The annual dancehall festival Sting takes place every Boxing Day at the Jamworld Entertainment Centre in Portmore, Jamaica, and is billed as ‘The Greatest One Night Reggae Show on Earth,’ writes Nadine White.
The event, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013, is a long-standing platform for showcasing contemporary Jamaican music trends and widely acknowledged as a key benchmark for establishing new talent.
Accordingly, this year’s hottest up and coming artists, Alkaline, Kalado and Nesbeth, performed well, as did roots freshman Jah Bouks who paid a mini-tribute to Nelson Mandela with his smash hit Angola.
Etana strolled onto the stage – head high, shoulders back – and warbled through songs such as Warrior Love, People Talk, Free and Roots.
The singer received a massive response when she performed her break-out hit Wrong Address – a sobering highlight, as many people relate to the lyrics – and told the crowd before departing: ‘Jamaica, don’t you ever give up’.
Artists from Downsounds Records, the label owned by the event’s main sponsor, Josef Bogdanovich, were well-represented throughout the course of the night.
These included Specialist, Ishawna and Nature who burst onto the stage dressed in a shiny black leather suit, flashing his locks in a Bob Marley-esque fashion as he delivered his songs Trying Man and World Peace.
As usual, Romain Virgo gave a worthy performance, but his departing comment: ‘It’s been a pleasure being here, although this might be my final year’ was masked in ambiguity. Will he not be performing at Sting again, and if so; why not?
Wyclef Jean proved to be a great hit with the audience, delivering several highlights, including walking through the middle of the crowd, adamant that he would sing among ‘…real people,’ although Two Wrongs, his duet with Ishawna, was a bit uncomfortable as her vocals were clearly inadequate.
At some point, just about every successful dancehall artist has performed at Sting, but this year the most anticipated performance was that of Supercat, the ‘Don Dada,’ who returned to Sting after a 22-year hiatus, donning a crisp white three-piece suit.
As the crowd rocked and swayed throughout his 30-minute set (above), the legendary rapper steadily toasted through his catalogue of hits, dropping classics such as Don Dada, Ghetto Red Hot and Boops.
Cat brought out his eight-year-old grandson, who delivered some well-put-together lyrics, but sadly, his own performance was at times lacklustre and often marred by his ramblings.
These included a plea for Vybz Kartel’s release, although he later declared: ‘What kinda eediat killing Kartel go do’ (in reference to the imprisoned entertainer’s ongoing murder trial)?
Additionally, Cat complained about sand in his shoes and urged the audience to petition for the construction of a five-star hotel in Portmore. Considering Jamaica’s plunging employment rate and rising poverty levels, is this really a priority?
The reigning “Queen of Dancehall” Lady Saw took to the stage shortly afterwards, flawlessly delivering signature tracks such as Man Is the Least, I Got Your Man and Walk Out, before inviting Jamaican-born model Tyson Beckford onstage for her performance of her latest hit, Heels On.
As promised, Saw and Macka Diamond clashed (above). The two rivals battled lyrically for approximately seven minutes, and although Saw proved victorious, the clash became very personal at times.
The only real flop of the night was US rapper 2 Chainz, mainly due to his lack of profile in Jamaica.
In comparison to the rest of the lineup, his set seemed out of place and frankly, the promoters should’ve booked somebody else as the crowd stood motionless throughout 2 Chainz’ set, clearly unable to connect with his best efforts to engage.
Self-proclaimed “King of Dancehall” Beenie Man is a true entertainer and delivered one of the most energetic and polished performances of the night, even introducing his ex-wife D’Angel onto the stage, despite her very public cheating scandal a couple years ago; it was inspiring to see they’ve obviously buried the hatchet.
During his performance, Ninjaman made a joke at D’Angel’s expense, which resulted in a mini-clash between the two artists, however, Beenie’s ex was eventually forced off the stage after crudely flashing her underwear; a move that led to her being banned from attending future Stings.
Other stand out acts included Danielle ‘DI’ Isaacs, I Wayne, Aidonia and a man apparently loved and loathed in equal measure, Tommy Lee, who connected well with the audience.
As usual, Sizzla gave a solid performance, albeit saturated with his trademark gay-bashing content, which earned him a ban from appearing at any more Sting events.
The grand finale is always a major clash and this year there was a US$30,000 (around £18,000) cash prize up for grabs.
In a surprising turn of events, underdog artist Black Ryno dethroned reigning champ Kiprich in less than 10 minutes, bringing to a close the latest chapter of the epic saga known as Sting reggae concert. BV Rating: 3.5/5