We all know the influence and draw that the genre has, but its not an opportunity that gets offered for an artist to realise. Alexandra Palace – or Ally Pally to me and you – was the selected venue for the two poster boys of reggae to fill on Noveber 11.
They weren’t the usual venues that we’re used to – this was serious business. Headliner Chronixx and rm UK favourite Protoje had a mean task at hand, but both were fully equipped.
It was only last year that the latter had embarked on a successful nationwide tour. His album A Matter Of Time has also been in heavy rotation which has helped him with his second playlisted track on BBC Radio 1 with Like This after the huge sucess of Who Knows.
All this and much has secured his fan base in the UK, but I knew from conversation that Protoje desired more. I remember the first time Chronixx hit the stage in the UK. It was at BBC 1Xtra Live in Leeds on his 21st birthday.
The anticipation for that performance was high. I hooked up with him a few days before the Ally Pally performance and we reminisced about the importance of that debut.
Chronixx is not the most excitable character – he has a very chilled, calm easy manner about him. During conversation his voice barely goes above level three. Even after knowing that the pending show is a complete sell out, he calmly tells me: “Give thanks to the community that support our music. These are the people that follow support and buy the music.”
Not quite Shabba Mania, But the Skankin’ Sweet singer had also invested in a pop-up shop in Brixton Market. He promised me that he would be attending to work as a retail assistant, bagging up various merchandise that he and several collaborators had put together. After a few checks online I con rm he did turn up to work!
So with all promo work done, the buzz to the show was in full effect. It was a traditional Sunday show in London, as if we all don’t have work ‘pon Monday morning! While driving towards Ally Pally I was wondering what kind of audience would be in attendance. One of my past conversations with Protoje talked about the demographic of his audiences and the lack of black faces.
This was not just an issue he faced, but one many of the new roots reggae rockers faced. I contemplated writing about this for the column while in the show, but the majority of the people I spoke with whispered in my ear, “Whole heap of black people deh ya” – each time I chuckled, but I understood.
It felt like the community had come out the claim their stars. It was a beautiful sight to see middle aged black women battling up the hill to get to the Palace. The exhaustion on many faces couldn’t be hidden as you saw them panting out the frosted air.
When I walked into the main arena I was impressed with the production values put in place. There was a mini festival aura that surrounded the venue maybe due to its size.
The added touch was the foodhall that had an array of delights on offer from the usual Jerk Chicken served by food vans. Can I give a special big up to the Jerk Man outside Ally Pally, it wouldn’t be right if one never turned up.
With a sea of phone lights Chronixx steps on the stage to the hard hitting anthem Alpha and Omega. I was standing in front of a group of female fans that made me realise the pull that he has. It was the first I had heard female admirers talk of Chronixx as a sex symbol.
In stark contrast someone also turned to me and commented, “This is a moment, This is our Lyceum with Bob Marley.” Those were big words that have left me thinking.
But those thoughts soon disappeared as ‘Jamal’ breezed through hits after hits.
A new name that has got the industry buzzing of the last 18 months is young Spanish Town native, Koffee. She has been under the wing of Chronixx so it was no surprise to see her join him on stage. Decked out ooking like any British yute in a red puffer jacket, Koffee hit the stage. However, the technical detail of her mic let her down.
Someone that didn’t suffer that was Chronixx’s father, 1990s dancehall artist Chronicle, known for his Barrington Levy stylings. His big voice lled every corner of Ally Pally – I’m sure it had some people wondering if it was Barrington himself.
There was no way that Chronixx could be joined by special guests and not have his working partner join him for Who Knows.
Cue camera phones as Protoje rejoined Chronixx on stage. As you could expect this was another highlight of the night with the crowd singing every word in the chorus.
It’s not very often that I stand front of house to watch a show, but I’m glad I did with this one.
It was a night to go down in the history books and a night to show how great the music can be again.