My Very First Day In Jamaica - December 26 @ Sting 2003
12/24/2023 by Julian Schmidt
„WHEN BOTTLE FLING, DUCK! WHEN GUNSHOT A RING - RUN!“
20 years ago, I spent Christmas with my family in South Africa. After a wonderful festive season, I took a plane from Johannesburg to New York, a 17-hour flight with a short stop in Nigeria to refuel. From New York City it was another four-hour flight with Air Jamaica to reach Kingston, and then only the immigration check stood between me and my first ever visit to Jamrock.
The customs officer asked me what the purpose of my journey to Jamaica was, and I told him that I wanted to attend some Reggae concerts. He asked me three times about my favorite singer and song, and when I finally understood his patois and what he meant, I started to sing: "Smoke di herb and get a humble thought, Babylon couldn't stop this one ah ..." by Sizzla. He was absolutely thrilled! And even though this may not have been the best song choice for customs, he waved me through.
I reached Kingston at midday on December 26th and some friends picked me up from the airport. After a quick stop at the hotel in New Kingston, I found myself at a private birthday party where they served a well-known national dish: Mannish Water. My first (and last!) Mannish Water.
Some months earlier, when I told my friend Camille that I would be in Jamaica in December and that I was planning to attend Sting, she offered me a ride. She declined to come with me to the event, BUT she gave me an important advice: „When bottle fling - duck! When gunshot a ring - run!“
But despite this warning, I was determined to attend the 20th edition of Sting “The Greatest One Night Reggae Show on Earth”.
It was no coincidence that I was in the same hotel in Kingston as Gentleman and his manager Stephan aka White Scorpio (RIP), who, like me, come from Cologne in Germany. Since Gentleman was scheduled to perform at Sting that evening, we had the same route, and they kindly gave me a ride.
When we reached the location, I was overwhelmed. The sights and smells and sounds were invading me in a wild combination, and I was filled with excitement when I read the lineup for the event: Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Ninjaman, Vybz Kartel, Richie Spice, Chuck Fenda, Elephant Man, Gentleman, Frankie Paul, Anthony B and Junior Kelly, were among those who'd grace the stage that night. My plan was to photograph the performances, and I positioned myself at the front of the stage to do so. It took a lot of getting used to experience fireworks and flames flare all around me - it was like in the movies. But since it was Reggae & Dancehall, it was definitely my favorite film!
I wasn't prepared for how the evening unfolded, though. Bottles intended for Frankie Paul, DYCR and Gentleman started to fly from the crowd and, thanks to Camille's good advice, I ducked. Despite these challenging circumstances, I wanted to keep taking photos, and I did – I guess after 40 hours on my feet, I was simply too tired to be afraid.
However, the worst part was still to come: what would be the talk of the town for the following weeks came next. Vybz Kartel and Ninjaman on stage! And I was in the middle of it.
The artists were fighting with words first and, when things became heated, continued with their fists, microphones and feet. My favorite movie had changed into a war film! The whole situation escalated and I left my spot to hide backstage.
The show went on undeterred, and when Beenie Man was able to ease the tension, I went back to my spot in front of the stage to take photos. Everything seemed to improve, but when MC Nuffy announced that Bounty Killer would not perform, the crowd went crazy. Bottle fling, gunshots fired… I ran to the backstage again to get out of it.
By then it was early in the morning. Ninjaman gave interviews with a huge plaster on his face, and I took photos again.
My ride back was gone because Gentleman and his crew were already back at the hotel. My salvation was the legendary Copeland Forbes, who I had met a few times before at concerts in Germany. Copeland had also witnessed this historic event and offered me a ride back to Kingston with him.
After a long walk we reached the car. I was so happy to know that I would arrive at the hotel shortly to finally rest a bit, because later that day I wanted to visit the East Fest in St. Thomas. But, alas, the hope for sleep was not fulfilled. Before I could go to bed at the hotel, Copeland's driver stopped at Emancipation Park because there was a concert happening at 10am in the morning.
On the way to the stage, we ran into a jogger: it was Bob Andy.
When we went closer to the stage, there were Dean Fraser, Glen Browne, Nambo Robinson, Abijah, Colah Colah and Bob Andy: from training straight to the stage. Of course I continued taking photos.
I was tired and exhausted from all these impressions, but I was back into my favourite movie: nice vibes, sweet music, legends on stage - and it was still my very first day in Jamaica!
STING 2003: PHOTO REPORT | VIDEOS
EMANCIPATION PARK CONCERT: PHOTO REPORT
STING 2003 IN THE JAMAICAN PRESS: