A picture of Empress Menen was on the kick drum and huge images of the late Sandra ‘Sajoya’ Alcott framed the nearly all-female Omega Band (Dale Brown stood in on bass guitar due to the slated player’s illness and Ibo Cooper played keyboard from side stage) during an excellent ‘Womanbition’ on Tuesday night.
Celebrating International Women’s Day with an all-female line-up of mostly singers, with a sprinkling of poetry and ZJ Sparks at the CD players, Womanbition stood out not only because of the generally high standard of the relatively short performances, but also what was not offered to the bumper audience at Redbones Blues Café, New Kingston.
For, although there were naturally several references to women’s strength, it was not a case of overkill. And while there was no denying the intensity of the performers’ emotions, the night did not get overly dramatic.
There was variety as well, Denise ‘Isis’ Miller hosting the concerts first segment and Emprezz the second. In the first, the reggae was done operatic style; Simply Angel put sinuous movement into her poetry (in her first piece she asked the ladies if they had ever played that ‘hard-to-get game’) and Keteis delved into rockers In the Name of Life, done especially for the young ladies of the Mary’s Child facility who were at Womanbition. Angela Stewart sang for the “daughters of Zion” to bring up the break.
There was no denying that the quality of the performances changed after the short break. Italee, complete with a filmy headpiece which extended the length of her tall frame, went for slow rhythm and a dramatic style of delivery, taking Womanbition into the joining of the genders where “your love is incredible”. And, specifically about Alcott’s trips into attractive spots in Jamaica, she sang about the “beautiful place”, her voice going deeper as she came off the stage and got closer to the audience.
Jah 9, slender and striking in a black dress, utilised an acoustic guitarist to accompany her fantastic voice. She did not leave out the men as she encouraged “keep holding on my brothers and sisters/don’t let them draw you out“.
Jah 9 noted that there were not only musically talented women present, but from “business, all spheres of life”. She served up “a little jazz for you”, the song of self-affirmation informing “I am my own designer, from concept to execution.” Jah 9 closed with Intentions.
Cherry Natural closed off her well-received poetry with Good Life, which had been done at Alcott’s memorial service. Before that positive life statement, Natural opened with an historical view of poetry, capturing from when “poets a write” – and she observed that “some things whe Rasta used to bun out/dem a have with cheese and icing pon it.” Don’t Stop went out to all women over 40 years old.
A chirpy Nadine Sutherland did not say her Cougar song was about women over 40, but especially the verse about Jamaican situations of older women with young men hit home with the audience. There was also a slow song about an older woman, a friend of Sutherland’s from her childhood in Above Rocks, St Catherine, crying “no, not my baby” for her son, who was killed by the police.
But there was also the fun of Action, a rare dip into the outright dancehall beat at Womanbition, the audience singing along and thoroughly enjoying Sutherland’s deejaying like Terror Fabulous.
There was some amount of adjustment before Alaine could sit before the keyboard to play and sing No Ordinary Love, but it was well worth the slight disruption to the concert’s flow. Alaine put in a touch of Sade to further delight the audience. That came after she opened strong with the roots reggae of We Rise, Alaine beaming her positive outlook to the audience in her smile. She closed with You and Me, singing and playing along with the band.
Womanbition closed on a high with Queen Ifrica, whose easy rocking style, engaging talk with the band (which she said had rehearsed the material and they were just getting together) and audience combined for an emphatic close. Heroes was the acid starting test, which was passed with flying colours, the audience whooping and a restart in order as the Omega was spot on with the rhythm.
“Omega, yu a go hard!” Ifrica complimented them.
Ifrica noted that it was not only men but “nuff woman do it too” before doing Daddy (Don’t Touch Me There), which also took the house down. There was a request for the Spanish version and, before doing it, Ifrica said “dem people ya can talk Spanish fi true. Certain place me take a chance.”
Coconut Shell and Iguana were done a capella and Ifrica put relationships in perspective before doing Below the Waist. And after an extended delivery of Lioness on the Rise, Ifrica complimented Cooper on his work with the band. “Yuh nah jus’ teach dem fi play instrument, yuh a teach dem fi play music,” she noted.