Miami’s 6th Annual Trans-Atlantic Festival Rocks!
Jamaica’s Rootz Underground and France’s Babylon Circus
Deliver High-Energy Roots Ska Reggae
By M. Peggy Quattro
Photos Lynn Dearing
April 27, 2008 – Miami, FL – The award-winning 20-year-old Rhythm Foundation once again presented the best in music from genres not normally visited in South Florida. Known for showcasing music from Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe, the Rhythm Foundation and Heineken delivered a knockout show at the oceanfront North Beach Band Shell on Sat., April 26, 2008. The vintage deco amphitheater was over-flowing with the type of jubilant and gyrating fan every promoter and band hopes to entertain.
Following an energetic welcome from Kulcha Shok’s Lance O, the stage was transformed into a gypsy circus when Babylon Circus, the virtually unknown-in-the-US, 10-piece Ska/Rock/Dancehall/Reggae/Jazz/Swing ensemble, took musical control. When the wicked Dancehall strains of “Get Outta Control” were unleashed, that’s exactly what the crowd decided to do. With blazing horns and rock hard bass and drums, the front of the stage filled with lively dancing newly-found fans.
Whether singing in French or English – sometimes a combination of both – Babylon Circus showed why, since first hitting the stage in Lyon, France in 1995, they are rated one of Europe’s top show bands.
With two lead singers – one mostly shirtless throughout the set – they never let go of the audience, using a musical embrace and big-top energy, quite like the excitement of a circus. From Dancehall to French fusion, these Gypsy Ska Rockers blended quick tempos and extraordinary chops with blazing guitar, pounding bass, bouncy horns that came front stage in choreographed moves, and an accordion-led ditty that had spectators dancing the French waltz! Each band member was a major player in the Babylon Circus, and their presentation was as much musical theater as rock concert. Despite the frivolity on stage, their songs aptly utilize the power of social and political commentary, and their performance delivered the message with a sonic sound that left the throng energized and enlightened.
Babylon Circus, in Miami for the first time, performed several songs off their latest CD, Dances of the Resistance and their 1997 CD Musika, among them “Lost in the Jungle,” “Mr. Clown,” J’Aurais Bien Voulu, “De La Musique et Du Bruit,” and “Musical Terrorism Act.” Although exhausted from a whirlwind US tour that included performances in New York City, Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Washington DC, Minneapolis, and Lafayette, the tired band of French merrymakers delivered a dynamic, engaging show that will not be soon forgotten by a jaded Miami crowd inundated with Latin and Caribbean culture. Be sure and catch this act the next time the circus – Babylon Circus – comes to town.
During the set change, Lance O thanked the sponsors – Heineken USA, Club Med, Pasha’s Restaurants, Atlantic Broadband, 944 Magazine, Business Centers International, Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council, Miami Dade Department of Cultural Affairs, and the North Beach Bandshell Trust – for this fabulous oceanfront fest.
Ready to keep the party going, one of Jamaica’s new generation of show bands, took the stage with flash and fury. Rootz Underground, a 6-piece outfit hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, led by the vocals of the Marley-esque Stevie G, delivered the authentic sound of Roots Rock Reggae. Each member contributed with timely solos and high-stepping dance moves that had the crowd jumping and shouting for more.
Several of the songs performed are fresh off their debut CD, Movement, including “Victims of the System,” “Hammer,” “In the Jungle,” “Rain,” and “How Much Longer.” In addition to their original conscious lyrics, Rootz Underground kept the Marley vibe alive by delivering “Exodus” and “Stir it Up,” with the skanking audience singing along.
The Rootz have their roots in the Kingston club scene, beginning in 2000. Their lively shows quickly became an institution in Kingston and the group’s large fan base spread throughout Jamaica. They soon went from clubs to festivals, and their reputation as a dynamic show band landed them on the line-up of several US festivals in major markets, including Los Angeles and Miami. In June, Rootz Underground is bound for the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Boonville, California.
Congratulations of the Rhythm Foundation and Heineken for an outstanding presentation that reached across all ages, races, colors, and creeds. Future Rhythm Foundation presentations include DJ Pop stars, The Pinker Tones on May 3, and on May 4, the North India percussion legend Zakir Kirttussain and the Masters of Percussion.