TORRENTIAL RAIN, thunder and lightning marred the grand finale of the Tobago Music and Cultural (TOMAC) Festival, but Grammy-winning Afrobeat star Burna Boy, inspired by his drenched but vibrant fans, lifted the dampened spirits on the Plymouth Recreational Grounds with an electrifying performance.
1000’s ignored the Met Office’s upgrade of the hostile weather alert from yellow level to orange, hoping the weather would delay enough to benefit from the show.
Two hours into the concert, it was clear this was not going to occur. Rain fell throughout performances from soca stars Nailah Blackman, Ricardo Dru and Shurwayne Winchester.
The concert began around 8 pm and by then a whole bunch were on the venue sheltering under umbrellas and tents.
Donning their best attire for the highly anticipated show, some were seen wearing garbage bags, which they bought for $5 at the doorway gate, as vendors capitalised on the opportunities presented by the bad weather. The rubbish bags were sold after umbrellas and raincoats were sold out.
By 10 pm, the downpour became heavier, but the group grew larger.
An hour-long interval between the last performance and the headline act left the group agitated and eventually disgruntled. Chants of “Burna, Burna,” were eventually replaced by “Refund, refund,” as DJ music kept the show going without an announcement.
One patron was heard saying: “They might at the very least come out and say what’s happening, as a substitute of leaving us wondering if the show will go on.”
Scores of disenchanted patrons eventually left the venue, but many stayed to get their money’s price.
Midnight had passed and the stage remained in darkness, with instruments covered with polythene plastic.
Nonetheless, around 12.40am, Burna Boy took the stage, much to the delight of his fans.
The energy of his performance sent the group wild, forgetting their soaked clothes, hair and shoes.
Burna delivered hit after hit, including Toni Ann Singh (his collaboration with Popcaan), Jerusalema, Ye, For My Hand (a collaboration with Ed Sheeran) and Last Last.
Song after song, the group screamed in excitement, singing his lyrics word for word.
Burna told the group this was his first time in Tobago and he was excited to go to an island “only heard about in the flicks.” Whilst the rain continued, he connected together with his fans, performing for an hour to thrill his patient and appreciative fans.
Burna Boy ended his performance just at 1.30 am with the identical energy and hype he began with.
‘Burna fed off crowd’s energy’
TOMAC organiser Arlene Lyons acknowledged the challenges with the weather, but felt satisfied with the general end result and impact of the festival.
In an interview with Newsday, she said, “For the primary time attempting to do something of this magnitude and significance, we’re completely happy to have given this gift of Burna Boy to the people of Tobago.
“To me, it has been a really difficult and galvanizing experience, and it’s almost an ideal manifestation of the resilience and struggle of the African spirit. I feel like now we have had to attract on that to find a way to come back so far and pull off this event.
“Now we have had a whole lot of (challenges), and a few of them were natural, but a few of them were ones which might be put in front of us by individuals who may not have the most effective interest of what we were attempting to do.”
She praised the group for the energy during Burna Boy’s performance, which she described as scintillating.
“The gang loved it. In accordance with his (Burna Boy’s) team, it was one in all his best performances. He fed off of the group. His team said he has never seen anything like this, where people in this type of inclement weather give off a lot energy – they usually said it was one in all the things that inspired Burna to do an ideal performance.
“They said every other place may need cancelled the event with weather like what we had.”
Asked if TOMAC considered cancelling the event as conditions worsened into the night, Lyons said it was never an option.
But there was a significant concern: “whether or not Burna’s team would want him to perform in those conditions.”
She thanked the patrons for showing up despite the heavy rain.
“I need to also thank Burna Boy and his team for pushing through despite the weather challenges.”
She said the hosting of the event was not an ideal experience but rather a lot was learnt.
“It literally took a village to tug this off, so we wish to thank everyone who supported what we desired to do. It was well price it and my soul and I bet everyone else’s soul was fed.”
She said there are plans to maintain the momentum going with the rediscovery journey of what it means to be Tobagonian.
Chatting with Newsday about their experience, patrons had mixed feelings.
Adrian Howe of Chaguanas told Newsday, “I enjoyed the show. The weather was out of our control, and if we put that aside, we’d see how excellent this event would have been. Overall, I enjoyed it.”
Joshua Lashley told Newsday he felt disenchanted with the time allotted to local performers. “The soca artists must have performed longer. The festival said it’s about culture; soca is an element of culture. While I used to be here for Burna Boy, the circumstances needed soca to get people mind off the bad weather.”
Shaquille Sylvester praised TOMAC for the work put into bringing the festival together.
“I got the identical quality I hear on YouTube and on radio from Burna Boy. It was proper feedback and good endgame between crowd and artiste. His performance was just too short.”
Steven Purity of Washington, DC, said he only got here to Tobago after reading a Newsday article on Burna Boy’s scheduled appearance. He was disenchanted by the delay in Burna Boy hitting the stage.
“I paid for a concert that starts at 8 pm, ends at 11 pm – and it was after 12 am. That’s the subsequent day, so I left.
“They simply keep saying, ‘He’s coming,’ for over an hour, and that wasn’t reassuring.”
One woman added: “People standing within the rain was one thing, but having to attend for him was one other thing. I left the venue at 12, once I was already on my way out. I hope they hold to their word after they promise the performer could be there.”