Review & Photos: Gramps & Jemere Morgan in Hamburg, Germany 1/18/2013
01/20/2013 by Gardy Stein
Gramps & Jemere Morgan in Hamburg, Germany @ Planet Pauli 1/18/2013
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SOLO on tour, but not alone: Gramps Morgan, member of the legendary Morgan Heritage, was touching down on Hamburg last Friday with his son Jemere to deliver their only concert in Germany.
The Planet Pauli, located directly on the Reeperbahn, opened its gates at 11pm. It took time for people to trickle in (which was in part certainly due to a freezing -8° Celsius outside), but around 1:30am the place was filling up, guests entertained by a warm-up set from Westcoast Sound. Shortly after, the artists arrived backstage and manager Skelly took his chance to welcome everybody, then handing the mike over to Jemere Morgan.
This likeable young man of only 17 (!) years of age kicked his show off with the track Paradise on the Turnpike Riddim, released in early 2012. Directly followed by What it's gonna be?, he paused and asked whether he could sing to the ladies now. Screams of approval paved the way for International Love, a lover's tune that clearly demonstrated both his charming style and his vocal skills. Performing like one of the grands, he even mastered the challenge of technical problems (honestly, Planet Pauli, invest in your sound equipment!) and had the massive dancing to his music, himself in the lead. Up next, Sunshine Glow was one of the "older" songs of his repertoire (initially released in December 2011), while the subsequent Neighbourhood Girl gave the audience a glimpse of forthcoming publications. An invitation to some easy skanking, this tune impressed both musically and through its wonderful adaptation of the famous lines "Too much susususu, too much watchie-watchie…", thus invoking the old masters of Reggae. Much too fast his appearance was over. Given the quality of his clear and carrying voice, his professional endeavour and the fun he obviously has on stage, we are bound to hear more of this offspring of the Morgan Clan in the future!
El maestro Gramps Morgan appeared on stage at 2am. From the first note he made clear that Reggae Music Lives, the title track of his most recent and second solo album. Greeting the people present and wishing them all the best for 2013, he announced the next track Time as a dedication to all Africans, fervently intoning the lines "Oh my people it's time fi black man to unite!". Like its forerunner, the next song All Together (introduced as Reggae Anthem by Gramps) is taken from his first album released in 2009, 2 Sides of My Heart. And all together the audience was rocking along by now, joining in the hook and cheering to statements such as "Hamburg is gonna make it right!" or "This is the generation that will make the change!".
Before turning to the next piece, Gramps talked about studio projects he is working on in Jamaica with his brother Peetah and his sister Una and also used the opportunity to big up REGGAEVILLE for its contribution to spread Reggae music worldwide. His gentle but powerful voice then dived into some sweet lover's rock "dedicated to the ladies", with whom he would like to stay For One Night. Thereafter, a lot of hands were raised, not only in applause but also in answer to his question if there are any mothers and fathers present. Unprecedented at concerts I experienced so far, he dedicated the next tune to the babysitters and caretakers "watching your kids so you can go out and enjoy yourself" (how sweet is that?), reminding us at the same time how important it is to raise our children right. While he made the massive sing along in Come Back to Bed, the following song was infilled with his magnificent voice alone. Announced as the "sweet Reggae Music" it is, One in a Million was one of my personal highlights. Seeing the flaring lighters, he appreciated everyone present and gestured the DJ to pause.
"Let we reason", the artist said, describing how much it means to him that people like his "brother from Gambia", host Malick aka DJ Milko and promoter Björn aka RasDaKing, uphold the Reggae music in Europe. He then passed his respect to all Africans in the place once more, reciting at least 30 African countries before stepping in Want Fi Charge Mi, originally recorded with India Arie. And YES you could hear Africa calling in the musical arrangement, which included traditional African elements such as the Marimba. Thus, the transition to the subsequent (Mama Africa,) I Hear You Calling was easy. Engulfing the location with a spirit of joy that had people dancing and enjoying a perfect Friday night, Gramps closed the song by saying "Djërëdjëf!", meaning 'Thank you!' in Wolof (a language spoken in Senegal and Gambia).
Up next was a medley of some well-known Morgan Heritage tunes. The audience sang along, literally enchanted, while Gramps made us relive the beauty of songs like Liberation, Don't Haffi Dread and Down by the River. "Remember one thing: it's GOOD to be conscious!" he reminded us before – to everyone's delight – he finished this section with I'm Coming Home. Sweet Roots!!!
Journeying from past to present, Wash The Tears (a song from his first album), gave way to Life's Too Short, included in his newest album Reggae Music Lives. Last year, a part of the income of the single sale helped the parents of tragically murdered Trayvon Martin in their strife for justice. This social commitment is one of the most impressing things about Mr. Morgan. Besides all the other occupations and projects that occupy his life (singer, band member, father, mentor, sportsman, entrepreneur…) he took the time to found and support an organization called M.O.M. – Music Orchestrating Miracles in 2010, which provides mosquito nets, Malaria medication, HIV test kits and water purification tablets as well as school supplies to needy areas in Africa.
Not only life in general is too short, but also this evening in particular. Having arrived at the end of his show at 3 am, Gramps talked about his early years, starting out as a DJ on dancehall tunes. Although he seemed to struggle with a cold, he mobilized his energies once more to deliver The Almighty, a powerful yet melodical dancehall-tune that left the people in a dancing mood when the aftershow-party was on with Timeless Sound and Talawah Sound.
Throughout the performance, Gramps kept up a positive interaction with the audience, which - although mixed-age from teenager to Reggae Veteran - had a great time and responded well to statements like "We say NO to racism!" or "If you love Germany say YEAH MAN! If you love Jamaica say YEAH MAN! If you love Africa say YES RASTA!!!".
Yes, Rasta! Around 250 people made their way to witness Gramps Morgan tonight, and what they witnessed was a conscious entertainer and a wonderful person times two (Jemere is all that as well!). One of his final messages was that we should watch out for each other: "When your friend is drinking, take care of him and make sure he is reaching home safe – cause THIS is Reggae Culture!".
In this spirit, let us make 2013 a year of Reggae Culture. A year to take care of each other, do good and move forward, because life really is too short to wait or hesitate!