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By Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer
I believe we do not have enough stage shows here in Jamaica. For an island culturally built around music and globally recognized because of our music, it would be nice if our major stage shows weren’t spread so far apart.
Stage shows provide not just a source of entertainment, but also a stage for upcoming artists to display their talents and “get a buss”. However, we are grateful for our few; among them is Sting. Notably, it is one of our best stage shows of all time.
Sting, which is a Jamaican reggae and dancehall concert, is the longest-running event on our island’s music calendar. Founded by Isaiah Laing, CEO of Supreme Promotions, it has been held annually since 1984. Laing, a 20-year veteran of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, is known for his role as a "bad man police" in dancehall music. Sting has influenced careers, turned underdogs into champions, and carved a unique niche in the concert landscape through strategic lyrical offensives.
Sting isn’t just any regular stage show, it’s a spectacle that draws in thousands of fans from all corners of Jamaica and even a few hundred overseas. Talk about making waves!
Sting hasn’t shied away from bringing an international flavour to the mix. Foreign artists like Foxy Brown, Kriss-Kross, the notorious BIG, Wyclef Jean, Maxi Priest, Busta Rhymes, and DMX graced the stage. But let's not forget our homegrown talents – the Beenie Mans, Bounti-Killers, Ninja Mans, and more.
The stage show became widely known for one main reason, the clashes. These clashes aren’t just about who has the best and the freshest lyrics or the slickest moves. When it comes down to it is how many dancehall artists lay their claim to fame. Beenie Man vs. Bounty Killer, Ninja Man vs. Super Cat – these clashes were like heavyweight boxing matches, and fans were the enthusiastic judges. When Ninja Man gave a gun to senior superintendent of police Reneto Adams in 2003, it became one of Sting's most famous moments. Ninja Man is also the all-time Sting Clash Champion. He took part in three of Sting's most notorious verbal altercations: in 1990, with Super Cat; in 1991, with Shabba Ranks; and in 2003, with the now-imprisoned Vybz Kartel. When Kartel punched his opponent, the Ninjaman vs. Kartel fight turned from a lyrical exchange to a physical assault.
But if you asked, the best all-time clash was probably between Vybz Kartel and Movado, the Gully and Gaza clash.
Clashes weren't always just musical. They split into physical altercations. An aspect that somehow draws in a bigger crowd rather than push them away. But ofcourse it is unpredictable, intense, and undeniably entertaining, giving the people exactly what they want.
Hardcore dancehall fans who are drawn to Sting are well known for bottling—that is, throwing bottles at the stage—as a way of protesting artists' performances in the past. If you can believe it, even Bunny Wailer, a founding member of the Wailers, and Maxi Priest, whose song "Close To You" peaked at number one on the Hot 100 in 1991, were both bottled in 1989. Legendary deejay Super Cat is credited with causing considerable chaos at Sting 1990 when turned the tables around and threw a bottle back into the crowd during his battle with Ninjaman. Stampedes, skirmishes, and bottling were all part of most Stings staged in the 1990s and 2000s until plastic cups took the place of the raw, thrilling, and occasionally volatile bottles.
Sting isn’t just a showcase; it’s a career maker or breaker. For some artists, it’s the launchpad to superstardom. For others, it a place where dreams met a swift reality check. Can you imagine being an artist stepping onto that stage, facing not just the cheers but the potential storm of glass bottles? It takes courage, talent, and a touch of madness to thrive in that environment. So I give props to any artist, big or small, who has the gall to get on that stage and perform.
Not only that, it also has affected the economy of its own. Hairdressers and seamstresses would experience a surge in business, the folks selling soups, peanuts and everything in between. The entire ecosystem surrounding Sting has something to gain from the stage show. There was the creative system, which helped a great deal of people but also greatly benefited a great deal of others.
Sting may get a bad rap because of how violent it has gone in the past. But do you think it has done more good than bad for our culture? Would you go to a Sting stage show?
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