Welcome To Jamrock Cruise continues to prove why it is the essential event on the reggae music calendar. The sole annual reggae cruise recently set sail from Florida to Jamaica and back with a whole host of Jamaican music entertainers across generations and eras.
Hosted by Damian and Stephen Marley, 2016's trip featured performances from Toots & the Maytals, Marcia Griffiths, Chaka Demus & Pliers and Beenie Man to Chronixx, Jah Cure, Hawaiian crooner J Boog, Tarrus Riley, Kabaka Pyramid and many more. Sound systems also delivered stellar performances including the much-talked about mini-world clash, dubbed Clash At Sea, between Mighty Crown (Japan), Tony Matterhorn (USA/Jamaica), King Turbo (Canada) and Fire Links (Jamaica).
Chronixx's manager Brendon 'Barnz' Sharpe couldn't wait to tell us about the vibes on the boat.
"This time things were even larger," he exclaims. "Huge." During a discussion between Barnz and the cruise production manager Cristy Barber she shared that over previous years she has witnessed the growth of the innovative project. "The cruise moved for the first time to Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, one of the world’s largest ships, with a capacity over 4,000," he noted.
Chronixx & Zincfence Redemption played on the opening night ahead of headliner Toots and the Maytals and crossover dancehall golden boy Sean Paul. "Chronixx's performance lasted 1hr and consisted of hits Here Comes Trouble, They Don't Know, Aint No Giving In and the new crowd favourite Spanish Town Rocking," recalls Barnz. "Our overall performance lit a flame to the first night of performances and left a mark on the fans who saw him for the first time on the cruise."
Performers rarely have time to share in each other's company at festivals. Strict itineraries mean they aren't around much before or after their performances. However, with the cruise ship spending most of its time at sea the entertainers have time to chill, converse and reflect. "We chilled with Damian and Stephen Marley and other selectors and musicians while there. Mighty Crown, ZJ Liquid and Romain Virgo." It is also a chance for the audience to meet their favourites who would normally be separated by security and fences. "We also took pics with quite a few fans and their families. The little children on the cruise enjoyed meeting them."
With rain forcing the all-white night into one of the theatres being the only slight dampener, the overall experience was unanimously positive. "There was a massive turnout from 40 nations around the world. Shows the massive power of reggae music," Tickets for the 2017 cruise went on sale shortly after the ship docked for the last time but make sure to be quick. "The boat sold out a year in advance." You've been warned.