Juilliard grads 'satisfy souls' at Kingston Night Market – Jamaica Gleaner

Tuesdays are earmarked for Kingston Night Market, that space carved out on Hillcrest Ave in St Andrew where artists, artistes, artisans and patrons meet up to enjoy the showcase of art, fashion, food and music.
Last Tuesday was no different, and on offer, along with an array of craft items was a musical showcase, which included live performances from Rankin Pumpkin, Mutabaruka, Kimmy Gold, Dehdeh Blacks, Ras Padam and Villa Vill.
Unfortunately, owing to circumstances beyond their control Koptiq Sun, aka Jeffrey Star, and his wife, Chai, arrived minutes to 11 p.m., just when the night’s festivities were at a close. “But there is always next week. We had some difficulties with the vehicle breaking down right at the toll and we had to get a mechanic who brought us here. We give thanks same way … this wasn’t supposed to be our week,” Koptiq Sun said philosophically.
Apologies were also offered by the emcee for reggae singer, Bushman, who was advertised but did not show up.
However, fitting nicely in those slots was the Renaissance String Quartet, a group based in New York City, which was founded in 2021 by violinists Randall Goosby and Jeremiah Blacklow, violist Jameel Martin, and cellist Daniel Hass. They are in the island to perform today at Beyond Boundaries, a benefit concert at the University Chapel, UWI Mona.
At 10:05 p.m. on Tuesday, the sounds of string instruments floated through the venue, as the Juilliard graduates thrilled an appreciative audience with their arrangement of Bob Marley’s Satisfy my Soul. Quizzed post-performance if this Marley piece is a regular part of their repertoire, or if it was mainly for their Jamaica debut, the answer was “It is now.”
“We didn’t realise that it was all of our favourite songs independently until we were in the car one day and we were like ‘That’s my favourite song’ ‘ No, that my favourite song.’ So we decided that our resident composer, Danny, had to make an arrangement for us. I think we all grew up listening to Bob Marley,” Jameel Martin shared.
“On Thursday we are also playing an arrangement of Many River to Cross by Jimmy Cliff. We will be playing some great music … music that is personally special to all of us, so hopefully that significance comes across to whoever comes on Thursday. We have played for three audiences now in Jamaica and every one has been amazing. Tonight, the audience was into it … it was so much fun … great atmosphere.”
Actually, the members of the Renaissance String Quartet couldn’t be more delighted to be in Jamaica. It is the first time in the island for all of them, even though one member shared that his girlfriend is Jamaican. And for those who are interested, the quick version is that he played a concert in Dallas, where she lives, they met when she came backstage, went out for dinner “and four months later we are here. It happened quite fast but fast is good sometimes”.
As for being in Jamaica (since Monday) it has been, in one word, “Incredible!”
“Everything … food, atmosphere, the vibe everything,” they agreed. “We haven’t stopped eating since we came off the plane.” The food includes jerk chicken, fish and festival at Hellshire, mangoes, pineapples and curry goat.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but it is beyond expectations. We started this morning at TVJ then we went to Immaculate Conception which is one of the beneficiaries of the concert. We worked with some of the students and played with them a little bit, which was nice,” Martin said.
He also gave a deeper insight into the composition of the group and why they decided on the name Renaissance String Quartet. “We’ve been best friends for more than a decade and we do very unusual things for a string quartet and in that way it’s almost like a renaissance project … a rebirth. I am a writer, I write poetry and fiction and plays and operas, Danny is a composer and he and I collaborate together a lot; Jeremiah is a scholar, he went to Harvard to study Russian languages and Randall’s a touring soloist, and it’s very unusual for a soloist to be part of a professional quartet as well. So that’s also part of why the name made sense to us … rebirth. The projects that we do are also very unusual. The quartets that travel around the main circuit just do concerts at like the Lincoln Center or something we try to play in places that most people aren’t playing in … and programme what we like to play and not what tradition dictates. That’s partly why we play Bob Marley,” Martin explained.
He added that Satisfy my Soul could become the first of probably a series of Marley songs and also shared that they were trying to do something in the Bob Marley Museum but it didn’t work out. “But we did play Marley at our debut in New York three weeks ago … and maybe next time we can do the museum,” he said.
Performing after the quartet at Kingston Night Market was Carlton ‘Dehdeh Blacks’ Scarlett, who has toured the world as a member of legendary musicians the Heptones.
yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com
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