Reggae and soca fans reveled in Central Park to some of their favorite recording artists Saturday despite heavy showers and threatened thunderstorms in order to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of VP Records, an independent label reputed for its consistent dedication to the distribution of Caribbean music.
Soaked but not at all dampened by the downpour, many hoisted colorful umbrellas displaying island flags, commercial advertizing and even gay pride when wind and rain preceded appearances by Bunji Garlin, Maxi Priest and Gyptian.
The Trinidad & Tobago soca singer opened the set after a marathon, musical session with radio deejays Bobby Condors and Jabba featured selections from the label’s recorders and best sellers — Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Bounty Killa, Buju Banton, Capleton, Supercat and others.
Garlin’s appearance marked the launch of the label’s “Soca Gold 2015” release which features collaborations with Fay Ann Lyons. The compilation of soca music has been the genres best selling assets to the predominant reggae music label.
Followed by performances from the Grammy-winning reggae sensation Priest and the 32-year-old Jamaican, lover’s rock/roots, reggae Rastafarian singer, TT’s popular soca star outshined weather predictions to keep patrons jumping and waving to the beat of the twin island.
Priest reprised many of the hits that established his musical journey in the 1990s that began in London, England and flourished when he collaborated with dancehall icon Shabba Ranks.
Reggae lovers hoped that Ranks might have surprised audiences with an appearance in order to collaborate with Priest on “Housecall” a track that won wide acclaim to add to his Grammy gain.
The two-time Grammy winning dancehall deejay performed the previous evening at Radio City Music Hall on a bill that featured hip-hop artists and fans hoped against hope that the gravel voiced dancehall star might brave the inclement conditions to appease crowds. However, Priest fared well on his own substituting a sound-alike that ably reprised the hit of the era.
From all accounts, equally satisfying was the debut Summerstage performance executed by much revered Gyptian.
An exhibition tent erected on the Rumsey Playfield boasted advancements made by the independent, pioneering record label since 1979 when Vincent and Pat Chin established the now legendary record label that is now the world’s largest independent reggae label.
Photographs of Sean Paul, Beres Hammond, U-Roy, Luciano and a slew of signees to the label decorated the interior and exterior of the structure which attracted music lovers as well as curious concert fans. Music photographer Ajamu displayed many of his favorites.
The VP Records 35th anniversary presentation at Rumsey Playfield marks the first and only free Caribbean showcase of the 2015 season.
Held annually during the Central Park Summerstage Concert Series, this their 30th year features 200 unique acts from May to October and extends to 14 neighborhood parks throughout the five boroughs. Check the portal for concert schedules at www.summe