Jamaica 50: Jimmy Cliff, Indig02, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Tuesday 07 August 2012
The weekend before this last of 12 gigs at this venue celebrating Jamaica’s 1962 independence, Usain Bolt leads the tiny nation’s dominance of the Olympics’ most iconic event, and West Indies manage a rare Test match win in Kingston.
But nothing beats Jamaica’s musical greatness, even more wildly disproportionate than Britain’s. And no one did more to give reggae its global foothold than Jimmy Cliff and the 1972 film he starred in and helped soundtrack, The Harder They Come .
Before Cliff, Max Romeo, gaunt in mustard-yellow garb with grey dreadlocks, heavily mines his 1976 album War Ina Babylon. If Britain is Babylon, it seems different tonight from the place of tense racist suffering the title song was felt to describe in the 1970s, among a good-humoured, multi-racial crowd long the British reggae norm. Romeo’s 1972 single “We Love Jamaica” is appropriately patriotic, though his country might not always have been so comfortable being celebrated by this Rastafarian radical.
Jimmy Cliff is, like Romeo, 64, but remains full of high-stepping energy and unfulfilled pop ambition when he arrives after midnight. He wears a small crown and a gold-patched disco quilt on one trouser leg, and sweat soon pours down the back of his bald head. “You Can Get It If You Really Want” sums up the striving, positive philosophy of a singing star born dirt-poor in a colonised nation. “Children’s Bread”, from his new album Rebirth , speaks out for the hard lives of still oppressed people. “Miss Jamaica” was a hit in the nation’s independence year when Cliff was only 14, reminding you that he’s a conduit for its whole musical history.
One reason Cliff missed the huge stardom of his contemporary Bob Marley, though, is his attraction to other styles. “Wide World” is a rock power ballad tonight. “Many Rivers to Cross” has lost some of the pure prayerfulness with which he used to sing it as, still pining for stadium success, he focuses on vocal power.
But the white cliffs of Dover he longs to cross in its lyrics, the border of a promised land or prison, remain poignant. “Bongo Man”, stretched to include redemption songs such as “Rivers of Babylon”, finds a deeper, pre-reggae spirit in its massed drums and chants. Though otherwise a little coarsened from his absolute best, Cliff is a great king for Jamaica’s jubilee.
Swedish stars ask fans for £195 pledges on crowd-funding website
voicesJust when you thought you could find a man, get married, and have a baby by the age of 35... it turns out you’re too late, says Grace Dent
sportNapoli 2 Arsenal 0: Gunners must now face either Real Madrid, PSG, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid or Barcelona in knock-out stages
musicAs Mariah Carey and Noddy Holder rake in the royalties from their classics, why there hasn't been a decent festive hit for 20 years?
theatreAuthor Daniel Rosenthal recalls the mishaps that almost brought the curtain down on the likes of John Gielgud and Diana Rigg
filmFilm producers sue Warner Bros for $75m over Hobbit films
lifeAs the Royal Mail plans to phase out deliveries on two wheels, it's no wonder posties are in a spin
musicThe 21-year-old beat Ella Eyre and Chlöe Howl to win the honour
lifeFull of the joys and want to help your fellow man? December isn't the time to do it
techLuke Blackall reports on precision engineered prams and babygros that monitor your child 24-7
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nelson Mandela memorial: ‘Bogus’ interpreter made mockery of Barack Obama’s tribute
- 2 It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics
- 3 Kenyan politician Mike Sonko left red-faced after photoshopping himself next to Nelson Mandela
- 4 Exeter to Edinburgh and back in a day: How one fresher's lost bet left him facing a 900-mile round trip
- 5 Selfie at funeral: Cameron squeezes in on Obama snap at Mandela memorial
- < Previous
- Next >