By Anthony Turner – New York: Reggae’s newest music sensation Nesbeth, who was given the herculean task of bringing the curtain down on the third annual Oracabessa Festival on Memorial Monday at Roy Wilkins Park in New York, not only proved equal to the task but had patrons singing along to songs from his growing catalogue of hits.
Assuming command of the stage Nesbeth brought the house down in what was his first major performance in the tri-state area. Born Greg Nesbeth, the artist had his biggest moment when he delivered “My Dream”, arguably one of the most globally recognized reggae songs for 2016. Released last October, ‘My Dream’ was an anthem during the 2016 political campaign in Jamaica and was enthusiastically received by patrons at the NY festival.
“The song connected with young and older patrons” event producer Bobby Clarke said backstage. “I am extremely proud of his performance here today. It is artists of this calibre that we need to be pushing to the forefront” Clarke noted.
Soca king Mighty Sparrow displayed stunning vocal range while performing favorites including Jean & Dinah, May May, Mister Walker, and Melda. Ken Boothe did not disappoint and demonstrated why he is still one of the best in the business, engaging fans with Artibella, When I Fall In Love, The Girl I Left Behind and The Train Is Coming.
Internet sensation Gully Bop and Sting clash-King Kip Rich both entertained during their impromptu performances. Little Hero, NJ based reggae DJ Dr Love, Barbie, Pastor’s Son, Natalie Evans, Kukudo and The St John’s United Methodist Divinity Dancers were also well received.
Apart from the music that the main stage offered, organizers included comedy with Andrea ‘Delcita’ Wright and the cast of Border Patrol which was happening for the first time at an out outdoor music festival in NYC. Other attractions included a Kids Amusement Area, Business Expo, Health Pavilion and Arts & Craft.
Caribbean Heritage Awards were present to Mighty Sparrow, radio host Gil Bailey and posthumously to Jimmy Riley who performed at last year’s Oracabessa Festival. Lavern Tatham, mother of singer Tarrus Riley accepted on behalf of Jimmy Riley.
While providing great entertainment for the bumper crowd in attendance, the annual family festival was not without some controversy, as toward the end dancehall DJs Super Cat and Mavado both delivered expletive laced performances. Mavado, who took the stage after 6pm, was having a great performance until he began to express dissatisfaction with the band. This resulted in the artist delivering a slew of expletives, to which patrons took offense. His behavior marred what could have been a career defining performance at Roy Wilkins Park.
Veteran DJ Super Cat, who had not performed at a major outdoor event in NY in over 15 years, gave event host Dubb Master a tongue lashing for trying to move the show along. Dubb Master, acting on instructions from his management team and the NYPD to bring the show to a close after the 8pm cut off time had passed, showed class and professionalism in his handling of the situation. Avoiding a verbal tussle with Super Cat, Dubb Master took the high road and thanked Cat for his performance before inviting Nesbeth on stage who seized the opportunity to stamp his class during his short performance.
“We are truly appalled at the unexpected display by Mavado and Super Cat at our family friendly festival. We have since met with our production team and some of our sponsors and have apologized to them and our radio listeners for what transpired. There is a ‘no cuss word’ clause in all our contracts, which was clearly violated. For 2017, we will have to be even more prudent with decisions concerning the dancehall acts that we engage, so as not to have a repeat of this unfortunate event at our festival” Clarke said.
Oracabessa 2016 was an event to remember and the Irie Jam team should feel proud for having delivered a first class presentation, despite the minor hitches. Weather forecasters had predicted a 90% chance of rain all day, but the organizers seem to have connections to a higher authority as the weather held. In fact the sun pierced the clouds at various times throughout the day for what turned out to be a wonderful day of Caribbean entertainment in the Big Apple.