Had the pleasure of catching a couple events on the opening weekend of Kingston On The Edge (KOTE). What started out as a labour of love appears to have become an impressive showcase of Jamaican creativity and a real vehicle for change. The 10-day festival was launched on June 20 at Red Bones Blues Café. I went not knowing what to expect, and was suitably impressed with what turned out to be more than a show – it was an experience.
From the courtyard to the gazebo, the venue was bursting at the seams with displays from different genres. Painting, sculpture, jewelry and the music of DJ Afifa all exuded an energy that made me feel art pulsing through me. That might be why, when I happened across Charl Baker’s interactive mural, I couldn’t grab a brush fast enough. It was immersive, stimulating and inspiring. There was a purity to the sensory experience that made me feel like I was home.
Audrey Lynch’s surreal visions lined the fence on the way in, causing many of us to block the walkway in rapt contemplation. George Faulkner’s furniture looked more like sculpture, reflecting the dance he must have with the materials as he coaxes chairs and tables out of trees.
The festival’s theme of ‘Balance’ was woven through much of the work, with some artists stretching a little bit to make it fit. No matter, we all came there to see, hear and feel real work – theme or no theme. By the time live music got on stage, KOTE was already a win for me.
Jason Worton on guitar had a set that among other things, included a Hendrix cover, an original tune, a Dylan-style harmonica rack and an accordion. Not all at the same time, but impressive nonetheless.
Being a hip hop head, I might have been biased, but Brainstorm was my pleasant surprise of the night. These two unlikely looking kids were backed by a drummer they said was also their producer and Omar Francis on bass. Besides being introduced as their “guru”, Omar is also a founding member of the KOTE team.
Brainstorm bushwacked us with some catchy beats and lyrics that were smart, well-constructed and highly original. Didn’t get their names, but they said they’re currently focusing on live performances and don’t have anything recorded or on the net. How often do you hear about young talent honing their craft instead of trying to be overnight successes? I’m betting not often. They get 2 gold stars from me. I’m posting a phone video here, so sound quality might not be the best. But look out for them, if they keep doing their thing you’ll be seeing them.
‘Love is Not Enough’ was a dance number choreographed by Neila Ebanks and performed by her and three other dancers (Kim-Lee Campbell, Paul Newman and Tristan Rodney). The expressive piece involved the dancers as nature, moving organically and growing together over time to become something beautiful. They were all wearing delicate jewelry made of sea urchin shells and at one point the music changed and the dancers’ movements became violent. They were all separated and in the process, the balance and harmony – like the beautiful jewelry – were destroyed.
I had a visceral reaction to it. The piece was a very powerful statement about the effects of man’s ‘progress’ on nature. Kudos to the group. Soundtrack was provided by Hans de Man and the jewelry was created by The Girl & The Magpie – who also came up with the idea for the piece.
All that (and more) was Friday night.
On Sunday, KOTE showed that it had some important concerns and, hopefully, the muscle to do something about them.
To be continued…