Photos by Martei Korley
Damian Marley‘s Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise set off on its third edition last week, carrying a crew full of reggae icons, dancehall dons, baddd selectors and good people.
This time, though, things were even larger. Extra large. The cruise moved for the first time to Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, one of the world’s largest ships, with a capacity over 4,000.
The lineup was appropriately heavyweight. In addition to Damian and Stephen Marley, the ship’s stages — including a massive, world-class indoor music hall — hosted an even range of performers from dancehall stalwarts Chaka Demus and Pliers and Sanchez to reggae pioneers Marcia Griffiths and Toots, to current-generation stars Chronixx and Kabaka Pyramid. Cruisegoers also got an introduction to the next talent in the Marley clan, as Damian’s son, Elijah, aka Lil Zilla, got huge forwards during an appearance in his father’s set.
The “Jamrock Cruise” doesn’t just pack a bunch of big-name headliners onto a boat. It’s a genuinely authentic representation of reggae and dancehall culture programmed by those who know it best. DJs and selectors play a massive role on the ship. When you have people like G-Fus and Rory from Stone Love playing the Sail Away party, you know di ting set right. And this year’s edition was, as one commenter on Facebook put it, Homer’s Odyssey epic. Typifying the experience was the second Sound Clash at Sea, with Mighty Crown, King Turbo, Tony Matterhorn and Fire Links going head to head in a seriously entertaining battle that still has people talking.
LargeUp creative director and co-founder Martei Korley, who has photographed the cruise all three years, was on board once more, taking everything in. Here’s what he saw.
The outdoor stage area begins to populate as the ship sets sail from Fort Lauderdale.
Flags of all stripes were waved on the Jamrock Cruise. Here’s the Tonga crew, with no shortage of pride.
When you come back on the Jamrock Cruise year after year, you get to catch up with old friends, and see some of the same faces you haven’t in a year. DJ Rassarella, here behind the decks on Night 1, has been a staple on the cruise during its three years.
They know this little girl, her name is Maxine… The classic dancehall duo Chaka Demus and Pliers were the first performers of Night One.
The Zinc Fence Redemption band backed up Kelissa and, here, Chronixx.
Gimme the light! Sean Paul got busy and turned the temperature up, with his endless well of dancehall hits.
Dutty, yo! Sean Paul takes a wine from one of his Badda Gyalz dancers.
It’s been great to see the legendary Toots Hibbert back on stage after a three-year absence. 2016 marks 50 years since he and the Maytals recorded “Bam Bam” — some might say the original reggae tune.
Singer Kelissa wasn’t the only member of her family working on the ship: Her sister, Jamaican media personality Kamilah McDonald, instructed fitness classes in the mornings.
Grafton Studio Family: Romel Marshall ( Tarrus Riley’s engineer) with vocalists Sherita Lewis and Natel, sharing a moment with a fellow Grafton alumni.
Bob Marley’s spirit was everywhere on the Jamrock Cruise: Even in these shoes.
Shinehead is kind of the all-around MVP of the Jamrock Cruise every year. Whether he’s spinning 45s with his sound system, Kingston 12, or freestyling with other artists, his presence is always heavily felt. Here, he has the crowd in rapture during a daytime set on the Day 2.
Faada Shines never misses a beat.
You can feel the legacy of reggae music on the Jamrock Cruise, especially with people like singer Christopher Ellis, son of Alton Ellis, and bassist Shiah Coore, bassist from Damian Marley’s band and son of Third World’s Cat Coore, on board.
Here’s two more familiar faces we’ve gotten used to seeing every year: rapper Supernatural and Sky High the Mau Mau.
Romain Virgo takes in the vibes during Shinehead’s set.
BBC 1Xtra DJ Seani B, with Jamaican music business insider Sharon Burke.
Crowds filing into the ship’s interior theater on Night 2 — “White Night.”
Here’s your host! Damian Marley welcomes people inside after showers washed out the outdoor performances. The ship’s theater is surprisingly large, but struggled a bit to hold everyone and convey the vibe of an outdoor show. However, as Damian mentioned, certain things are beyond control.
A candid moment with Stone Love selector Rory Gilligan, and Kelissa McDonald.
Romain Virgo, performing “Rich in Love” with the Unit Band. He was the first performer of the second night, and was upset he had worn the wrong clothes (not white!) This, however, was not reflected in his stellar performance.
Elegance personified. The Queen of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths, holding court on Night 2.
Diva Nikki Z, the host for Night 2, with Jamaican selector Foota Hype.
Tarrus Riley hushes the Blak Soil Band as King Turbo selector and Canadian radio DJ Spex da Boss gets down on one knee to propose to his long-time girlfriend.
Tarrus Riley poses with his mom, and Stephen Marley, after an impressive show. Tarrus brought out Iba Mahr, Chronixx (on “Gimme Likkle One Drop”) and singer Sherita Lewis, and paid homage to Bob Marley with “So Jah Seh” from Natty Dread.
Mr. Vegas may not be the most popular artist on social media, but when he performs, he always dun di place.
Mr. Vegas followed a full dancehall set with a full gospel one; both included crowd participation. “Long time mi know da man yah,” he said, pointing at photographer Ajamu Myrie, and pulling him on stage. “I want him to sing this song with me, he has been with me since the beginning of my career”
Diving into Doctor’s Cave, Montego Bay, on Day 3. Doctor’s Cave beach is the preferred outing at MoBay for most Jamrock cruisers, though some make the trip to the Rastafari Indigenous Village or take an Appleton Rum tour.
A sexy selfie on the Doctor’s Cave dock before the rain came in.
Thanks to the massive crowd deposited by the cruise, business was so brisk at the restaurant on Doctor’s Cave that they ran out of food. But when the Jamrock crowd cleared out, almost no one was left on the beach.
Sanchez, one of dancehall’s golden crooners, performing indoors on Wednesday night.
Wednesday night special from the big voice, Jah Cure. Eventually, he took off this shirt and threw these glasses into the crowd.
A theater? On a ship? With Bounty Killer? Epic.
Cross, hangry, miss-a-rebel! Despite his expression in this photo, Bounty Killer had to be satisfied with his enthusiastic reception. This was his third year appearing on the cruise.
Beenie Man plotting moves backstage with radio DJ/producer ZJ Liquid, as the ageless wonder Tony Matterhorn flashes boyish grin.
The Many Moods of Moses Davis… He was actually getting into his zone backstage dancing and chatting along to Bounty Killer’s set!
Nuff gyal and gyal inna bungle, Beenie Man fans always come out to support.
Ragga Marley backstage. Nuff said.
Jr. Gong, Ragga and Lil Zilla join Beenie Man on stage for the finale of his show, which really took the cruise to the next level.
A good friend of LargeUp, it’s Ray Paul of the Playmaker Group, showing us just how large this ship really is.
David Hinds and Sidney Mills of Steel Pulse posing with a fan as they board the ship in Ocho Rios.
The Far East Rulaz, Mighty Crown, in the wind and slight rain, hours before their Clash at Sea with King Turbo, Tony Matterhorn and Fire Links. (See the photo feature here). They wanted to wait ’til after clash but I persuaded them it would be better to take the picture with Jamaica in the background.
A Bermuda flag vies for space with those from the USVI as Collie Buddz performs in the theater on Thursday night. After Collie performed “Come Around,” the theater was wafting with smoke even though passengers had been advised to keep it outside.
Steel Pulse responded to previous entertainers by slowing down the pace and delivering a brutally roots set. In a bit of “dub choreography,” the bass player would jump off stage and walk around the crowd, disappear backstage and come back out again. Here, David Hinds belts one out in his unmistakable tone.
The wonderful Alla McKeon, who holds a book drive every year on the Jamrock Cruise.
Sophia and the Colorado Posse
That smile, those glasses, and that drink. I just had to take a picture.
I try to make pictures that have a profoundly personal angle. Here’s dub poet, radio personality, MC and thinker Mutabaruka, who was the host of the performances on Thursday night, and his wife, Jackie Hope. She asked me to take this. She said, “There are not a lot of people who are going to get a picture of Muta and his wife.”
Lovely ladies catching some sun on the cruise’s last afternoon.
The last day was a time to slow things down, and take it all in — and even get in some reading. After a weather delay on Thursday, Jr. Gong’s show was rescheduled for Friday, swelling the schedule to include six performances. None of which anyone was keen to miss.
Diva Nikki Z with David Cole, chief engineer for the Marleys, and lighting director Nesta Garrick, while Seani B runs tune in the back.
Looks like someone’s enjoying a nice, cool Guinness on the steps!
After the cancellation/delay of some performances on Thursday night, Friday night offered an action-packed night of entertainment, beginning with a twilight performance from Kabaka Pyramid.
Bunji Garlin and his wife, Fay-Ann Lyons. The soca power couple (Power Soca couple?) performed an early set on Friday during the day, then took in the shows at night.
London girls, turning it up.
Jamaican radio personality and all-around comedian DJ Bambino was another one of the cruise’s hosts. Always an all-star cast!
Masta Simon of Mighty Crown, sporting the Rockers NYC/Nine Rulaz sweatshirt.
Mavado got things ‘Gully’ on a Friday night. Here he laments a girl called “Delilah.”
Stephen Marley, on Night 5. From the opening notes of his set, you could feel that big, Marley sound.
Stephen Marley on stage with his two sons, Jo Mersa and Yohan Marley.
Little Zilla, Damian Marley’s son, making his Jamrock Cruise debut. He hit all the right notes, as he sang “I just Called To Say I Love You”, with full vibrato. Here, he gets the nod of approval from his father. Kid’s got a promising future!
Jr. Gong carried his son with him everywhere on the cruise. He shows that youth nuff love!