Exodus - Bob Marley Reimagined featuring the Chineke! Orchestra with Skip Marley, JP Cooper & Ruby Turner
08/12/2022 by Shrik Kotecha
Exodus: Bob Marley Reimagined featuring the Chineke! Orchestra with special guest vocalists Skip Marley, JP Cooper and Ruby Turner took place on 26th July 2022 in a bustling Birmingham Town Hall as the city was putting the finishing touches to hosting the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The city had a wealth of vibrancy and excitement for the games.
The Birmingham Town Hall is a historic landmark and Grade I listed building that has hosted The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, on his first UK tour in 1965, and in the 70s and 80s the Midlands’ own home-grown talent included Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, ELO and UB40.
Music lovers worldwide had been in anticipation about the classical reimagination of just a handful of Bob Marley and the Wailers classics - songs that have inspired generations of music lovers worldwide. Bob Marley & The Chineke! Orchestra features a contemporary classical orchestration from the globally esteemed Chineke! Orchestra and was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in West London and produced by Nick Patrick (If I Can Dream, Elvis Presley and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Buddy Holly and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra).
The night began with the Chineke! Orchestra’s interpretation of African Suite (5 Movements) by the renowned Nigerian classical musician/composer Fela Sowande from 1955.
After a short interval and the addition of a band to accompany the 48-piece Chineke! Orchestra host Trevor Nelson, MBE welcomed the eager crowd. With the lighting fully emblazed in this historical building with the Rastafari colours of red, gold and green, he welcomed the 800 strong audience to huge cheers as he announced, “This is Birmingham, the second city don’t let me down, we’re not in Somerset and WE are hosting the Commonwealth Games!”. He also reminded us that it’s almost 50 years since Bob Marley & The Wailers made their debut appearance in Birmingham and that this historic concert was being filmed by the BBC for broadcast on national television and radio.
I was already sensing that I was one of the lucky few that were about to witness a historical night and soak in the UK debut solo performance from Skip Marley (alongside the Chineke! Orchestra) accompanied by his mom Cedella Marley.
From the opening notes of Exodus, the crowd warmed to the contemporary interpretations with the addition of the Chineke! Orchestra, led by musical director and arranger Chris Cameron before the first of three guests -British singer/songwriter JP Cooper was welcomed onto the stage. Coolly dressed in matching stone chinos and cap with a light green sweatshirt, he broke into the first of three songs, Stir It Up which immediately wooed the crowd with his soulful tones. His rendition of Stir It Up was complemented by the fine instrumentation of the Chineke! Orchestra and accompanying band followed by Top Ranking and Satisfy My Soul.
Next up on stage was Jamaican born legend Ruby Turner, who moved to Birmingham when she was only aged nine and proudly carried the Queen’s baton for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games earlier in the day. She reminisced about her earliest memories of Bob, Peter and Bunny performing on The Old Grey Whistle Test in the early 70’s before performing two of Bob Marley & The Wailers most revered love songs- Turn Your Lights Down Low and Waiting In Vain as her home crowd waved and cheered on this local singer with eagerness, singing the chorus of Waiting In Vain.
It was close to 10pm when host Trevor Nelson introduced Skip Marley onto the stage for his debut UK performance watched proudly by his mom Cedella Marley from the Upper Circle. There had been talk of Skip’s grandmother, Rita Marley flying in for this concert, but she was unable to travel due to ill health.
Skip entered the stage to rapturous applause, greeting the crowd with praises to His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. Dressed in a stylish dark red three-piece suit and black shirt, Skip went into an energising rendition of Is This Love which had the whole crowd up on their feet swaying and dancing away. (Up until now, the crowd had remained seated for the earlier performances). Skip bellowed out to the crowd “How you feeling?” which was met with more cheers before he added “It’s about time we get up and stand up for our rights”. He swiftly moved across the stage before stopping to strike a militant stance reminiscent of his grandfather Bob, which led to even louder cheers as he went into Get Up Stand Up. He accompanied by some superb tremolo string arrangements as he belted out “Birmingham, don’t give up the fight” as the crowd sang along.
By this point, the crowd was in a frenzy, fully embracing this young lion on stage as they shouted out suggestions for the next song, “Can you sing Natural Mystic?”. Chris Cameron beckoned the spirited audience for calm as the cellists in the Chineke! Orchestra played a sombre introduction to Redemption Song. The drumbeats intensified and Skip urged the crowd to sing along, an invitation that did not need to be repeated, as the crowd willingly sung out the chorus.
Host Trevor Nelson asked Skip what he thought of the orchestra and band, and he replied “I think they are outstanding” before turning his back to the crowd to applaud this fine set of musicians. Trevor replied, “That’s the most I’ve heard from him today!” referencing that Skip lets the music speak for itself.
The finale called upon all three singers to join in unity for a celebrated rendition of the anthemic One Love as Skip, Ruby and JP bounced and skanked on stage in a show of strength and unity with a buzzing orchestra. This was a perfect ending and fitting tribute to end a truly magical night.
The concert was filmed by the BBC and is due to be broadcast on Saturday 13th August on BBC Two as part of its coverage of the 60th anniversary of Jamaican independence. A truly outstanding performance from the Chineke! Orchestra Skip Marley, JP Cooper and Ruby Turner which gained the seal of approval from both my musical daughter and myself!
Watch below "Bob Marley Reimagined' Concert (Behind The Scenes)":