Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Experienced and photographed by Mary Gallagher
The 2nd Annual Ocho Rios Gospel Fun Fest featured a lot of gospel music just a little different than the Al Green and CeCe Wynons I had been expecting. In an effort to attract more young people back to the church, we now have gospel rap. Jamaicans and visitors from tiny babies to grandmothers in wheel chairs were out in force. Waving their arms, T shirts or towels overhead, jumping up and down, cheering, singing along with the stars—generally expending huge amounts of energy for six hour stints.
It was a great celebration that gave me the opportunity to spend time with the people of Jamaica—other than “craft” vendors and waiters—something that one seldom experiences at the large inclusive resorts. Headliners included Papa San, Nicole Mullen, American Christian Hip Hop Star Toby Mac and Forgiven. The festival encompassed three days of activities including a Gospel Jazz Brunch, the Word & Worship Conference, Street Evangelism with Pastor Joyce Keane and a Volley Ball Tournament. I am sure next year will be larger with even more big name stars.
Toby Mac, original founder of dc talk, a now disbanded rap group that sold over 7 million albums while winning many awards, presented a program with the most unbelievable motion I’ve ever seen. It made aerobic competitions look like play school.
Admittedly I’m not a big hip hop or rap lover but in his astonishing performance he sang, danced, did hard-core rock and roll with “the spirit” and perhaps ministered in a stage performance that expended more energy than the entire 3 hours of a Cirque du Soleil performance.
Opening with Alien then Jesus Freak, I’m Yours, Somebody’s Watching Me, Take The Shackles Off, Bob Marley’s One Love, the folk song Day Oh and others supported by his three back-up vocalists—also acrobatic masters.
If these young men have knees and hip joints in a few years it will be a miracle. I would have guessed they were on a trampoline not a stage—jumping, crashing, rolling on the floor, running from side to side—it was incredible.
Toby Mac grew up in Northern Virginia as Toby McKeehan and fell in love with hip hop before he could drive. His proud parents were in Ocho Rios for this Festival and another chance to visit their three year old grandson.
This is an Annual Event. Check the website for 2007 dates.
Fun in the Son Gospel Fest
Ocho Rios, Jamaica