One Love & Appreciation for the Artistry that is Reggae Music At The Hollywood Bowl Reggae Night XNIII At The Hollywood Bowl Featuring Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and Third World
HOLLYWOOD, CA– On a beautiful Sunday evening in Los Angeles, California, radio station KRCW hosted “Reggae Night” at the Hollywood Bowl. An all-star lineup of Kabaka Pyramid, Third World, and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley was slated to give the thousands of Southern Californians in attendance a taste of Jamaica through music.
If you have never attended an event at the Hollywood Bowl, it is hard to explain how great the venue is for experiencing concerts. There is an organic mixing of different races/ethnicities/genders that give rise to a blending of cultures, with the main ingredient being music. Reggae Night at the Hollywood Bowl amplifies that blend as there is something about Reggae Music that unites people. It is not for me to try to explain why that is, but if you are a lover of Reggae Music, you are reading this right now and nodding your head in agreement. Maybe it has to do with the general message of Reggae Music. Maybe it has to do with some of the most famous icons of Reggae Music, particularly the Marley family’s impact on the worldwide popularity of the genre. Whatever it is, all that I know is that going to a Reggae concert is more enjoyable for me, than just about any other genre of music.
As I arrived at the Hollywood Bowl, the first thing I noticed was how festive an atmosphere it was. Hundreds and hundreds of people essentially tailgating, but in picnic form. My date who accompanied me immediately brought up how there were so many people all listening to reggae on their phones/speakers. People were ready to dance and party, the vibe was great!
Kabaka Pyramid was the youngest artist slated to perform. Unfortunately, Kabaka Pyramid had some travel issues getting to Southern California, all the way from Europe. This was a problem for the show, as Kabaka Pyramid was supposed to open the concert.
For the readers that are unaware, Kabaka Pyramid has created a strong following as a result of his unique style over the past few years. He is a socially conscious musician who combines traditional reggae with modern hip hop. Kabaka Pyramid is a part of the new generation of reggae artists.
As a result of Kabaka Pyramid’s travel issues, the legendary reggae band Third World opened the night and proved to Los Angeles why they are indeed Legends. In 45 years of performing, read that again, 45 YEARS, Third World has been nominated ten (10) times for a Grammy. Third World is an icon in Reggae and an icon worldwide as an institution. They famously toured with Bob Marley, and here they are decades later touring with his son, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. That’s amazing and beautiful.
Third World performed a string of hits, including one of their most popular crossover hits, “Now That We Found Love.” For the readers that are hip hop fans, no this is not the same song that Heavy D made famous, but the chorus of the two songs are the same. Needless to say, the song will always be a favorite for fans of Third World as that chorus is one of the most addicting to sing along with.
There were two moments in particular that really impacted the Hollywood Bowl and caused the thousands in attendance to give standing ovations for Third World.
The first was when Third World member, Stephen “Cat” Coore played an instrumental version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”; on what I believe to be a violin (but I may be wrong on the actual instrument). The rendition of “Redemption Song” in such a fashion was a beauty to behold. The melodies that can be created with such an instrument, on such a song, moved the crowd in silent amazement. I looked around and saw every fan almost silently reciting the lyrics of Redemption Song, all with that love for Bob Marley in their eyes. The sounds that were created via the masterful hands of Third World truly had me feeling that Bob Marley’s energy was being blessed upon us through music.
On an unrelated note, Damian Marley was once in a band with Cat’s son when Damian was 13. Amazing.
After the Hollywood Bowl quieted down from a standing ovation, Third World joked: “it is now time for the talent show.” That joke was the Hollywood Bowl understatement of the year.
Up next was Third World vocalist, AJ Brown. AJ Brown brought the house down! In a complete twist of a surprise, AJ Brown performed a rendition of Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro.” In pop culture, “Con te Partiro” is famously known for being the song that Will Ferrell sang in the movie Step Brothers (although he sang a Spanish version).
Unbelievable. That all I could say. Unbelievable. Fantastic. Amazing. The vocal range of AJ Brown was inspiring and the choice of song for the “talent show” was almost like the most perfect of unexpected musical trolls. You come to Reggae Night only to be floored by a song from the opera is not something I expected, at all. But, it was one of the most beautiful performances I have witnessed. Hats off to AJ Brown. You are a talent like no other. Gifted.
After that amazing performance, Third World ended their set by covering Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. Reggae Music, simply love it.
As previously mentioned, Kabaka Pyramid had travel issues forcing Third World to open the concert. Much to our surprise after Third World finished their set, we were notified that Kabaka Pyramid had made it to the Hollywood Bowl and would come out to perform a few songs. Kabaka Pyramid played for about ten (10) minutes and finished to allow time for Damian Marley’s headlining set. Credit to Kabaka Pyramid for doing everything he could to make it to the show. It’s unfortunate that we did not get a full set from Kabaka, but the fact that he still made it is something we were grateful for. I could not even imagine how exhausted the guy must have been. In any case, we got a taste of Kabaka Pyramid, but not the full experience. I hope one day I will be able to see a full set from Kabaka Pyramid, as there is a reason why Damian Marley selected him to join him on tour.
And that brings us to Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. For me, and like millions of fans worldwide, the name Marley is more than just a name. Marley is Jamaica. Marley is Reggae music. Marley is Soul Music. Marley is Solidarity. Marley is Revolution. Marley is Love. Marley is Light.
My alarm clock is set for me to wake up to the chorus of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”- “don’t worry about a thing, everything is going to be alright”. Every day, I listen to the Marley family in one way or another. That is impact. That is life-changing. That is the power of music.
So to be given the opportunity to watch Bob Marley’s youngest son perform was not only an opportunity I could not miss but is an opportunity that I consider to be a blessing.
It was around 8:45 pm when Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley was slated to perform. Jr. Gong, a name he received in his youth (his father was known as Tuff Gong), is a four (4) time Grammy winner. He has multiple hits that are not limited to just the genre of reggae. Through collaborations with other hit-making artists such as Skrillex, Nas, and Wiz Khalifa, Jr. Gong has the crossover appeal that transcends race/ethnicities/religions. If you appreciate music, you appreciate Damian Marley.
That appreciation was on full display at the Hollywood Bowl. I was blessed with the opportunity to photograph the first few songs that Damian Marley performed. In all my times photographing concerts, I have never had as difficult of a time in trying to be a photographer and not a fan. When I am a fan, I’m dancing, singing, and moving my arms around like a mad man. Such behavior does not bode well for photography.
But that is what Damian Marley does to you. There is a cadence in his voice, a sort of intoxicating command. It reminds me more of his father than any of Bob Marley’s other children. Stephen Marley also has that similar sound to that of his father, but Damian makes you feel it. His voice and lyrics, like his father, compels you to listen and to act.
Damian went through his catalog of hits, from “Road to Zion” (I am sure I was not the only one who was secretly praying Nas would come out the back to perform his verse), to songs his father made famous. Song after song, the fans in attendance sang and danced along.
Damian would instruct the crowd to repeat after him: “oooowayyyyyyyy oooowayyyyyyyeyyaaayyyy,” “wyyyyooooooooo, wyyooooooooo”. And the crowd followed with enthusiastic joy.
With the smell of marijuana in the air, Damian asked the California crowd their views on weed. After a rawr, Damian started singing his hit song “Medication”. A song that is not about prescription pills obviously.
I am too young to have had the chance to see Bob Marley perform. I cannot say what it was like to experience a Bob Marley concert, but I’d imagine it was something like being at a Damian Marley concert. The message in the music is the same. The energy in the music is the same. Whether you are being “Welcomed to Jamrock” or being told to “Get Up and Stand Up”, you hear Marley. It is indisputable energy, and Damian has it.
I think that was displayed most when Damian performed “Get Up Stand Up”. I closed my eyes and it really felt to me as if I was feeling the same energy a Bob Marley crowd felt when they first heard the universal anthem. “Get Up. Stand Up. Stand up for YOUR Rights”. There is a sort of unifying energy in an audience when you are listening to conscious, powerful, music. Is this what it felt like to be at a Bob Marley concert in the 1970s? I could only imagine.
That being said, it is an impossible task to ask Damian Marley, or any of the children of Bob Marley, to live up to, or exceed the impact that Bob Marley made on the world. Yet, it is something special to be able to witness the children of Bob Marley not only create their own music but to perform their father’s music and for that music to be just as relevant today as it was decades ago.
Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley welcomed me to Jamrock, and I did not want to leave. In Kabaka Pyramid, you have the future of reggae. In Third World, you have a living history of reggae. In Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, and his siblings, you have the legacy of Reggae’s First Family continuing the tradition of Jamaican music.
There is also something to be said about Reggae Music as a whole. There is something pure about Reggae Music that is missing in other genres, most specifically (and most important to myself personally) in Hip Hop. When you listen to Reggae you really can hear the history of the music in each song. There is a proud heritage in the music. Hip Hop used to have that same proud heritage. Something we have not seen since the “Golden Era” of Hip Hop in the 90s, where musicians appreciated the art on a higher deeper level; a historic level. That is something I see and feel when I listen to Reggae. Whether listening to a legendary Reggae band like Third World, or one of the newest Reggae stars Kabaka Pyramid, or being blessed to experience the music of the first family of Reggae in the Marley’s, each artist left me with a deeper love and appreciation for the artistry that is Reggae music. One Love.