Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reggae Makes a Splash at Riverport

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reggae Makes a Splash at Riverport

Article excerpt

AFTER all these days of intense heat and sweltering humidity, holding something called a sunsplash may not sound like a good idea. However, the Reggae Sunsplash was just what the meteorologist ordered to lift the spirits of thousands of area residents attending the event Tuesday night at Riverport Amphitheatre.

Lifting spirits is nothing new for reggae. It has its roots in the mento songs used by African slaves to alleviate the grind of daily life on Jamaican plantations. Mento led to ska and ultimately reggae.

Early in its life, Bob Marley gave reggae the spirit of rastafarianism, the faith practiced by those believing the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (Ras Tafari) is the messiah of Old Testament prophecy. Marley propelled reggae into international prominence, and his influence was still evident in the work of Sunsplash headliners Steel Pulse, Maxi Priest, and Marcia Griffiths.

It was Maxi Priest who reminded the large crowd that this year marks the 13th anniversary of Marley's death in a hospital in Miami, caused by brain cancer. Disappointingly, Maxi Priest performed only a handful of songs, but he displayed the smooth vocal style that has made him a worldwide star. He also followed the path toward mainstream pop music that more and more reggae artists seem to be taking, performing Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and closing with the ballad "Close To You," which hit the top of American pop charts in October 1990.

If anyone on the show bill should have clearly demonstrated Marley's legacy, it should have been Marcia Griffiths. Along with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, she was part of Marley's backup group, the I-Threes. Griffiths lived up to expectations.

Griffiths, too, has ventured down the pop road in recent years. Her 1990 "Carousel" LP included such un-reggae numbers as "Sugar Shack" and "Groovin'." She closed with another song - "Electric Boogie" from that album, which became a major hit. "I'm not leaving the stage until I see everyone standing and doing the electric slide," she commanded the spectators, who happily complied.

Steel Pulse closed the show with a series of largely traditional reggae numbers. …

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