Jimmy Cliff singing Many Rivers to Cross at the IRIE FM lifetime achievements awards ceremony in Sumerton, Jamaica 2/12/17
These 10 BLOG posts are from my amazing trip to Jamaica where I was conducting research for the Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship grant I received (from Berklee College of Music, where I am associate professor of piano and teach a class on Bob Marley) to produce a reggae education video.
Continuing in my stream of consciousness approach: The Jamaican radio station "Irie FM" sponsored a lifetime achievement award event for the super talented, super enlightened, SUPER STAR, JIMMY CLIFF. Maroghini Maro set it up that I'd help out by providing transportation for Bongo Herman and our binghi group including Maroghini and local artist and binghi drum builder "Super."
Woke up at 5:30am after jamming the night before at the super hip "Jamnesia" surf compound/music melting pot till 1am or so (near Bull Bay). I had a blast jamming with some local playa's and too bad we had to leave cuz it was just getting going when we left. 3.5 hours of sleep then drove to Montego Bay from Kingston, a 2.5-3hr drive.
In my mind I had conceived of this event as being in a mainstream venue right in the heart of Montego Bay for tourists and locals, but it took place about 15 miles outside of Mobay in the town where he grew up and went to grade school, Summerton. As we drove through the MASSIVE (that's the JA name for a large group of people assembled for an event), I realized that this was to be something even more special than I thought. Sure it was an awards event, but it was really a homecoming. A distinctly Jamaican event for Jamaicans honoring one of the most famous Jamaicans of all time. There were, as far as I could tell, VERY FEW tourists. As a result I started getting nervous. I know that nayabinghi drumming for the various Rasta sects (and there were plenty of serious Rasta's in attendance) is quite sacred and here I was scheduled to play the funde (the rhythm drum) with a binghi ensemble playing one of Cliff's most famous tunes (Bongo Man a Come) with some of the most well known binghi players. Maroghini assured me not to worry! It was a great honor to have the opportunity to perform!
Because of my well connected hosts (Maroghini, Bongo Herman and Super), upon arriving I was marched right up to the meet and greet area and introduced to Jimmy!
Meeting and greeting Jimmy Cliff
Anyway, as I write this I'm beyond exhausted so I want to express what was the most moving moment for me. The whole day consisted of some of Jamaica's top dignitaries (including former Prime Minister PJ Patterson), musicians and dancers (wow the dance co. that performed brought me to tears!) while Jimmy watched, fully engaged and loving it.
THEN, after the award was given, they moved him to a small outdoor stage where the throngs of people who couldn't get inside watched on TV screens. He strapped on a guitar and with keyboardist/singer extraordinaire Chris MacDonald and two back up singers, he proceeded to jam acoustic versions of his hits and a brand new composition. The crowd went wild and so did I.
It was fantastically well orchestrated event that REALLY put the Man directly in touch with the People honoring the special relationship at hand. Difficult to put into words. SO, here is "Many Rivers to Cross." It took everything out of me not to burst into tears. This song has ALWAYS had great depth of meaning for me and recent personal life events makes it even more poignant, and to hear it in this setting just put me over the top. I LOVE Jimmy Cliff and even though I have not followed his entire career, (and the very first assignment for students in my Marley class is to watch The Harder they Come and write a paper about it!), seeing him today and hearing all the accolades, puts a deep imprint on my heart that this man has lived (and continues to live) a deeply, artistically committed life. Truly inspiring!
To capture the full vibe of this video I suggest you put your headphones on or play through some speakers much better than your computer speaks. Nuff respekt, thanks and LOVE to Mr.....DR. Jimmy Cliff!