Saturday night’s cameo by Beres Hammond, when he was called on stage by Marcia Griffiths to do Live On, is not the first time the beloved singer has sung briefly at a Startime concert. In addition, the concert’s organiser, Michael Barnett, says Hammond is a Startime regular, sometimes attending with family members.
This time around, Barnett said he had a conversation with Hammond at Mas Camp, National Stadium grounds, “and he said to me this can’t be the last one. I said, ‘I will make a deal with you. If you will be on the next one, there will be a next one.'”
In reply, Barnett said “his exact words were, ‘Don’t say another word’. I don’t know what that meant, but that is what he said.”
There is nothing vague about Startime’s overseas move, though. At the Final Chapter, MC Tommy Cowan identified persons from various places outside Jamaica who attended the show. One of the ‘crews’ he hailed was from Atlanta, and Barnett said two husband and wife teams, the Pearts and the Mills from the Natural Vibes organisation, attended to get a closer look at Startime and its potential in a new phase. It is to that US city which Startime is headed next year in the Jamaican Independence period.
Before that, though, in October, Barnett will be taking the Let’s Go Dancin’ series, featuring himself, Fab 5 Band and Gem Myers to Atlanta. “Atlanta has six million Caribbean nationals, and there is hardly anything like this there,” he said of both events. “We’re taking Jamaican music history to the world.”
The Atlanta Startime wish list of performers reads largely like a reprise of the Final Chapter line-up, with Marcia Griffiths; Leroy Sibbles; Horace Andy; Ernie Smith; Boris Gardiner; U-Roy and Lloyd Parkes and We The People Band.
As much as he is happy with the Final Chapter, which he estimates over 5,000 people attended and where Sanchez put a gospel closure on the event, Barnett expressed
his disappointment towards corporate sponsors and successive Jamaican governments. “We have been doing this for 31 years, 156 shows, and nobody from that sector seems to have noticed,” Barnett said. He claims to have had 30-year-olds and under comprising about half of Saturday night’s audience, but the sponsors, especially alcoholic beverage companies, “are telling me they are focusing on 18- to 25-year-olds”.
Barnett said he has over 400 hours of Startime footage, as well as many photographs and audiovisual, and print documentation is in the plans.