In NICS Issue 2 we featured Gabriel Heatwave talking about his favourite moments of the London dancehall event of 2011, Showtime, the night that brought together legends from across the ages, heavyweights of the Jamaican MC tradition, from General Levy to Wiley. Dancehall concerts are few and far between in London these days, and in the age of web 2.0, it’s actually pretty rare that people bother to make a full-on, well-though-out live-concert-come-documentary DVD that can stand up in both style & content. In all honesty, after having seen Tape Crackers I was slightly apprehensive, but there’s no reaching for beers here, it’s well executed, which was a feat considering the sea of airhorns and whistles in that crowd. While a few seriously comprehensive reviews have already been filed, I’ll just chip in my 2 cents on what I really dig about the DVD.
Showtime was all about the MC. And the MC, of course, comes from a live tradition – before records of U Roy were pressed, sold and commodified, there were plenty MCs holding down soundsystem dances in Kingston, giving the audience a unique experience, a live performance never to be had again in the same form. This is exactly what is great about the Showtime DVD, it focuses on not only being able to relive a moment, if you were there, but it also brings these moments to those who can’t be there – showcasing the spontaneity and the lyrical ability of these artists in a live moment: the moment they were born to do. For all we can talk or listen to recorded sets, nothing can bring the reality of the live moment like a video.
The Showtime stage creates a nice visual allegory – foundation UK artists like General Levy and Asher Senator sharing the stage with up-and-coming artists like Stylo G and Lady Leshurr, passing the mic between each other, all on a level – at no point does anyone really outshine anyone else, there is a respect floating around the stage (which slowly fills throughout until it is packed), the new for the old, the old for the new.
The Heatwave’s aim was to show us how all these genres were born out of the reggae tradition, and you can see it in full glare – as Lady Leshurr and General Levy stand side by side, both repping their fast chat style, as Stush explains that to her garage just sounded like ‘bashment sped up’, and as the full line-up pay respect to Smiley Culture. Lady Chann aptly comments: ‘Whether they like to admit it or not, grime MCs wouldn’t be here without Smiley Culture. You have to give respect to the root’.
[photos by Josh MG]