Sun, 02 Feb 2003

Shaggy live at Senayan: Heats up, treats Jakarta reggae lovers

Joseph Mangga, Contributor, Jakarta

Jakarta's pop music fans were treated last Tuesday night to a two-hour high-energy performance by Jamaican-American reggae singer Shaggy at the Senayan Indoor Tennis Courts.

Accompanied by rap vocalist Rik Rok, and his silky-voiced backup crooner, Rayvon, Shaggy arrived just a week after his high-profile appearance in Singapore as the emcee for the MTV Asian Music Awards on Jan. 23.

Interestingly, Star Mild and Original Productions, the main sponsors of the Shaggy event, also hosted this month's concerts by Taiwan's boyband F4 and Suede, two acts that also performed live at the MTV Asian award ceremonies.

At a news conference held on Monday at the Jakarta Hilton Executive Club, Shaggy confided that his emcee assignment for MTV was a much harder job than playing live music. Apparently there was a lot of scripted dialog, and Shaggy -- who immigrated with his parents to the U.S. from Jamaica when he was a dirt-poor teenager of 18 -- unfortunately "never learned to read too good".

When asked why he joined the U.S. Marines at age 19, he replied, "just to get enough money for food and rent".

As an undereducated and unskilled immigrant, Shaggy was unceremoniously dumped in the rough and tough slums of Flatbush, New York, and he saw the military as "a quick and easy way to get his Caribbean virgin black ass out of the gang-bang'in Brooklyn ghettos".

Just to give you some idea of Shaggy's motivation, I have a friend of mine from New Zealand here in Jakarta who once got off at the wrong New York subway station in a similar neighborhood, while on his way to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.

A policeman came up to him immediately and said, "Man, you must be one super mean or crazy mutha, because you are the only white person I've seen get off at this station in nearly two years!"

Shaggy later complained about further bad luck in the Marines, when -- just two years later -- he found himself driving a jeep around the Saudi Arabian and Iraqi deserts while fighting in the midst of the Gulf War.

"Lots of people were in the U.S. military for 20 years and never had a war. I only sign up for four years, and I get one," he said.

After returning from the Gulf, his subsequent rags-to-riches musical career, and rise to global superstardom, reads like some classic American success story dreamt up by an overimaginative Hollywood screenwriter.

A totally chance meeting with reggae pop artist Sting, who liked the singer's unique deep gravelly voice, led to the recording of Mampie in 1993; a song that became Shaggy's first hit single.

This was followed by the release of his debut album, Pure Pleasure, and the life of the poor skinny black kid from Kingston, Jamaica has been lined with solid gold and platinum records ever since.

Just check out this list of awards and accomplishments: a Grammy award for Best Reggae Album (Boombastic, 1996); Billboard award for Best Male Artist and Male Album (Hotshot, 2001); the 2001 World Music awards for Best-Selling R&B Artist, Pop Male Artist, American Male Artist and overall Male Artist; four massive hit singles that hit number one in nearly every country in the world (Oh Carolina, Boombastic, It Wasn't Me and Angel); and over six million singles and 15 million albums sold worldwide. And with the release of his latest album Lucky Day, this dude is nowhere close to being finished yet.

The kind of music Shaggy plays is kind of hard to pigeonhole because his stuff unites various elements of pop, rap, hip-hop, R&B and soul, as well as his beloved reggae.

During his news conference, Shaggy explained that his music was a far cry from traditional Jamaican reggae, and that "reggae fusion" is the term that probably best describes his complete 10- year back catalog.

On the night of the Jakarta concert, the show started an hour late as Shaggy strolled up to the microphone at 9 p.m. and whispered, "Are there any ladies in the house tonight?" Even though the star does not like discussing the details of his military career, he was proudly displaying his marine dog tags, now plated gold and studded with diamonds, dangling low beside his crotch from a thick, solid gold necklace.

Shaggy, and his six black man and one white woman backup posse, then proceeded to prance and shake all over the stage while belting out a couple of finger-snapping hip-hop numbers, followed by a very low key and sort of disappointing rendition of Boombastic.

Shaggy then announced that it was "time to lock up the children because we're all gonna get crazy!", as he pounced into most of his other well-known hits, in addition to covers of Mungo Jerry's ancient white-reggae classic In The Summertime; Michael Jackson's 1979 hit Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (from Michael's debut solo album,Off The Wall); and a Bob Marley reggae track I remember.

Shaggy swiveled and thrust, then gave all the girls a flash of his Calvin Kleins, before inviting a number of lucky young ladies to accompany him on stage.

All in all, it was a pretty good and very professional show.

My only major criticism was that the turnout should have been bigger -- there was only about 2,000 people in the crowd -- and that Shaggy and company were only pretending to be "really excited", rather than being really excited for real. I may be old-fashioned, but I like my pop and rock stars to be just as honestly pumped up as I am.