‘Big dutty stinkin’ Shabba’ was billed as the festival headliner for Sumfest’s International Night I (the whole festival if you ask me). He arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport to placard-bearing fans and family members in true head-of-state euphoric fashion. Watch here. Sumfest patrons could not have asked for more. With tunes such as Peenie Peenie, Womb Turner, Halla Fi Buddy, Wicked Inna Bed, Gyal You Good and Love Punaany Bad, Shabba sizzled with sauce and santimonious irreverence for the puritanical ethic that labelled him slack in the late 1980’s. Afterall, ‘pum pum had been good to him’ and he wanted the world to know it. Being a witness myself, Shabba successfully reminded the Sumfest audience of the star he is and speared no sweat or grind in pushing the proverbial envelope on the morals that would deny public mention of that likkle piece of…welll, pudenda.
My ‘up close and personal’ dancehall journey began with another don of the dancehall – Super Cat – who performed at the all-female Roman Catholic High School I attended in Montego Bay. It was around that same period that Shabba invaded the airwaves and it took little for me to become a fan for life. The Friday night sessions with Pieces Musik at Pier One was my regular dancehall music trough. Yes. I lapped up the trailer load of music in no uncertain terms. Perhaps it was its lack of pretense, its soul, and my appreciative personality that made the profound connection possible.
Now a resident of New York City, Shabba (two time Grammy awardee) last performed in Jamaica some eleven years ago. Something went wrong along the way, but it all started when Bankey first took him to Supreme Promotions and Specialist, Delly Dread, and Babsy Grange engineered his success on the world stage. There is something about returning home though, mixed feelings or not, to a warm welcome by eager fans, the childhood memories that emerge, the intoxicating experience that beholding loved ones creates. There are so many feelings that emerged for me much less Shabba, his wife and two sons, who were also present when the Sumfest massive and veteran radio personality Barry G (MC) honoured him to a fireworks salute befitting of the Sumfest 20 / Jamaica 50 celebrations.
Memories of my experience with Shabba as a lyrics master have never faded, to which have now been added the memory of being immobilised by the consummate articulation of Jamaican stardom when Shabba (assisted ably by Cherine Anderson) performed hit after hit after hit. He could do no wrong, and by the time he instructed Cherine to “drop it hyydraulickly” the venue had completely surrendered to the weight of Shabba’s tantalizing force.
Yes. It was Shabba in splendid sartorial ensemble at the 1990 Sting clash with gold teet’ front teet’ don gorgon Ninja Man who remarked back then ‘this is stardom.’ At that time Shabba displayed a profound understanding of celebrity which Jamaica was fortunate enough to witness in full flight at Sumfest 2012 (July 15 – 21). Dapper, daring, down to earth and hardly devious, Shabba’s benign display of his love for and celebration of life itself was more than memorable. I will never forget it. Will you?
(Photo used with permission from Ruddy Roye, Photographer)