MR VEGAS, who just returned from a concert in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare, has countered newspaper claims out of that country which described his concert as being “a big yawn”.
Vegas, who burst on to the scene with Nike Air in 1997, followed by the mega hit Heads High,said the Zimbabwe gig, ‘Mr Vegas in Concert’, was not his best, but made no apologies, saying he is a reggae act, not a dancehall artiste, which was what the crowd of youngsters expected.
“It wasn’t the best, but it was a good show. However, it seems that in some places, it’s like you’re performing in Jamaica. I was a bit disappointed that some of these younger youths who came out were more into two hours of straight dancehall, high-energy, non-stop music.
“My show is mixed with reggae, tributes to the likes of Bob Marley, mySweet Jamaica song, a concert with a reggae feel,” he said. He added that the Harare crowd probably turned up expecting the Jamaican dancehall that they watched on YouTube.
“We thought a song like Bob Marley’s Zimbabwe would have come off well, but some people were complaining about us doing reggae and they came to see a dancehall show. I was disappointed. I view myself as a reggae artiste, not dancehall,” he explained.
The Harare press was harsh. Entertainment reporter Melissa Mpofu ofNewsDay wrote:
“Jamaican dancehall star Mr Vegas (born Clifford Smith) performed at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) on Friday evening and helplessly watched as most of his fans walked out of the venue during his performance.
“Mr Vegas, meant to start performing at 11:30 p.m., got on stage an hour later. Although revellers were getting impatient, his appearance breathed life into the venue. Fans screamed and enjoyed his first songs.
“When he was halfway through his performance, revellers seemed to lose interest in his performance and they started trickling out of the venue.”
However, Vegas said he was putting on a reggae show, not a dancehall gig and was surprised that African youth, mainly male, did not connect with cultural music.
“Most of my performances are overseas and I am always introduced as a reggae artiste. There’s no category outside of Jamaica called dancehall, it’s reggae. When I do my show, it’s a performance filled with different types of music from Jamaica.
“Some of the songs we don’t sing, like the greats. We don’t want to sound like karaoke, so we just play their songs. I am not a deejay. I sing vocals on these uptempo dancehall beats, no different from what Barrington Levy does on a slower beat,” he explained.
However, the Zimbabwe youth, he said, were unappreciative.
“I don’t know if the youths are losing interest in that side of culture. If I go out and people are disappointed with a few reggae tracks, I can’t help that. I grew up on Bob Marley and Barrington Levy.
There’s Germany, Spain, New York City, and those places where that type of music goes down well,” he pointed out.
“I cannot tour and just do jump-up music. I have to be versatile in my performance,” Vegas added.
However, not everybody left the concert disappointed. Mpofu wrote:
“Another fan who seemed to enjoy every moment of the show said: “I think some people who came here clearly do not appreciate dancehall music because this guy delivered a good performance. I do not understand what people mean when they say he did not perform well.”
Vegas said his next tour, to the United States, would take him to what is known as the ‘B’ market, “places where not everyday artistes from Jamaica tour, places like Minnessota, Seattle, Chicago, those places, Virginia”.
The tour starts December 14, but Vegas will be in Guadeloupe alongside Destra first, as he looks to release his Sweet Jamaica album in February.
He said he has deliberately stayed away from performing in Jamaica.
“It’s a deliberate move on my part. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I don’t want to be one of those artistes who overstay my welcome, still running around Jamaica trying to ‘mash up’ a stage show,” he said.
“Jamaica is the base that sets you up for rest of the world. My first few years were a learning process, developing my craft. I am leaving that to the younger youths. There are a lot of artistes here. If everyone is here competing, it would be too much of one thing.
“In addition, outside of Jamaica, you’re allowed to perform. You can try it here, but you might go on at the wrong time and get some bottles or boos,” he said.