Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Reggae Saturday at NYC's SummerStage

Last weekend on a scorching Saturday, two reggae acts with African roots played lively sets back to back at the Central Park SummerStage show in NYC. The first of these two acts was Brooklyn-based Meta and the Cornerstones. Over 10 members strong, the band brought a fully fleshed-out brand of positive roots-reggae with a blaring horn section, dualing ska guitars, heavy bass lines, keys and a synthesizer. Led by Sengalese-born singer Meta Dia, The Cornerstones blend various styles into a focused sound that is international in nature as are the lyrics, which are sung in various languages from English and French to Wolof and Fulani. After a hour long set, Meta and the Cornerstones closed with Bob Marley's "Concrete Jungle," a perfect ending for a crowd of heat n' street-worn New Yorkers looking for some weekend relief from the city life.

The closing act was African reggae legend Tiken Jah Fakoly who recently released a new album, African Revolution. Fakoly is a favorite amongst many Africans with his socio-political lyrics detailing the struggles many oppressed Africans face due to corrupt governments and an unsatisfactory quality of life. In an interview that we recently did with Fakoly (to be published soon), the reggae star told us that he saw reggae as a "message music." However, Fakoly has taken a step further by seamlessly incorporating a sound that melds roots-reggae and traditional African rhythms into catchy, mid-tempo numbers with a socio-political message calling for an "intelligent revolution." Fakoly told me he purposely wanted to incorporate African instrumentation (many of his new songs use such instruments as the kora, ngoni and balafon) as a way to musically connect Africa with reggae -- which has always topically kept Africa in its sights. Clearly, the musical bridge resonated with the crowd which pushed to the front, in hopes of getting as close to the star as possible.

It was a unique day of music that was more than merely a summer reggae show. Instead, it was an exciting exhibition of a two reggae acts, rooted in Africa and a positive message, that resonated well-beyond borders.

text & photos by Saxon Baird
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