Sunday, May 11, 2008

Capleton Concert at Independence Stadium

An ambulance worker stood next to me at the Capleton Concert last night. We stood in the back, separated from the hordes of screaming, fist-pumping reggae fans, against a wall and in the shade of the building's overhang. I recognized him by the label on his shirt: "Sussex Ambulance Service", and the fact that he stood stiffly (at least at first), hands behind his back, stomach bulging straight ahead, back straight, head up and looking out at the crowd. I imagined him rushing to the aid of anyone who fainted, catching them before they reached the ground and rushing with them to the ambulance parked out front, clearing the crowd that would gather with shouts of "Clear the way now! Sick person coming through!".

The ticket lines were not as long as at the Morgan concert, probably due to better planning: tickets were sold before the event, and people were strongly encouraged to buy these pre-event tickets by setting their prices lower. So this time we got in as soon as we arrived, no hassle or climbing over walls. Before Capleton got on stage there was the usual warming up, this time with Pisces and One Tribe sound [who played some really good DJ sets, segueing from
reggae to dancehall to rap and back without a hitch, until everyone in the stands was on their feet and swaying to the music. Towards the end they played a mix of 2Pac songs, ten seconds of each, which you wouldn't think would work in the context but which actually came out sounding really well, and having me want to dig out my old 2Pac mp3s when I got home].

Then Caple himself arrived in a Hummer, with a whole guard of cars and soldiers running ahead of him, at around 1am. They circled the stadium a couple of times (you could see him in red in the front of the Hummer) before they finally packed and he got out, waving like a politician at the crowd. Everyone who was up in the stands came climbing down and onto the grass. Clouds of marijuana-smoke flew up into the air and circled the stadium. A local Gambian musician got onstage and performed a song.

If you've never heard Capleton perform, it sounds kind of like a mix between reggae and heavy metal. The reggae part: exhortations to kill homosexuals (or, at least, shame them into "changing"), claims that Jah is most high, exhortations to "burn Babylan", more claims that Jah is most high, etc. The heavy metal part: lots of screaming and jumping up and down on stage, and pumping hands into the air. He's a powerful performer on stage though, and sometimes his voice reaches such extreme levels you fear for his throat, and then right the next moment he is crooning info the mic, wishing he could hold his lover in his arms and promising her the world.

Caple's band came on first, playing a long instrumental piece that sounded like it had jazz relatives in the family. After it was done, Caple came on, in his signature all-reds, asking the crowd to lift their lighters into the air and wave them (proof that we had fire, proof that we will burn all that is not good, when the time comes). The ambulance worker stood still through all this. Then Caple went backstage and changed into kakis and a Jamaican flag headwrap, screaming as he came back onstage "Now I'm On! Now! I'm! Fucking! Onnnn!". The crowd wailed , and sang with him, waving their lighters in rhythm. The ambulance worker started swaying gently with the crowd, timing it so at the end-point of every sway he would lift his head a bit more and peer into the distance, like he was just doing his work, you know, trying to see if anyone in the crowd had fallen down or something. All fresh air had left the stadium by this stage - everyone was soaked in a living, breathing mass of marijuana smoke. Then Caple got even more worked up, running up and down the stage, telling the crowd he couldn't hear them (even though they could probably be heard all the way in Banjul). They screamed, they held each other, they waved lighters and joints and mobile phones in the air. The ambulance guy abandoned all pretense, and with a triple-hop jump timed with Capleton's own onstage he became part of the crowd, screaming "Burn Baby-Lan!" and pumping his hands into the air with the best of them.

At about 4am Caple made the first announcement that this would the last song, and he had to leave so he could get some sleep for his performance tonight. But he couldn't seem to get offstage - an hour later he was still performing song after song, preceding each one with the same "So this is the last one - goodnight!". Finally at around 5am a para went onstage and gave him a note, and at the end of the song he was performing he just simply stepped off stage and walked away. [Ambulance guy was gone by this time, lost in the milling crowd].

In the end it was a much better show than the Morgan one, though it didn't last as long.


  1. Hey Amran thanks for the update i didn't go but i wish i did :-( . I heard from a reliable source that Amran was screaming and shouting "Fire burn Baby-Lan!" how comes you did not tell us about that one lol.... i like the piece

  2. Amran you are an excellent writer. Big up yourself everytime.