Author: joana

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Jamaica holiday guide: for a true taste of Caribbean culture, get your musical fill at Reggae Sumfest

The spirit of Bob Marley still permeates the Caribbean island’s culture – a cipher for the country’s music, politics, heat, chaos and beauty

He died nearly four decades ago, but Bob Marley still casts a long shadow across Jamaica. From 8ft murals of him smoking spliffs as big as traffic cones and the reggae beats vibrating from every speaker to his face gazing up from jars of shoe polish, he is everywhere: a cipher for the country’s music, politics, heat, chaos and beauty.

It is, of course, a cliché to go to Jamaica and wax lyrical about Marley, but until you visit, it is impossible to understand how integral he is to the island’s identity. Especially when you’re there, as I was, for Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica’s largest concert festival, with a sound system loud enough to make your chest vibrate. Damian Marley, the youngest of Bob’s 12 children, headlines on the final night, stamping across a stage blazing with lights, sampling his father’s “War” and “Exodus”.

Trench Town

My first stop, though, is quite different. From the hotel in Ocho Rios on the north coast, we drive to the capital Kingston on the south-east coast along a new motorway that cuts through the mountains, arriving after an hour-and-a-half at the Culture Yard. This is the government yard in Trench Town where a teenage Marley lived with his mother in the 60s. His battered VW van stands in a corner of the small, dusty estate, and his narrow, single bed is tucked inside one of the buildings.

Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, Bob Marley and his seven sons in the ground of his museum in Kingston. Photo: Getty.

There is always a tour guide on hand to show visitors around. Donnette “Sophia” Dowe, who is in charge of the yard, takes me through concrete rooms, sweltering under tin roofs, pointing to photographs of artists including Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. They all lived nearby throughout the 50s and 60s, spearheading a sound that would come to be known as reggae, after Toots and The Maytals’ 1968 “Do The Reggay”.

How to find the right island for you, from music in Jamaica to surfing in Barbados

Outside the yard, in a weed-scented reverie, half a dozen men sit in the shade of a mango tree. One pulls an armful down, hands me one and tells me to eat the thing whole, biting straight into the green skin. This, they tell me, is the real Kingston – although, they press urgently, it is safe for tourists. Jamaica has had some bad press recently. During my visit, a state of emergency in Kingston has just come to an end, and there is one still ongoing in Montego Bay. Some care is taken over where I can go and what I can see, but I never feel unsafe.

Hope Road

From Trench Town, I head to the house on Hope Road that Marley bought when he found success. “I’ve brought the ghetto uptown,” he told a journalist in 1979, when she asked if he found it difficult to keep in touch with his roots. The road runs from the foothills of upper Kingston to the capital city’s palm-dotted waterfront.

The home of reggae singer, songwriter, musician Bob Marley, now the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. Photo: Getty.

Today the house is the Bob Marley Museum, processing more than 10,000 visitors every year. This tour is far more polished, capitalising upon the Marley legacy in a clearly lucrative venture, but it does give some interesting insights into his life as a star. Our group trundles around, peering into his recording studio, bedroom and kitchen. Photos of him cover every wall: on tour, playing football, frowning in front of a mixing desk, sitting on the house’s front steps.

Montego Bay is a popular place to stay. Photo: Getty.

Montego Bay is where a lot of tourists stay in Jamaica – and a 10-minute drive away is the Rastafari Indigenous Village in St James. To reach it, you must take off your shoes and wade through a river lined with sharp rocks. First Man – who meets my group – strides across. Along with two others, he founded the village a decade ago to show the cultural contribution of Rastafari to Jamaica.

They give us coconut water and fruit from the trees, in keeping with the Rastafari commitment to an “ital”, or natural diet, as First Man describes a philosophical worldview that prioritises debate.

Stir it up

Two dreadlocked men and a woman dressed in a long black dress play Nyabinghi music – a blend of 19th-century gospel music and African drumming which contains ideas of black redemption and repatriation, and is used to reach states of heightened spirituality.

Rastafari was founded in the 30s but spread globally thanks to Marley. He, and artists from Dennis Brown to Burning Spear used reggae as a medium for Rasta messages. “It means social consciousness, black empowerment and Marcus Garvey,” says First Man.

Over in Montego Bay, Reggae Sumfest starts at 9pm, gets going at midnight and runs until dawn. The sound clash on Thursday night – a reggae and dancehall battle between rival DJs – is the most frenetic, the air filled with klaxons and smoke. The festival itself, on the Friday and Saturday, is more relaxed. The audience is half tourists, half locals, many of whom set up deck chairs. We watch Ding Dong, Popcaan, Bounty Killer, Spice and Beres Hammond. But everyone stands up when Damian Marley arrives.

Ding Dong, Popcaan, Bounty Killer, Spice and Beres Hammond perform at Reggae Sumest.

Travel essentials

When to go

Jamaica has a tropical climate, and daytime temperatures are about 30°C all year round, with little difference between winter and summer.

During the rainy season, from late April to October, it is hot and muggy. Rainfall occurs mainly in the form of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The most pleasant weather is in November and December.

Red Stripe Reggae Sumfest is the island’s premier reggae festival, held every year in late July. Tickets from £24.

How to get there

British Airways flies from Gatwick to Kingston, while Virgin Atlantic and TUI fly from Gatwick to Montego Bay, from around £500.

Where to stay

The Jamaica Inn is an upscale resort in Ocho Rios dating from the 50s, set on a white-sand beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Doubles from £335, room only.

The beach at Jamaica Inn

The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel is in the financial and business district of Kingston. Doubles from £252, room only.

The Westender Inn is a family-owned hotel in Negril that blends island charm with laid-back luxury. Doubles from £75, room only.

Where to eat

Get a taste of real Jamaica at Tracks & Records, the sports-music bar owned by the Olympic champion Usain Bolt. 67 Constant Spring Road, Kingston. (There are spin-offs on Main Street, Ocho Rios, and Gloucester Avenue, Montego Bay, too). Try the curried mutton, jerk buffalo wings or coconut and cassava shrimp, or a traditional soup, such as country-style janga.

Pier One is an open-air restaurant and music venue on a dock in Montego Bay serving dishes such as grilled conch and jerk chicken. For dessert, try the hot skookie (skillet cookie).

More information

Tours of Trench Town Culture Yard cost £1. Bob Marley Museum tickets cost £16.

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Something Extra | Tuesday

Published:Tuesday | January 15, 2019 | 12:00 AM
The ‘dapper’ Reggae Sumfest Owner Josef Bogdanovich is honoured for his major contribution to Jamaica’s entertainment industry.

 

Illustrious guests gathered at The Gleaner’s North Street offices in Kingston yesterday for the first of three category luncheons to recognise this year’s recipients of the RJRGLEANER Honour Awards. Recipients, aglow with pride, exuded humility as they took the spotlight, reflecting on the year that was and offering a peak into the future.

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RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Entertainment: Reggae Sumfest 2018 – Showcasing Jamaica Superstars

Published:Friday | January 11, 2019 | Carlene Davis/Gleaner Writer
Jamaican superstars Beres Hammond (left) and Beenie Man at Reggae Sumfest 2018.

It has been dubbed ‘The Greatest Reggae Show on Earth’ and for years, July has seen persons from home and abroad trek to Montego Bay, St James, for Reggae Sumfest, an experience like no other.

First held in 1993, Sumfest, over the years, presented patrons with three nights of live stage shows, namely, Dancehall Night and two international nights.

In 2016, Chairman of Downsound Entertainment Josef James Bogdanovich took over Reggae Sumfest and set out to revamp the show into what he called a music festival, featuring a week of parties and activities and a two-night show dubbed ‘Main Festival Nights One and Two’, with mainly dancehall and reggae artistes.

“We came up with the idea that we do have superstars here, we do have international stars here and that’s called reggae music and dancehall music. A lot of people at that time said, ‘That’s not going to work, you need international acts’. We did pretty good that year, 2016; the attendance was a lot higher than it was in the previous year and we got a lot of international fan base. It was a successful entry into the market,” Bogdanovich told The Gleaner.

He said that in 2017, the attendance in the venue doubled that of 2016, while the online viewers tripled. According to Bogdanovich, several million viewers looked at the Sumfest archives over the following weeks, and this was very encouraging for him.

“And then last year (2018), we kept raising the bar with production. A lot of people who came there last year said that they hadn’t been to Sumfest in, like, 10 years and coming back, they all enjoyed themselves.

“But we have always had international artistes there and we always have our eyes open for international acts, but we have got to make a business sense out of it and we certainly support our music, our festival and with promoting the youth.

“This year, we will be promoting a lot of the females and the younger artistes than ever before, and we have some good bookings right now,” said Bogdanovich.

Against that background, Reggae Sumfest 2018 is the recipient of this year’s RJRGLEANER Honour Awards in the entertainment category, for the success of its strategy to present an all-Jamaican line-up for the festival last year.

It is an award which Bogdanovich said was unexpected and one that he really appreciates.

“I was surprised to even hear about it. I have been pretty busy, and I think it’s great to be acknowledged. Acknowledgements don’t really come easy here in Jamaica and I think it’s just part of my journey here in Jamaica, and I think it’s wonderful. I am very thankful,” said Bogdanovich.

The Downsound boss said that while he is a big supporter of doing business in Jamaica, and has quite a few investments here, it’s not an easy place to do business, but his passion for the music and for Jamaica keeps him going.

“There’s opportunity here in Jamaica, (but) education has got to get better. The violence has to come down, (and) people have to understand that we have to get this place stable, and it’s getting better. I think things are a lot better; the economy is getting better and more people are working.

“There is always a challenge in the concert business here. There are very few concerts going on and I know that a lot of people are trying to get back into the concert business.

“It’s not an easy business, and people are fickle and they are not easy to please, but we really are champions and we love reggae music and we love the culture. Here at Downsound, we are very passionate about the music and what we represent, and it’s exciting,” said Bogdanovich.

He has a clear vision for the island that he now calls home.

According to Bogdanovich, he wants to see the continued growth of reggae and dancehall music, with young people contributing to the country instead of migrating.

“The way to get them to come back is to give them some real opportunity, and it’s hard because it’s a small country and the dollar is not worth as much as it used to be. It is just a hard struggle, so it’s the family structure that has to be strengthened.

“The reason why I think Jamaica can do so well in terms of the future is because Jamaicans are very competitive, and they are smart and they are overachievers, some of them,” declared Bogdanovich.

He added that he has a clear vision for the latest chapter in his life in Jamaica.

“I am trying to make a mark, trying to give opportunity to people, to give them some opportunity with good business practise, and do as much as I can for reggae music and for dancehall and for the artistes’ community. That’s what I’m interested in and that’s my vision for the future,” said Bogdanovich.

ON THE AWARD: “I think it’s great to be acknowledged. Acknowledgements don’t really come easy here in Jamaica and I think it’s just part of my journey here in Jamaica and I think it’s wonderful. I am very thankful.”

VISION FOR JAMAICA: “The reason why I think Jamaica can do so well in terms of the future is because Jamaicans are very competitive, and they are smart and they are overachievers, some of them.”

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com

 

 

 

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Caribbean Airlines signs on as new sponsor of Reggae Sumfest

Chairman of Downsound Entertainment and Reggae Sumfest Joe Bogdanovich has inked a deal with Caribbean Airlines.
This makes the airline the new presenting sponsor for Reggae Sumfest 2019.
Reggae Sumfest 2019, presented by Caribbean Airlines, will take place from July 14 to 20 at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, St. James.
The festival will be one full week of events including, Inspire Awards, beach party, street dance, white party, The Blitz, Sound Clash, Sumfest Symposium, and ending with two festival nights.
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Mastercard Uses Jamaica As Pilot For ‘I Accept’

Published: November 2, 2018 |Carlene Davis/Gleaner Writer
Luis Araujo, Mastercard’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Caribbean

With approximately 11,000 merchant locations accepting Mastercard on the island, the leading technology company in the global payments industry said the decision to use Jamaica as the first Caribbean island to launch its ‘I Accept’ campaign was an excellent idea.

For the first time in Mastercard’s history for the region (Caribbean and Latin America), the new campaign, which started advertising locally and on social media in April this year, had all the content for the commercial shot on the island using local talent.

“This was a chance for us to present the brand to the Jamaican people with Jamaican flavour. It was a lot of learning to develop more intimacy with a lot of customers,” said vice-president of marketing and communications for the Caribbean, Luis Araujo.

In an interview with The Gleaner on Wednesday during Mastercard’s media day in Miami, Florida, Araujo said its ‘I Accept’ campaign is aimed at increasing its presence locally by using a holistic approach. The goal is to extend its reach and be accepted in more places.

 

MEASURING IMPACT

“We are seeing an increase in terms of real acceptance as it relates to location growth, which is the primary driver of this. We are measuring impact in terms of brand acceptance perception, so those results are going to come by the end of this year once we close the cycle of the campaign. The idea is to continue repeating these type of activations in 2019, increasing our relevancy and bringing more local content to the market,” said Araujo.

In three years, Mastercard is hoping to double the number of merchants using its service, targeting small and medium-size businesses that do not accept any electronic means of payment in Jamaica. Based on the feedback from the ‘I Accept’ campaign, it will be replicated across the Caribbean.

… Reggae Sumfest went cashless

Another first for Jamaica and Mastercard also occurred this year. The company sponsored its first music festival in the form of Reggae Sumfest and, for the first time in the festival’s 26-year history, assisted it to go cashless.

“That was terrific. You know, you start with a traditional approach and say, ‘Let’s sponsor this event’. Music is super relevant across the Caribbean and, in particular, in Jamaica. You know, reggae is just [a] synonym for Jamaica,” said Mastercard’s vice-president of marketing and communications for the Caribbean, Luis Araujo.

“So, what we identified there was not only an opportunity to connect with a passion point of the Jamaica people, to drive more local relevancy, but also to kind of create controlled ecosystems. It was a chance for us to showcase our technologies, such as contactless payments, the convenience of not carrying cash into this type of event, and that also represents an opportunity for us to educate our cardholders and our partners.”

Mastercard said it is interested in developing more local partnerships and is ready to go above and beyond traditional sponsorship.

“We want to partner more in the gastronomy area with relevant partners in the travel area, in shopping as well, those things that can help us connect more on a day-to-day basis with Jamaicans,” said Araujo.

 

 

 

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Everyone Should Experience

Jamaica’s Reggae Sumfest In

Their Lifetime

October 25, 2018

Everyone Should Experience Jamaica's Reggae Sumfest In Their Lifetime

Is there such a thing as a good stereotype?

When it comes to being in Jamaica, I’d say yes. The people are friendly,

they like weed, camaraderie, music — especially reggae music —

and living in low-maintenance harmony.

Such attributes are commonly and universally understood when it comes to

visiting the Carribean countryside but to actually experience it the flesh

resonates so much more real-life emotion.

I was fortunate to not only experience Jamaica’s prized attraction, Montego Bay

but its world-renown Reggae Sumfest — powered by Red Stripe.

This past summer marked the 25-year anniversary of the mega-concert series.

And the semblance resonated with all artists who were present. Whether it was Popcaan

or Spice or I Octane and Agent Sasco f.k.a. Assassin — all the way up to the royal pipeline

of Damian Marley performed with an extra dose of pride, seeing that the event was now a

must-do amongst tourist attractions.

I witnessed Maxi Priest belt out vocals so pristine that you would think he was a new artist.

Cali native J Boog brought a smooth level of G-funk to his performance and arguably the

real winner of the two-day affair was Bounty Killer, who had graced the Reggae Sumfest

stage 24 out of the 25 years it has existed.

But after sitting through an inaugural symposium that covered everything from the country’s

historic roots to the origins of its drum playing, I discovered how much reggae music mirrored

Hip Hop. It was the rebellious voice of the people who fight for freedom at any costs.

To experience the Reggae Sumfest for yourself, visit www.jtbonline.org.

Check out more pictures from the dynamite affair down below.

Baby Cham single
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018’s Sumfest’s Reggae Night on Saturday, July 21, 2018 featured a stellar line up of artistes that did not disappoint the thousands of fans present at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay. Among those who graced the stage were Naomi CowanKeznamdi, Hawaiian reggae artiste J BoogFantan MojahJesse Royal and Maxi Priest who graced the stage and brought the audience down memory lane, delivering a full set of his repertoire.

Fresh off his European tour and celebrating his earthstrong, Jr. Gong delivered a solid performance doing several songs of his Stony Hill album before closing with his anthem Welcome to Jamrock. To the delight of the audience, he was joined on stage by his son Elijah who dedicated his version of Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love you to his dad for his birthday. Beres Hammond, who received his Lifetime Award two nights prior was his usual exceptional self-delivering hit at after hit. During his set that lasted over an hour and a half, the crowd could be heard screaming and singing along to the ever popular songs including Full AttentionDouble Trouble and Can You Play Some More. He invited Beenie Man to join him on stage for a cameo appearance during which he the Doctor made up some impromptu lyrics with his usual catchy phrases.

One of the best dancers in the industry; Cham with his all-female band and his lovely dancers gave the audience all the hits he is known for. The show which ended in the wee hours of the morning was closed by the fireman Capleton. Die-hard fans who remained to the end were treated to his lively and energetic performance.

Gallery

Reggae Sumfest 2018, Naomi Cowan - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Naomi Cowan © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Keznamdi © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, J Boog © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Fantan Mojah © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Maxi Priest © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Damian Marley © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Damian Marley © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Kabaka Pyramid © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Damian Marley © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Beres Hammond © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Beres Hammond © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Cham © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Damian Marley © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Damian Marley © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Beres Hammond © Steve James
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Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night, Capleton © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James
Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Reggae Night © Steve James

Reproduction without permission of United Reggae and is prohibited.

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A Huge Success for this Dancehall Night

By Steve James for United Reggae — August 6th, 2018

Some of the biggest dancehall entertainers in the business turned out for this year’s staging of Reggae Sumfest 2018 Dancehall Night which was held at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay on July 20, 2018. The show started promptly at 7pm. The audience were treated to performances by new Ghanaian sensation Stonebwoy. On the heels of his upcoming album Hope River and though he came on early in the lineup, Sasco delivered a commanding performance. Bounty Killer delivered his usual high energy performance with his stinging social commentary. The audience went wild and stayed with him throughout his set. Spice who was fully decked in her Wakanda inspired outfit also delivered a very entertaining perfromance. Great performances were also done by SizzlaI OctaneDing Dong and Ravers ClaversAidonia and Masicka were among the other acts that performed.

There was no question that each artiste who performed came to deliver in their best, and that they did. Popcaan who performed in the early hours of Saturday morning was joined on stage by Dre Island to sing their hit single, We Pray. Dancehall night was fittingly closed with a ‘Mobay Tribute’ which included Rygin KingTeejay & Tommy Lee Sparta.

Check out these photos of the show.Reggae Sumfest 2018 - Dancehall Night © Steve James

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Live From JA: Popcaan Sets Tone For Dancehall Now And ‘Forever’

 | July 26, 2018 –

Dressed in a red suit jacket and matching vest with a long gold chain around his neck, Popcaan launched into a few lines from “Gangster City.” The track was recorded back in 2010 when Popcaan was a member of Vybz Kartel’s Portmore Empire and the dress code was tank tops, fitted caps, and bandanas. That same year, his catchy cameo on Kartel’s single “Clarks” helped elevate Popcaan’s profile around the world. Eight years later he’s a top attraction at Jamaica’s biggest music festival, but it’s clear that the Unruly Boss, as he’s now known, will never forget the struggle of his early days. “I’m from a place where dog eat dog,” he sang on the track. “Mi know ’bout living hard.”

The song’s title is a nickname for Three West, the government-subsidized housing scheme in the Jamaican city of Portmore where young Andrae Hugh Sutherland was raised from the age of seven. Popcaan has come a long way since then, a journey recounted on his acclaimed debut album Where We Come From, released on Mixpak Records in 2014. “I’m representing my whole community, people who have been through it with me,” he said of the project back then. “It’s not really my story alone.”

Popcaan’s debut featured a collaboration with Pusha T, and since then the youth from Gangster City has become an in-demand international recording artist, sampled by Kanye West and collaborating on hits with Drake, Jamie XX and Young Thug, Giggs, Gorillaz and Stefflon Don, to name a few. The buzz surrounding his name has built anticipation for his sophomore album, Forever, to a fever pitch.

The night before Popcaan hit the Sumfest stage, he premiered his new album in the streets of Kingston. The free Thursday evening listening session took place in the parking lot of Triple Century Sports Bar and was streamed around the world via Boiler Room TV. “Big dreams weh we have, thank God we still livin’ it,” he sang before his DJ Creep Chromatic pressed play on the album. “Me did broke like dog. Now I am winning it…”

During both the Kingston listening event and his Sumfest set, Popcaan made a point of bigging up Vybz Kartel, who is currently appealing his conviction on murder charges. “All who say Kartel fe free say Free!” Popcaan instructed the crowd. Even after seven years behind bars, Kartel remains a popular figure in Jamaica’s dancehall scene. During his absence Popcaan has elevated from protege to pop star, racking up over a million followers on Instagram, where he can be seen rocking stages around the world or racing his collection of motorcycles through the streets of Jamaica. The inevitable jealousy from his peers in Jamaica is one of the recurring themes of Forever. “This music biz is like a battle to me,” he sings on “Firm & Strong,” one of the early singles from the album. “So much f**king hatred and grudge.”

“I’m sharing my experience with the fans,” Popcaan told us from backstage after the show. “Certain songs on Forever is very personal, like ‘Silence’ and ‘Happy Now.’ And it is coming straight from things weh happen to me in my life. This album is just a continuation of Where We Come From to make them know say Popcaan is here Forever.”

Even as he declares his longevity in the game, Popcaan admits that his success has come at a serious price. “Watch who you tell when you a buy new Bimma, careful who you confide inna,” he sings on the album-opening cut “Silence,” which explores the downside of leveling up. “Ah nuh anybody pour my drink, an nuh anybody buy my dinner / So hard fi trust your enemy, hard fi trust your friend / Me nah lie, mi love me family but mi nuh trust the whole a dem.” As if to drive home this chilling confession, Popcaan follows the line up with, “Might sound f**k up but ah so me feel.” Once a carefree artist known as the Raving King, Popcaan has always used his music to speak truth. The Forever album is no exception.

Popcaan touched on related issues throughout his Sumfest set, from the dreamy “Weed Is my Best Friend” to the harder-edged “Never Fear Them.” Between songs, he addressed a few words to his rivals in the ultra-competitive dancehall industry. “Some artists try to test me and get me mad,” he stated. “But we on a mission to take the music further.” He punctuated these remarks with his latest signature catchphrase, “Dem Dead.”

Along with his gift for crafting infectious melodies, Popcaan is famous for coining popular slang expressions like “TR8” “Wha!” “Killy Killy” and “Kick Out… Far Out!” He now drops “Dem Dead”—sometimes used as a question, sometimes as an exclamation—throughout his live shows, conversation and as a social media hashtag.

“It’s the influence,” he explained backstage. “People enjoy the things them weh me say… Like sometime people say them a foolishness. But as time goes by, even who say that a foolishness join in. Because is something weh them never hear yet. Is something weh make them feel happy when them hear it.” Popcaan considers his gift of gab to be a blessing. “There’s are a lot of artists and not every artist have the same meds or the same power,” he says. “I’m very grateful for being who I am.”

As the sun began to rise over Montego Bay, a city that’s been under a state of emergency since last January when a joint military and police task force was deployed to quell a wave of violence in the island’s leading tourist center, Popcaan delivered two of his more inspirational numbers. First, he called Dre Island onstage to perform “We Pray” and then he delivered his biggest recent hit, a song called “Family.” His lyrics on the track harkened back to his journey to stardom: “Although man make it now, me know how struggle feel, and me know all the p***y them, and me know who f**kin’ real.” As flames shot into the dawn sky, Popcaan delivered the lines with evident passion.

DSC9066-Popcaan-and-Dre-Island-at-Redstripe-Reggae-Sumfest-1532632757
CREDIT: Boomshots

On the new album cut “Deserve It All,” Popcaan reflects on the hard work he put in to reach this level. “Nuh bother ask why mi happy so,” he says. “Without food whole heap a daysmi did haffi go / Some bwoy can’t walk the road them weh Poppy go… Tears of joy me did cry yunno / First time mi bring mommy go a Poppy show.”

“Family is always first to Popcaan,” he explained after the show as his parents and grandparents looked on along with his brothers and sister, as well as childhood friends from Portmore like Grizzle Bear, who’s been shouted out on numerous records. “I don’t care, as long as my family is good.”

In his final words, Popcaan sent a message to his fans in the U.S., a territory he has yet to visit due to visa issues. “Tell them me soon forward,” he said. “Popcaan soon check in America. Big up all Popcaan fans in worldwide. Love and respect forever.”