The event took place on Thursday 21st January 2016 at The Hootananny in Brixton, London (England) and went down a storm, despite getting off to a late start. The crowd were also tardy but this wasn’t worrying because, truth to be told, the typical crowd that attends a reggae/dancehall event won’t roll out until several hours after the doors open and often, quite some time after show time is slated to begin.
Still they rocked and came in eventually, to the music played by the Jah Revelation, Pecking Syndicate (Chris Peckings pictured after the show, below with Ras Charmer (Left) and Randy Valentine (Right)|(C)RasCharmer/Facebook) and Poison Ribz sound systems. Skanking and bubbling ensued. When the music is sweet at the dance or stage-show, I’ve always found that there’s always that one person flinging foot and/or bending up and gyrating in some serious style and pattern! He, in this case, was present and accounted for; yeah, there certainly was a vibe.
Unfortunately, opening artist Cocotone was absent for unknown reasons and the billed compere Daddy Ernie was absent due to unforeseen circumstances. When contacted, he said: "I rate Tasonia highly and look forward to seeing a very successful 2016 unfold for her...and beyond! She has my full support". Still, Promoter Cecil Reuben and Gregory Fabulous filled in seamlessly. In between introductions of the various artists, patrons continued to pour into the venue. First up was Jahsenta - a talented lioness who performs regularly at The Hootananny and, in her own words, “has been singing for a long time”. She sung three original songs and received a lot of love from those present.
The Soul Rebel Band played a brilliant warm up set, proving why they are widely hailed as one of the UK’s finest ensembles. When I arrived at the venue three hours before show-time, it was to the sounds of their rehearsals; Cecil rightly described them as “hard working”. So, let's take a moment to acknowledge: Valerie Vybz (Guitar), Andre Solid (Keyboard), Ashanti Selah (Keyboard), Marley Drummond (Drums), Ryan Windross (Bass) and Remmi (Guitar). Backing Vocalists Nana Genesis and Beverley Skeete were an effervescent presence and did a great work in their support of the acts – no bum notes ‘round here!
There’s something really relatable about the ‘Young Field Marshall’ Shanti Force, who was up next. He has been circling the inner city dancehall scene for the best part of five years. In and around performing ‘Judgement’ and ‘Mama’, he shared powerful insight about life experiences and anecdotes about family. Petite powerhouse vocalist Sheri Ven Dyer wowed the crowd with her self-penned ska-tinged ‘Right Way’ and, as a nod to her Jamaican roots, even threw an impromptu freestyle into the mix inna dancehall style.
“Jungle music buss me” said Ras Demo (left - (C)RibzAmigo/Facebook) and, of course, the real jungl’ists will remember when he was known as Demolitian Man back in the day. He primarily records reggae music nowadays these days and delivered such standards as ‘Whagwahn’ and ‘Sekkle Up The Score’ - which is currently aloft the UK’s Official Top 20 Reggae Chart (shout out to DJ Natty B).
Winner of the UK's 'Reggae Star Factor' (2015) Jo Caesar was amongst the audience members visibly enjoying the Ras’ performance and when it was time for her to go up next, sheconfidently sauntered onto the stage. After sharing some banter with the audience, Jo launched into ‘Coming on Strong’, her sultry single on a rendition of the classic Studio One ‘A Love I Can Feel’ Riddim.
In comes Ras Charmer, colourful dashiki, black turban and all. The Kingston-born artist has long been carving a reputation for bringing unique, positive and powerful energy to the listener and this was no exception. Charmer greeted the crowd in the name of “Holy Emmanuel I, Selassie I, Jaaaah” and was duly met with a resounding “Rastafari”. He performed ‘Thanks and Praise’, ‘Heart of The Brave’ and ‘Feeling Great’, which was “pulled up” twice after a massive forward from the crowd. Drawing upon the track’s positive mantra, he urged everyone “not to make nothin’ bring down your vibe inna Englan’!”.
After a short interval, it was time for Tasonia (Left - (C)Zugasti Jamez Jaime/Facebook) to take centre stage. From her sleek fedora and trousers suit peppered with sparkling diamante gems to the dulcet tones, the young artist seemed to ooze flair, style and valiance. She performed lots of great material such as ‘Hunt Me Down’ (produced by Jazzwad), ‘Bills’ (produced by Chris Peckings) and ‘Do Nuh Mek’ to name a few. In between her set, Tasonia brought the formidable Randy Valentine onto the stage, who performed an exceptional take on Bobby Caldwell’s ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’. This came as a pleasant surprise to many in attendance because Valentine wasn’t billed to perform.
But look here; Tasonia then returned and completely flipped the script on every soul in the vicinity! She introduced everyone to ‘The General’ – her dancehall side and alter-ego of sorts - and proceeded to chat scotch bonnet-hot lyrics on the Silver Screen and Gearbox riddims, riding them for dear life.
All in all, the event affirmed the notion that Tasonia is well on her way to becoming a household name in respect of quality music within the UK. Those who might have attended ‘Tasonia in Concert’ without being fully aware of this artist’s scope, certainly left the building as fully fledged fans. It was also wonderful to see such a show of unity and camaraderie between equally talented musicians and artists. Kudos to Tasonia and her team for a successful event; reggae music within the UK is alive and well.