WESTERN BUREAU: FIRST BORN brought roots reggae from the ‘land of six peoples’, Guyana, back home to the ‘land of wood and water’, Jamaica, on Saturday night.
The group was reduced from its normal five members on this most recent trip here, the result being that they were the classic reggae trio that spawned Burning Spear and Bob Marley, as they rocked the Jonkanoo Lounge, Hilton Hotel, New Kingston, to a fair-sized audience.
In addition, with a trio of women on harmony vocals, there was a full vocal sound, over drum and bass rooted music from a Jamaican aggregation.
With Natural Black, also originally from Guyana but with a sound track record in Jamaica, joining them before the intermission, and the Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs, putting the lid on the night, First Born was at home with their reggae brethren.
With locks swaying, sporadic calls of ‘Jah Rastafari’ and at least one red, green and gold rag dangling from a back pocket, the Guyanese accent – present, but not jarring – was the only sign that First Born was not from Jamaica.
They hit the spot from the get go, with Confidence , the title track of one of their two albums. “We just passing through, sharing our music,” the main, but not the only, lead singer of the night said.
That ‘sharing’ included songs of resilience (“my heart, nuff try oppress“), songs of love for the Abyssinian princess (“I’m glad to let you know/I need your loving so“) and a song for the poor people.
SONG FOR THE POOR
“We a sing a song for the poor people. The poor have to get something too,” one vocalist said. Which would seem only fair, as First Born made it clear that the poor have been giving a lot:
Who provide your security
Who keep your city tidy
Who show humility and serenity?
The song was completed with a deejay style delivery as the band ‘mixed down’.
The call to ‘legalise the ganja herb’ was met with a ‘pull-up’, a percussionist making his hands tapping on the goatskins more prominently heard.
They held the harmony, without music, to end, three male and three female voices blending well, to applause.
Natural Black joined First Born for their next song, making it a Guyanese quartet as he stood in line with the other three male singers at one point. First Born led off, Natural Black’s distinctive voice warming the Jonkanoo Lounge. When he came in – on the mix – informing that “yu a play wid yu life like monopoly,” the audience soaked up the lyrics and delivery before demanding a ‘pull-up’.
They got it and the audience jammed to the end, which came on the mix with six voices harmonizing on ‘like Jah blessing’.
The audience thinned out somewhat in the post-intermission session, but those who left missed First Born hitting a good rub-a-dub groove. The rub-a-dub groove continued, until First Born announced that they had a surprise. “We done a tune with Gregory Isaacs called Music Is The Rock . Gregory is the rock in this business, singing from I born. So I say forward Gregory and do something for your little brothers,” one singer said, to cheers.
A hatless Gregory Isaacs walked through the audience, cordless microphone in hand, and opened with ‘you put me through tribulation yeah’. There were howls of delight.
ROCKING TO MUSIC
He stood in line with the other singers, rocking from the waist to the music, black and white checkered shirt hanging over crisply seamed white pants, black and white checkered front shoes anchoring an outfit which was topped off by a gold earring on the left. A smile on his face, Gregory Isaacs alternated verses with First Born, holding a harmony of ‘a-la-la-la’ to the end.
And then he was off into Night Nurse , First Born making it an all-male harmony unit as the women left the stage, themselves leaving when Gregory Isaacs moved into Front Door . He instructed the band to take it down in song, clapping his hands together and intoning “Lawd” – then said “thank you!”
The audience cheered.
-Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer -The Jamaica Gleaner