Sweet Jamaica Album Launch Review Image

by Tanaka Roberts

Mr. Vegas' album launch saw the support of friends, family, fans and colleagues at Mango Ranch on March 6th. Although rain from earlier on in the evening posed some technical difficulties for organizers resulting in more than an hour delay from the slated 8:00pm, when it finally commenced- it did so in full swing.

The launch was ushered in by the vibrant and eloquent Claudette Powell of FameFM who assumed the role of emcee for the event. After a brief introduction to the album, up and coming singer Natel was called to the stage for what would be the first of a series of excellent performances.  Thereafter Vice Chairman of Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA), Charles Campbell spoke in honor of Mr. Vegas and his new project, Sweet Jamaica, sharing, "The sentiment is so patriotic; Mr. Vegas epitomizes the best in our Jamaican music." 

Recipient of the 1998 British Music of Black Origins Award for Best Reggae Artiste, Vegas has been recognized, both locally and abroad, as a consistent artiste whose music has evolved over the years.  Of course, this meant that expectations were high for the singjay who has delivered several chart topping hits such as Heads High, Yu Sure and Jack It Up. According to Mikey Bennett, who played an eminent part in the production of Sweet Jamaica, the album was a "very brave move on the part of Vegas as a Dancehall artiste." 

2012 marks the celebration of Jamaica's Golden Jubilee, that is, 50 years since the island first gained independence on 6th August 1962. Over these years Jamaica has accomplished so much that has significantly contributed to its rich culture. Jamaican music for instance has witnessed an evolution of sounds that has, for these decades, defined its people. In the beginning there was Mento then Ska which paved the way for Rocksteady and eventually Reggae and Dancehall. This is exactly what Vegas wanted to capture with the compilation of Sweet Jamaica. He relayed that this double album is a blend of all the musical forms that are created in the island including 'festival music' and gospel, proclaiming, "Spirituality is in everything I do." 

As the band and backup singers mounted the stage, the exhilaration was tangible; everyone wanted a taste of Sweet Jamaica. Mr. Vegas then fittingly began his set with a track entitled "Bring It On". In his effort to revive the quintessential raw spirit of Jamaican music, Vegas figured his best allies would be those who have for years been global ambassadors of the music. Among them was Luciano, The Messenger. He joined Vegas for a spirited collaboration, 'He's Alive and Well', a tasteful blend of gospel and reggae that immediately won favor with the audience.  He also called upon Nadine Sutherland, one of the industry's most celebrated female singers, for a 'Magical' duet. One after the other Vegas gave his audience a stellar showcase of songs such as Sweet and Dandy and Tings Ruff which was done to the tune of You Can Get It, a classic by veteran artiste Jimmy Cliff. The song Sweet Jamaica written by Bajan song writer Indra Rudder from which the album gets its name was also in the mix as Vegas reminded his listeners of how precious our little island is. 

If this wasn't enough, Vegas sent his audience further into a sugar rush when he invited Barrington Levy, the singing canary, to join him on stage. Levy hasn't performed in Jamaica for many years so this was quite a surprise for those in attendance. His presence emphasized Vegas' intent of preserving and celebrating vintage Jamaican music. The crooner bellowed his major hits namely Murderer, Here I Come and Too Experienced, between several 'pull-ups'- of course.  

To wind down the evening, Mr. Vegas returned to centre stage for a final song, Above Waters.  By the end of the night it was clear, Sweet Jamaica was a collation of timeless pieces that embodied Jamaica's rich musical diversity. He closed by imploring everyone to continue supporting Jamaican music, beyond Dancehall and Reggae.  The album will become available very soon.
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