Last week, Bashment Vibes was privileged to gain VIP access to the annual Dennis Brown Tribute Concert, which took place in Kingston, Jamaica, on Sunday evening.
Best described as a massive street party to celebrate what would have been the legendary singer’s 56th birthday, the event was staged downtown on the waterfront, close to the Big Yard venue where Brown grew up, and attended by around 7,000 patrons.
Below, check out what Brown’s friends and contemporaries say about his legacy, and our review of the show, which featured performances from Toots Hibbert, Beres Hammond, Ken Boothe, Alaine, Cocoa Tea, Big Youth, Junior Reid, Winston ‘Niney‘ Holness and Chronixx.
Why is Dennis Brown’s legacy so important?
Singer, Coco Tea: ‘I was not billed to perform, but came to watch whagwaan as a spectator because I am one of Dennis Brown’s biggest fans. He is the greatest artist I’ve personally seen perform, and I make no apology when I say that.
‘Dennis is the Crown Prince of reggae, but successive governments have failed to show him the respect he deserves; fire bun di whole a dem, cah Dennis a di boss.’
Studio One percussionist, Bongo Herman: ‘Dennis Brown was a very clean-hearted yout’; sometimes I used to wonder if he used Brasso [metal polish] to wash his heart.
‘He was one of my best friends and never left me out when it came to touring. Sometimes there might be nothing going on here, but people all over Europe worship Dennis Brown; his shows where always sold out of there.
‘Some peoples’ spirit goes to the devil, but Dennis Brown’s spirit goes to the ancestors because he lived such a good life. I respect and miss him so much.’
Saxophonist and producer, Dean Fraser: ‘Dennis is foundation. He started singing aged 12-years-old, set nuff standards and contributed greatly to the upliftment of reggae in general. He should be respected for that.’
Skatalites percussionist and singer Noel ‘Skully’ Simms: ‘Dennis was a nice yout’. I had to be here tonight to support him because Alton Ellis and I grew him and Jacob Miller and taught them how to sing.’
Jazz singer, Jah9: ‘Dennis had a great vocal style and really made reggae his religion. You can feel the magnitude of the music in the way he approached his melodic structure; putting important words to simple, but profound melodies, almost like jazz. As a jazz performer I can’t help but apprecie-love it.
Soul singer, Carl Dawkins: ‘Dennis Brown was one of the original singers and a real personality; I think he is Jamaica’s Nat King Cole – the greatest. We have to represent him all the time because we miss him bad; spiritually and otherwise.’
Drummer and singer, Ras Michael: ‘Dennis was a special, conscious and very humble yout’ who had love in his heart for everyone. He really sought to enter into the higher realms of the music and I respect that.’
Singer and producer, Richie Stephens: ‘I had to be here tonight because Dennis Brown had a powerful impact on my life and career. Every time I hear his music I still feel the same way; inspired and charged musically; and that’s why he is greater than music.’
Review: Dennis Brown Tribute Concert, Jamaica, 17 March 2013
In recent years, the Dennis Brown Tribute Concert has become an integral element of Jamaica’s annual Reggae Month calendar, which promotes the genre’s cultural and professional development.
Originally scheduled for 3 February, the show’s producers (Brown’s former manager Junior Lincoln and childhood friend Trevor ‘Leggo’ Douglas) endured two postponements and a change of venue before literally getting the show on the road six weeks later.
The concert kicked off at 5pm with early performances from veteran singer Carl Dawkins, roots elder Ras Michael and talented newcomer Jah9.
Raucous waves of music blended with the cool sea breeze and both drifted through the streets of Kingston’s corporate area as artists such as Mikey General, Alaine and Chuck Fenda teased the swelling crowd with hit-packed 10-minute sets.
One of Jamaica’s hottest contemporary roots band, Zinc Fence, stepped up the pace introducing their artists Protoje, Kabala Pyramid, and the man of the moment, Chronixx, who tore the place down with a thoroughly entertaining, high-energy and crowd-pleasing performance.
The 19-year-old roots warrior closed his set with a cover of Love Has Found Its Way, which led perfectly onto the next performer, Brown’s long-time friend and collaborator, saxophonist Dean Fraser, whose horn can be heard throughout the original version of the song.
Fraser rocked the audience with a powerful rendition of Wolves and Leopards before giving up the stage to one of the Jamaican music industry’s founding fathers, Toots Hibbert.
Toots has one of the strongest voices we’ve ever heard (even though he’s 70-years-old and holds the microphone at least 10 centimetres away from his mouth) and earned the biggest rewind of the night when he dropped the opening lines of his rocksteady classic 54-46 That’s My Number.
First-class performances from Junior Reid, Errol Dunkley, the ever-smooth Ken Boothe and 64-year-old rapper Big Youth who danced, sang, skanked, and flashed his locks with the energy of a 24-year-old.
The final segment featured performances from the Heptones and the man most patrons had been patiently waiting to see, Beres Hammond.
Dressed in beige with a cool blue matching jacket and hat, Hammond did not disappoint, sailing effortlessly through a medley of hits before introducing Coco Tea, Jah Cure and the talented Richie Stephens to conclude a truly amazing event with a barrage of beautiful reggae classics.