When I was a little boy, this music saved me: Shaggy

  • Effortlessly the biggest reggae fusion and dancehall festival Sri Lanka has witnessed, Colombo Music Festival 2018 didn’t disappoint
  • Shaggy to fans: “When I was a little boy, this music saved me, taught me how to speak…”


Effortlessly the biggest reggae fusion and dancehall festival Sri Lanka has witnessed, Colombo Music Festival 2018 courtesy of Cinnamon Life kicked off at 3 p.m. on 18 August over at Havelock Sports Club Grounds.

It was a promising night featuring a variety of reggae fusion artistes and four headlining acts; Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Diana King and Big Mountain.

As was expected, the Festival ground was crawling with organisers and all types of “official looking” personnel come opening time; barely any actual attendees were present but things started to clear out and get going about an hour in and people started to show up.

While the crowd settled in, the second stage provided an interesting line-up of artistes, including Irie Love, an American R&B reggae singer-songwriter who performed first, quite nicely warming up the festival goers.

Then, we had Unscripted performing some of their original music off their EP “Hustle”, in addition to which they sang “Jammin” by Bob Marley which proved to be a real hit.

As artistes came and went, intermissions included fun little dance numbers and as the evening progressed, apart from a brief scare of potential rain, Havelock Grounds was shaping up nicely, humming with a collective buzz of people who shared a passion for live music.

By the time the main stage was set up for the headliners, the crowd was very much “in the zone”, and the excitement was almost palpable.

Speaking with some of the Festival goers, many of whom were here for the big name acts performing, they were quite unanimously expressive of the fact that they were here to experience live music in a festival setting.

Shyama Jayawardena who was there with six of her cousins said that while she didn’t really know any of the names of the artistes performing specifically, she jumped at the chance to come because it was live music,

“You can get really unplugged with these types of events, and I love reggae music! It gives you a lot of energy and when I heard my friends were going, I had to join.”

The main stage performances began with Big Mountain, best known for their iconic cover of “Baby, I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton. As Big Mountain did their thing, the Festival got louder and louder as crowds started pouring in, just in time for the main stage performances to start.

Following Big Mountain was Diana King, serenading the audience with her own brand of tunes and gobsmacking us all with her mind-blowing vocal ability. Diana is well-known for having collaborated with some of the bigwigs in the music industry such as Celine Dion and was flawless in her performance.

Many of the young ladies in the audience were thoroughly awe-struck by Diana onstage, Shamimah and Kavya, two school friends, were positively ecstatic after Diana’s set,

“She was so inspiring to watch, even though we didn’t know any of the words to her songs, this type of olden day music is very cool and the vibe is amazing because everybody really gets into it.”

Maxi Priest was on next; one of the first artistes to break through and achieve mainstream success in this reggae-fusion genre, he gave a powerhouse performance, being one of the more highly anticipated artistes of the night.

As the night went on, however, it was quite clear who everyone was really waiting for; it was almost unanimous with every single attendee quite literally vibrating with excitement to witness Shaggy’s set.

Sanju and Anthony, a young couple who appeared to be having a pretty good time were adamant on waiting in the slowly dispersing crowd; to get food, water breaks and such, determined not to miss a single moment of Shaggy’s performance,

“We’re really here to watch his set, it was a fun night so far but we really cannot wait to see Shaggy.”

Shaggy actually took a little longer than the other three to set up and to finally appear on stage, quite nicely building up the anticipation and when he finally did show up, the crowd went absolutely ballistic.

Shaggy, who is no stranger to Lankan audiences, is one of reggae’s most commercially successful artistes to date, having maintained a thriving career spanning decades.

He was very sincere as he addressed the audience, clear about his deep-rooted passion for his genre of music and for those who share in it,

“When I was a little boy, this music saved me, taught me how to speak, how to stand up strong and to be a leader in our community; not by lecturing or bullying but by example.”

With a dynamic set complete with his beloved hits such as “It Wasn’t Me” and “Boombastic”, playing an extra set than what was scheduled, Colombo Music Festival 2018 came to a close.

As the crowd cleared and the stages were being taken down, many in attendance were of the same opinion; there should definitely be more events like this in Sri Lanka.

Zainab Faizal better known as Queen_bae_1926 on Instagram shared,

“It was a great time and if they make this an annual thing, I hope to come every year.”

The event was not without its issues, however, with many people expressing their dissatisfaction with the lack of variety in food options and many commenting on the unavailability of sufficient toilets (which although kept clean and accessible, were few and far between).

A few others were disgruntled by the cumbersome procedure implemented to purchase liquor; while the liquor stall was set up right in front of the second stage, customers were directed to a nondescript tent somewhere else to return with a receipt, causing quite a bit of confusion and discouraging many who waded through the crowd only to be turned away.

Despite the scattered complaints, Colombo Music Festival 2018 was quite a success, while the setup and organising weren’t perfect, in the grand scale of things, the event was an earnest effort, quite well handled and brought together by able organisers.

Review by Dimithri Wijesinghe