamland.' Their voices reflected a sweet gospel foundation while their musical notes resonated with ethereal peace and divine glory.

Jamaica's rising son is surely Tarrus Riley, son of Jimmy Riley, and a singer-songwriter whose style exhibits a solid reggae foundation and varies just enough to have strong crossover appeal. Tarrus sang from his new release "Challenges" and won tremendous favor when he broke into "Larger Than Life." The Riley family showed strong family solidarity as Tarrus's mother danced in front of the stage and his father remained close backstage. Their presence as a prominent family of reggae was uplifting and heartwarming.

There was little doubt that the crowd was well primed when veteran singer, John Holt, took the stage, crooning well-known vintage melodies and strongly appealing to roots reggae lovers throughout the Llandilo Cultural Center. John Holt remains a Jamaican favorite and brings to the stage the crucial authenticity of an experienced old time tradesman, crafting his art from his early days with the Paragons and showcasing the creative and diverse musical skills of roots reggae history. The precise delivery of 'Stealing Stealing' skillfully reinforced the importance of this crucial seventies tune especially since the rebirth of the riddem by stalwart artists such as Luciano, Coco T, Capelton and Sizzla. John Holt is professionalism personified.

The next artist was simply Wonder-full. This was my first experience seeing Wayne Wonder sing live and direct, and this performance left me an adoring fan. Wayne arrived on stage wearing a stark white suit and dark sunglasses changing the musical mode from vintage golden roots to modern sophistication. Wayne offered a musical treasury of old and new including my favorite "Saddest Day of My Life" and a guaranteed crowd pleaser "Bashment Girl." Resounding cheers and solid waves of red, gold and green flags made for a magical display of Jamaican pride leaving no doubt Wayne Wonder has arrived as a true Jamaican musical hero. His time on stage was obviously too short as the audience was begging for more even after a heartwarming encore.

The band change was quick and efficient. Anticipation ran electric as the Harmony House band took the stage. The audience, intensely primed for the highlight of the night, waited for the arrival of the legendary Beres Hammond, Jamaica's most beloved performer. The beautiful and talented Harmony House singers, Dorett Wisdom, Alicia Lewis and Melissa Simpson, positioned themselves at microphones at the back of the stage. Minutes later, Beres arrived wearing a bright yellow shirt and courting a smile exhibiting the same charisma skillfully incorporated into his musical lyrics and rockaway style. Beres immediately launched into a sentimental journey of favorite songs which included 'Tempted to Touch' 'No Shot Naa Bus' 'She Loves Me Now' and many others that left the audience crying for more. Much to the delight of everyone, Beres called Jimmy Riley to the stage where he performed 'Conversation' adding even more flavor to a solid roots portion of the show. Beres took over the mic and performed for nearly an hour running through his multitude of favorites. Beres repertoire is so massive loaded with hits that I don't believe I have ever seen an audience fully satisfied when Beres leaves the stage. There is never enough when it comes to Beres Hammond and his incredible band and singers.

Following Beres Hammond is not an easy task but one that Bushman handled with extreme ease and professional polish. His powerful stage energy captivated the audience while busting out with his own version of Bob Marley's 'Hyprocrite.' Bushman is a unique blend of foundation roots and modern dancehall. His smooth cool voice and command of lyrics gives him immediate control over the audience. Bushman favored the audience by remaining true to his Rastafarian life-style singing 'Fire PonA Deadas' and carrying a red, gold and green walking staff.

Morgan Heritage led the faithful to the altar. Without the sweet sensitive vocals of Sister Una, the family carried on in pure spiritual bliss covering territory such as 'Down By The River' 'Ya Nuh Haffi Dread' and 'She's Still Loving Me.' Gramps and Peter took the lead vocals and playfully exchanged the lead playing off of each other's strengths. Peter's direction and guidance from stage was reminiscent of his father Denroy, edging their professional charisma up a few notches. Morgan Heritage is a true reggae blessing and a band that I believe will continue to amaze the reggae world for years to come.

The last segment of the night was an excellent tribute to young upcoming dancehall artists. Chezidek, I Wayne, Jah Mason, Turbulence and Fantan Mojah represent a powerful collection of artists who are currently burning up the radio charts with their unique delivery of lyrical chanting. Each dj specializes in their own testament of lyrical commentary demonstrating that dancehall can be provocative and responsible simultaneously. The only flaw of the night came from a disgruntled Fantan Mojah who brought displeasure to the stage using expletives and causing security to pull down his sound. Fantan continued with undisciplined behavior causing moments of bottle throwing that halted the show abruptly. That night, Fantan was the bump in the road to consciousness. However, even the small blemish created by one unsdisciplined performer could not diminish the overwhelming beauty and joy from the night's entertainment. Western Consciousness was a night of pure musical ecstacy, a blessed livication to the rich cultural legacy of Jamaica's musical treasure box.

Article & Photos: Sista Irie (May 2005)
(Please do not reproduce without permission).



WESTERN CONSCIOUSNESS
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