For the last two years, in late December, Sherene Tomlinson leaves her home in Four Paths, Clarendon, for the Tarrus Riley and Friends free concert at Emancipation Park, New Kingston.
On Thursday night, the 49-year-old told The Sunday Gleaner that while she does enjoy the live music, she is all about the message of love and unity that the event promotes. Not only has she stared death in the face, but she had lost her son to gang violence a few years earlier.
"I was there when my son was murdered. He was killed right in front of my face by someone we all knew. All of this killing has to stop. Jamaica, we can't continue like this. I lost a son and the matter is still hanging in the court system, and while my son is dead, his killer's mother is going to lose her son to prison. None of us are winners," she said as she tightly clutched a pendant that bears a photograph of her son.
Celebrating its ninth consecutive staging, the Tarrus Riley and Friends concert was named Let Live Music Live. The theme of this year's concert was 'Let Peace Reign'.
Breaking away from the conversation, Tomlinson rocks to the lyrics of Mighty Diamonds' I Need a Roof. The reggae group has a musical catalogue that dates back over four decades and not only Tomlinson, but the entire venue is dancing up a storm to a string of hits, including Have Mercy, Pass the Kutchie, and Diamonds are Forever.
Donald Shaw, the group's lead singer, told The Sunday Gleaner that although they had a tight schedule, they had to perform at the concert. He said the nation's crime rate is extremely alarming and hopes that the music will make a positive difference.
"Growing up in Trench Town, we were all exposed to violence. I lost a lot of close friends to gunshot wounds. As a youth, I had to keep myself balanced. The crime rate continues to rise and we musicians are role models, whether or not we believe it. We have our part to play " he said.
Shaw is also imploring the younger generation of entertainers to be mindful of the music they record. "There are a lot of talented acts who are doing really good music and they there are the rest who glorify violence. You have to be careful, man. Your young fans are listening keenly," he said.
The almost eight-hour event ran smoothly, with no glitches or lengthy band changes. Among the standouts were Protoje, Ikaya, Etana, Ding Dong, Shenseea, Glacia Robinson, Romain Virgo, Iba Mahr, Jahmiel and Govana, Lanz, Chevaughn Clayton, Dean Fraser and Bongo Herman. Tarrus Riley also performed in between sets and brought the house down with his latest single, 'Graveyard'.
There were surprises for the audience, including giveaways courtesy of Romeich Entertainment and performances from Richie Spice, Sean Paul and Nesbeth.
While the massive indulged in the live music experience, the craft and food vendors within the vicinity benefited financially from the event that attracted hundreds of patrons. The 'instant picture' photographer were also kept busy, capturing the moments for those interested.