Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Yellowman: Alive and Kicking

Yellowman at The Globe, Cardiff, photo by Paul Seligman.

Last Thursday I went to see Yellowman. King Yellowman that is. Dancehall legend. His appearance is what you could call remarkable: he's tall, skinny, athletic and albino. In 1986 he was diagnosed with cancer of the jaw and was told he had only 3 weeks to 6 months to live. Thanks to surgery he is still among us, but it left his face disfigured. Being raised by nuns at the Alpha Boys School orphanage in Kingston, Jamaica (it fostered many famous musicians, like Desmond Dekker and four members of the Skatalites),
you could say his life hasn't been all beer and skittles, cakes and ale or a bed of roses.

But all these misfortunes didn't stop Yellowman. On the contrary! He rose to fame after winning a toasting competition and had some big hits in the 80s. He became one of Jamaica's biggest stars and was the first dancehall artist to be signed to an American major label.

So you can understand I was very excited that this living legend was coming to my humble town. As with all artists whose heydays were decades ago the show could either be a hit or miss. Well it was no miss.
Yellowman is 54 years old, but he is very much alive and kicking, literally! And no DAT or backing track, no he had a full live band, his Sagittarius Band. There was a nice mixed crowd of old balding, slightly overweight men, who obviously have adored Yellowman since 1982 (they went nuts), and younger folks, notably from Cardiff's hip hop scene. Yellowman has been a great influence on American hip hop artists from the 80s (and later), as prove these tracks that sample two of Yellowman's greatest hits: Zungguzungguguzungguzeng and Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt:

Masters of Ceremony - Keep On Moving. Get it here (YSI).

Eazy-E (of N.W.A. fame) feat MC Ren - Nobody Move. Get it here (YSI).

BlackStar (Mos Def and Talib Kweli) - Definition. Get it here (YSI).

I'll let you go with the wise words Yellowman sent us home with and which have been my motto ever since:

"Be nice. And if you can't be nice be good. And if you can't be good be careful. And if you can't be careful.. you're on your own."

No comments:

Post a Comment