Vintage revolution at Ribbiz ‘Big People Sundays’

For people who insist on engaging in spreading the gospel according to Jamaican vintage music, ‘Big People Sundays’ at Ribbiz Ultra Lounge seems to be the ideal avenue by which to do so.

For the last two Sundays a refreshing new wind of change has engulfed the Ardenne Road facility as the who’s who of Jamaican vintage life and love flock the venue to reminisce on yesteryear’s sounds, pushed out by Kool 97 FM, with ace selector Michael Barnett controlling the apparatus that determine the state of play.

“This is what I have been longing for,” one woman visiting from London, England, said to the Jamaica Observer on the first afternoon [August 13] that the new initial 12-week partnership between Ribbiz and the always-improving radio station, known for its consistent servings of vintage music, began.

“This is what I enjoy. When I used to live in Jamaica, I grew up on the music that dominated those years. You still hear them sometime in England, but not as often as I would like. So to be in Jamaica and being treated to hours of my kind of music, it’s just brilliant. And the food is sumptuous too. I just love this,” she said.

Apprehension overcame the initial roll-out of the show, but after the first 30 minutes of live action of the four-hour package had passed, patrons appeared at ease.

Daniel Gordon, one of the managers of the restaurant and night club’s fairly new venue, is elated that things have exceeded expectations so far at the property that opens at 4:00 pm each Sunday.

Even at that time, people have turned out to sit back, relax, and prepare for what is ahead, in terms of the vintage sounds of blessing.

“It’s been really amazing. We have seen new faces, we have seen popular faces,” Gordon said, choosing to highlight Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn, who turned out on launch afternoon, and Olympian Asafa Powell the following week, as among outstanding celebrities who have sampled the offerings so far.

Gordon, son of former Jamaica Observer chief photographer, the late Michael Gordon, described the initiative as “doing really well. People who we have never seen before, who were never Ribbiz customers before, they are now customers. I met an older gentleman when it just started and he said it was his first time, and he came back the week after”.

Admitting that, though a young man in his 20s, some of the songs played he had never heard before, Gordon was quick to embrace and adapt, adding that young people in his age range had turned up and got exposed to the music, and liked it.

Quizzed as to how he thought that his dad would have responded to the show had he been alive, Daniel reckoned that Michael “would have loved it. And not only would he have loved the type of music but how they play the music as well, allowing it to run out”, said the straight-talking Wolmer’s old boy.

Another patron gave his verdict on the vintage revolution.

“When I came the first week, I got in early, because I just wanted to see how they were preparing to launch out,” he said, asking not to be named. “So I just ate early, ordered a couple drinks and sat back waiting for showtime to arrive. I never left there until after 11 o’clock and it was really good,” he said.

Llewellyn, a lover of vintage music, used the time at the event’s launch to show off her dancing skills, her capacity to converse with the ordinary man, and to take a break from those who want her to retire soon or extend her stay by another few years at her office.

Powell got into the groove from early last Sunday, while marketer par excellence and Digicel director Harry Smith kept things smooth and sober as the musical lyrics blessed his ears.

Director of customs at Norman Manley International Airport Devon Manahan, a regular patron, demonstrated how to appreciate the good time.

Supreme Court judge and author of The Law and Constitution for Every Jamaican David Batts proceeded to show fellow Kingston College graduate Chris Hunt how to use the dance floor adequately last Sunday as they indulged in music from an era in which they were raised.

Service station operator Devon Bourne, a former outstanding St Elizabeth Technical High School central defender and captain, who led the institution to the daCosta Cup title in 1974 and also made the All-Schools’ team that year while earning the unofficial title of best Under-19 defender at the time, was accompanied by his younger brother, Colin, a retired company secretary of The
Gleaner and seasoned music selector, who seemed quite happy from the word “go”.

The popularity of retired Senior Superintendent of Police Radcliffe Lewis remains high, judging from the many fans who greeted him during the edition on Sunday, August 20.

Barnett seemed to have maintained the ability to hold the attention of patrons over the past two Sundays, but one made a special request as she left when that live radio segment wound up: “I would have liked to have heard a few more songs from the ska era, which I think is Jamaica’s best period in music, but this is something that the selector can include in future shows,” she said.

Ribbiz director Don Creary is satisfied with what has transpired so far.

“Since we started Big People Sundays about eight years ago, it has always been my favourite night. Our partnership with Kool 97 FM and Wray & Nephew has added a new early dimension that has captivated both new and existing customers alike. Never miss Big People Sundays!” he said.

Fellow director Brian “Ribby” Chung has been involved with the show-promoting business, vintage music in particular, for well over 30 years, following solid years of grooming at his alma mater Kingston College.

You name them — Cactus in Portmore, Jam Rock Sports Bar, Asylum, and Quad in New Kingston — Ribby is a pioneer in the business. Even he would remind you that he had one of the best Wednesday night’s with ‘oldies’ at Asylum, when the who’s who, particularly of politics, would attended on the night.

“We wanted to get the more mature audiences out,” he told the Sunday Observer in explaining the rationale behind the latest initiative.

“We realised that after COVID, the older, mature crowd was saying to me, “Boy Ribby we can’t come out 9, 10 o’clock, that time we want to go home. So I said to my partners, we need to come up with a promotion that we can get the more mature crowd out, who really listen to the big people music, and I said let’s partner with Kool, and I am going to ask J Wray & Nephew if they want to come on board, because that is a good combination.

“I approached Kool for the 5-9 segment and we would go live to air. That programme falls under Michael Barnett and has a large audience here in the Diaspora and all over the world where Jamaicans like to hear their retro music. The support has been phenomenal. Everybody has been coming and saying this is a novel idea because they can now come out at 5, 6 o’clock and enjoy themselves with their friends.

“The first week the response was so overwhelming. The second week was even better. Everybody who has come out has enjoyed it, and we play everything — soul, rock steady, etc. It’s been well received,” Chung said.