The Gleaner: KINGSTON, Jamaica – Soul-Stirring Night On Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise – Burning Spear, Bounty Killer, Sizzla AboardStirring Night On Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise – Burning Spear, Bounty Killer, Sizzla Aboard Jamaica –

Twenty-four hours on the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise was hardly enough time for an adventure but, for persons who joined the festivities on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas last Friday when the ship docked at Freeport in Montego Bay, it would be the start of something culturally exploratory.

Damian ‘Jr Gong’ Marley, in an interview with Vibe Magazine, stated that the cruise “comes at a time when we need examples for the culture” and the return of the platform could not be more opportune.

The Grammy Award-winning artiste and co-founder of the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise was elated to have veteran reggae singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Burning Spear blaze the stage – having revealed that he had never really had an opportunity to watch him perform in his adult years.

Burning Spear, supported by his eight-piece Burning Band, gave two long, yet engaging, hours on stage, moving smoothly from microphone to the congo drums in front of a multi-generational audience of mixed ethnicities, representing more than 60 countries..

“It was soul-stirring,” said Zimbabwean cruiser Virginia Ndoro to The Gleaner, having been able to witness the artistes and musicians interact, from sound check earlier in the day to seeing them on stage after sunset.

Her description was on point. The air was filled with music; the warm, velvety sounds of the horns circled the upper levels of the ship where the stage was set, the vibration of the bass almost moved through the bodies like a wave, and the drums, especially those played by Spear, echoed rhythmically, sending electric pulses into the feet of many.

Spear set the tone for the night. Going through his catalogue from the late 1960s, then transitioning into roots classics like Marcus Garvey and Slavery Days, the veteran crooner remained cool, calm and collected.

Dancehall star Bounty Killer turned the temperature up a notch with his set which included hits such as Pot Of GoldMysteryFed UpCellular Phone, and Worthless Bwoy. Fellow dancehall veteran Cham, who was billed as one of the acts for Saturday night of the cruise, also joined Bounty Killer, taking the performance literally to ‘Another Level’ as the two delivered originality and injected new flavour with their latest track Blood Clxxt.

‘Have respect for yourselves’

Just a day after making fiery headlines, Sizzla was prepared to make a statement on the ship – with his style, performance and musical messages. He expressed appreciation for the audience and praised the people for the absence of segregation among those viewing the show as he made an entrance at about 1 a.m. Dressed in a white Statement Pieces suit, the artiste-songwriter impressed on persons messages of peace, love and unity.

“Make sure you remember the people who are suffering in the ghettos, and have respect for yourselves and others,” he said over the microphone. He maintained an interesting smile throughout his performance of singles like Mash Dem DownSimplicityGuide Over Us, and Solid As A Rock. The Firehouse Crew, which provided the music, was powerful, and the singers providing the harmony for Sizzla were doubly powerful. Jr Gong called Sizzla back onto the stage for an encore. After a warm embrace between the two, he performed Rise to the Occasion.

From the stage to the street and then to sunrise, the insomniacs and culture seekers moved from one deck to the next in search of the next ‘jam’, as Jr Gong directed cruisers to a dance with Stone Love and Ricky Trooper at the controls. It was a typical showcase of authentic dancehall, which had persons grooving into the early hours of the morning. For those who survived the street dance at sea, the Nyabinghi drummers welcomed the sunrise with deep meditation and a sense of community. For a first-time ‘Jamrocker’, it was an element of the cruise which was not to be missed.