Cool Runnings

New concert documentary honors Garnett Silk

Unlike the Passa Passa dancehall DVDs that are all about booty shots and the hottest dance moves, films documenting true-school reggae concerts are hard to find. You can walk into any Caribbean record store and get the latest Passa Passa vid, but catching acts like Richie Spice, Chuck Fenda, and Turbulence, artists among the new generation of reggae singers, is rare. It's rarer still to find any material on quasilegendary performer Garnett Silk, a reggae crooner who was killed in 1994, mainly because most of his material was recorded on dusty 45s and cassettes. Some of his songs, like "Hello Africa," can still be found, but like so many Jamaican artists of the late '80s and early '90s, Silk wasn't able to gain acclaim in the United States.

So it's a treat to see the Earth Day Celebration: A Tribute to Garnett Silk DVD hit the streets, as it encapsulates both the essence of Silk and the younger generation carrying on his legacy at a key juncture in reggae music, where dancehall seems to be taking all the glory and causing the most problems. Silk, who dominated the charts at the tail end of reggae's glory years, has been all but forgotten despite being heralded as the second coming of Bob Marley before he died trying to save his mother during a suspicious fire 13 years ago. On the new DVD release, culled from concert footage dating back to 2003, it's good to see young roots singers like Ras Shiloh and Sizzla keep the fire blazing without the typical dancehall fuckery that makes so many "reggae" DVDs hard to watch.

On this concert DVD, audiences are treated to a young Chuck Fenda belting out "Betta Days" and a practically unknown Richie Spice doing his best to rock the crowd without much material. It's the innocence that graces the stage that makes the DVD so enjoyable. The performers all give Silk his propers, and with a running time of 73 minutes, Earth Day Celebration is just long enough to work as a solid tribute to one of reggae's fallen heroes.

 
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