The Congos & Pura Vida
The re-unification of the legendary Jamaican Congos and Belgium’s Pura Vida on the penultimate night of the recent Festival Des Libertes at the Theatre National in Brussels was a sight and sound to behold. Performing to a full house, this magical musical combination put on a 2-hour show, leaving their appreciative audience screaming for more.
BELGIUM’S BRUSSELS BOASTS THE BEST IN REAL ROOTS REGGAE!
The key role in the evening’s proceedings was taken by the renowned Congo Cedric Myton, who still vocalises classic tunes as though they were composed earlier that morning, instead of 40 years ago! This enthusiasm was also evident by the manner in which he used the full stage span to address each section of the audience, with a vim and vitality that far belied his years. From beginning to end, Myton’s presence was akin to that of a man half his age – and the good news is that his voice has lost none of its spine-tingling falsetto pitch. Alongside him was Congo Ashanti Roy, whose initiative, intellect and generousity first put this lethal Jamaican-Belgian combo together. In reality, his accomplished stage performance in Brussels is matched only by his backstage endeavours, that have enabled Pura Vida to catapult to the higher echelons of the reggae fraternity. In this regard the original Congoman was ably abetted and complemented by the humble Kenroy ‘Tallash’ Fyffe – the key player in the re-formation of the Congos back in 2006.
Coincidentally, Pura Vida was formed in 2006 and has proceeded to build a mighty reputation in the interim. This was most recently evidenced in their new ‘Morning Star’ album, which was very well received by the critics. The driver and lead singer of Pura Vida is Puraman, whose effervescent contribution to this show was most obvious in his impressive delivery of the ‘Teach dem’ and ‘It’s all over now’ songs (from the aforementioned new album) and ‘We Nah Give Up’, from the Pura Vida-Congos’ album collaboration in 2011. Puraman’s musical mastery was especially evident in his (all too rare) use of the melodica. Such is his mastery of this instrument that it’s no wonder Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry insisted on its inclusion on his latest release ‘The Black Album’.
Despite Pura Vida’s well-established ability to mix musical genres, the Brussels’ show adhered righteously and rigidly to roots reggae. Hence, many of the immortal tracks from the Congos’ ‘Heart of the Congos’ masterpiece were on display, from the uplifting ‘Congoman’ opener, through ‘Open Up The Gate’, ‘Children Crying’, ‘La La Bam Bam’, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ and ‘Ark of the Covenant’ to ‘Fisherman’. The set also featured such Congo classics as: ‘Youth Man’, ‘Revolution’, ‘Swinging Bridge, ‘Lost Sheep’, ‘National Heroes’ and ‘La Le Bella’.
Pura Vida’s 7-member high grade roots reggae band is led by Bregt ‘Puraman’ De Boever, who has been composing and playing quality music since 2006, when they won the ROTOTOM regional contest. Since then they have successfully liaised with such luminaries as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Jah9, Leroy Sibbles and Sylford Walker, and also made time to produce a string of highly-rated albums. Their use of a brass section – via the multi-instrumentalist Mathieu and the stylish Pieter – is a luxury in live reggae. Yet it is also essential if the sound is to reach celestial musical heights – which in Pura Vida’s case it most certainly does. This input is complemented by the driving force of the wonderful Wowie and brilliant Bobo on lead and bass guitars respectively, whilst the intelligent Bos keeps the show going by tinkling the ivories on his synthesiser. But the band’s real driving force is to be found behind the drum kit, where Xan gives effect to his crucial role with the reliability of what can only be described as a Swiss clock!
Yet again the perennial paperwork problem that plagues the Rastaman persisted, as Watty Burnett failed to make the show. However, there was a lengthy queue of willing takers for his classic ‘Peg the collie man sell the best collie in sea port town’ input on ‘Fisherman’.
And the good news is that this formidable musical coalition is threatening to hit the road again in 2019, with some classic shows coming to a town near you. Be there or be square!