Dancehall megastar Shaggy made history yet again, taking Jamaican culture to the Vatican City for Christmas Eve, where he was the only solo act from the Western Hemisphere to headline the 29th edition of the Christmas Concert 2021.
In addition to being a headline act, Shaggy also met the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis ahead of his performance, perhaps the first Dancehall/Reggae to do so, as Jamaican artists have always been vitriolic against The Vatican ever since the late Lee Scratch Perry labeled it “The City of Iniquity” in his six-minute long song, Baffling Smoke Signals back in 1978.
Shaggy took to his Instagram page share photos and video snippets from the event which was sponsored by the congregation for Catholic Education.
“Merry Christmas everyone! I recently had the pleasure for playing a Christmas charity concert for the Vatican in Rome … it was an awesome experience, we brought a little of the Jamaican 🇯🇲 culture to the Vatican and at the same time raised funds for a good cause #Haiti and #LEbanion. Here are some highlights, hope you enjoy,” Shaggy noted.
The Vatican Christmas Concert 2021, was recorded on the Thursday evening of December 16, at the Auditorium Conciliazione in Rome, and was aired on Christmas Eve on the Italian national broadcaster “Canale 5”, in prime time and was also streamed on the Mediaset Infinity platform.
The concert had the accompaniment of the Italian Cinema Orchestra led by master Adriano Pennino. Shaggy had posted photos of scenes of Rome on December 15 to announce his arrival in Italy which he captioned: “Roma!!”
According to itali24news.com, the first edition of the Christmas Concert was held in 1993 in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican and was aimed at highlighting the project of the called Vicariate of Rome 50 churches for Rome 2000, and as a means of fundraising “for its realization”.
The publication said that the artists involved in the Christmas Concert 2021 would be helping with “various charity and solidarity projects coordinated by the foundations promoting the concert, or the Fondazione Schools Meeting e Don Bosco Missions”.
“Among the projects that will be financed thanks to the 2021 Christmas Concert there will be that of Scholas Pontifical Foundation Meeting which will provide help for the socio-emotional development of children and adolescents Haiti. Specifically, an educational space will be created for Port-au-Prince children between the ages of 6 and 9 and an educational process for adolescents aged 12 to 16,” it noted.
Over in Lebanon, it noted the Don Bosco Onlus Missions in Lebanon “the Salesians who manage the Don Bosco Youth Center will take care of various activities and spaces to guarantee high quality technical and professional education and training”.
According to the Vatican News, the Pope had greeted the artists and thanked them for the support of the fundraiser.
Among the other non-Italian performers were 2Cellos of Croatia, Anggun of Indonesia, Emma Muscat of Malta and the Virginia Union Gospel Choir of the United States.
According to Vatican News, Pope Francis had told the artists that they were “using their talents to spread the tenderness, joy, and hope of Christmas”. He also declared that there were “other pandemics” which prevent the spread of the culture of dialogue and inclusion.
“Your music and singing, will help to open hearts so those who suffer will not be forgotten – “which brings joy to so many families who wish to give their children a future through education,” the Pope is quoted as saying.
“In the grotto of Bethlehem, hope for humanity was kindled,” said the Pope. But he added that the pandemic has unfortunately worsened the “educational gap for millions of children and adolescents excluded from all educational activities,” the pontiff added.
Jamaica’s Rastafarian Reggae and Dancehall artists have been long known to devote many of their songs to the castigation of all things having to do with the Vatican and the Papacy.
In Dancehall, the Original Fireman Anthony B’s breakout his was Fire Pon Rome, released in 1996, where he denounced Pope Paul for his “scissors and comb” while declaring that “Mount Zion a di righteous throne”.
Again in the Dancehall, Capleton has also had his share of lashing for all things papal with his 1994 hit Chalice, where he called all Rastafari Mansions to use their worship rituals to collapse the Vatican, Rome and the Pope and even Queen Elizabeth II and obliterate the Ku Klux Klan.
Capleton instructed Orthodox Rastafarians to “light up di chalice meck wi bun dung Rome”; Nyahbingi to chant the Nyahbinghi mek wi chant dung Rome and the 12 Tribes of Israel to “shake the shaker mek wi shake dung Rome”. For the Bobo Ashanti Mansion, Capleton urged them to “beat the kette drum and meck wi beat dung Rome”.
Lee Scratch Perry had set the fire ablazing in 1978, with Baffling Smoke Signals, which he recorded following the controversial election of Pope John Paul II after the mysterious and sudden death of Pope John Paul I, whose 33-day reign, was the shortest in papal history.
According to reports, conspiracy theories had spread like wildfire, over the cause of John Paul I’s death, which occurred on September 8, 1978.
The Upsetter’s song, was among other things, a commentary on the billows of black smoke which spiralled from the Vatican chimneys, as the upper echelons of the Catholic Church deliberated about who would be the new Pope. Black smoke was an indication that there was a stalemate on who was to be the new Pope.
The smoke, according to the Hanover native in the song, was a representation of Black and Rastafari reigning supreme “as Jah would never give power to a bald head man”.
Perry also produced Max Romeo’s Fire fi the Vatican, which took aim at the Pope, noting “fire for the Vatican, blood for the Pope-man”.
Trinity’s Pope Paul Dead and Gone extolled the virtues of Jah while celebrating the fact that Pope Paul’s “throne gone dung”, while Big Youth in Pope in Pope Paul Feel It, also castigated the Pope.
In 1981, Toyan had also joined the Vatican-bashing clique with Pope in a di Corner, pointing out that he would “lick dem wid di Macka Bible” to show them that he was, among other things, “Jah-Jah disciple”.