Thursday, August 24, 2006

Freedom at The National Maritime Museum

Last night I ventured 'south of the river' and surfaced in Greenwich which is home of the National Maritime Museum. I was there mainly because I had heard that Jah Shaka would be playing a part in an evening which was to commemorate the 'International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition' - The evening started with a debate titled "Freedom." We were greeted by the Director of Research & Collections Margarette Lincoln who raised eyebrows and a smile with her eloquent pronunciation of 'Jah Shaka' as part of proceedings. The debate was chaired by Bonnie Greer and she was joined by presenters Godfried Donkor, Keith Piper, Sonia Boyce and Faisal Abdu'Allah. Each gave a presentation all of which were clear concise and thought provoking, the only criticism being the failure of audio visual systems or timing of such. The debate ended with a question and answer session which raised a lot of intelligent comments.

We then ventured out of the lecture theatre and could immediately hear something vaguely resembling music coming from somewhere; it was difficult from this position to work out what it was due to the reverberation of the venue. We were then led up to a raised terrace, courtyard for want of a better description. It was huge in size and surrounded on three sides by glass cabinets full of maritime treasures and artifacts. At one end was a snack/bar in the middle was Jah Shaka setup on the edge of a square that was roughly the size of a professional boxing ring. He had 4 stacks of speakers setup in the four corners two facing away and two facing towards him. This square was roped off by a blue band leaving just Shaka, one of his crew who was happily dancing and another of his crew manning a video camera on a tripod.

Above this terrace was a huge curved glass ceiling. When Shaka who was playing at levels quite restrained at this point lifted the arm from a record the reverb decay time was something along the lines of 5 to 6 seconds. Unfortunately this location within NMM was probably the worst place of all to set up a sound system. When the music was playing the reflections just mudded up the music and was not enjoyable to my ears at all. Shaka was drawing a wicked selection of vintage roots tunes each with their own appropriate lyric content for the night. Industry characters I spied on the night were Jonah Dan, Terry Gad, Jah Surr Zema and Leroy Mafia.

I did take my camera along but while I was trying to find a vantage point to get some good shots I was approached by one of the Shaka crew and told not to take pictures. The single out of focus picture that I did manage to take is the one above. This is kind of ironic at an event called 'Freedom' and is even more ironic when you consider that the picture of Malachi on the flyer for his next gig at the Telegraph is actually one of my pictures from the free festival event at Brockwell Park 2005. I am happy to share that picture and would have supplied it to them at a better resolution than the web image it was taken from if only someone had asked!

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