By David Vitalis
ON message and on stage personality, the comparison to Bob Marley is striking -- head-holding meditational postures, inter-twined with vigorous dreadlock-shaking convulsions and hop-dances.
To St. Lucian artiste, Taj Weekes, the similarities are strictly coincidental, although he indirectly admits that meaningful music demands a certain unity of stage expression.
After a soul-nourishing performance with his band, 'Adowa', at St. Lucian Mainstage Saturday, Weekes disagreed with comparisons to reggae legend Marley: "I don't think that Bob Marley had a copyright on his expressions," he said emphatically. "I just think that it is just musical expressions. When you get in the zone things happen. It's not something that is rehearsed. It just kind of happens."
For Weekes, the Mainstage performance could not have been more significant. It was not only his first at St. Lucia Jazz, but more importantly, his first before his home crowd since his international recognition as a candidate for Grammy nomination two years ago, and after Adowa's second album, "Deidem', won 'Best Reggae Album' at the 2009 Just Plain Folks Music Awards.
The U.S. based Just Plain Folks Organisation networks more than 50,000 music industry professionals in 150 countries, according to the organisations's website.
Weekes and Adowa were also the opening act at St. Lucia Jazz 'Mainstage' Saturday, a slot in which the performer is honoured (or burdened) with the tasks of settling the still arriving audience, setting the mood for the entire concert and, at the same time, having to focus on making a good, lasting impression on the multi-national audience.
"The St. Lucia stage is just as great," exclaimed Weekes after the performance. "I mean we've played on plenty stages before. When we played in Texas 30,000 people came out to see us. There is a vibe in St. Lucia. It's the first time in 20 years for us. So we feel really good. The energy is great."
Weekes' music career started here and developed overseas to the point where he can boast of playing for a one-time audience of 30,000. His audience at St. Lucia Jazz was a fraction of that, but he was humble: "We play music; we don't play people and locations, but it's wonderful to be at home. There is a certain vibe about the island and we just incorporate it into our performance.
"We tried to do a little bit of the songs that were played on the radio in St. Lucia, but we also tried to give people an idea of what our band is about, not just the so-called hit songs but everything that goes with it -- the social responsibility we carry with us and everything that incorporates Taj Weekes and Adowa," he said.
Weekes and Adowa were followed by the jazz quartet, Yellow Jackets, marking 30 years as a recording group. Fans of hardcore jazz -- and there were many -- paid warm tribute through their applause, especially in response to the bass solos of Jimmy Haslip.
Maceo Parker and Trey Songz took the show home with funk/soul mixes, and R&B, respectively.